Renewably produced hydrogen is playing a bigger role in the conversation around future energy supplies. Based on research from NREL, McKinsey and others, here are five major opportunities for the fuel, as well as some of the attendant challenges.
1. Replacing existing hydrogen feedstocks
Perhaps the most obvious use for green hydrogen is to simply replace the large amounts of the gas that are already produced using carbon-intensive methods to satisfy the needs of industry. Based on International Energy Agency figures, 38.2 million metric tons (MT) of hydrogen were used for oil refining in 2018; another 31.5 MT went toward ammonia production. Steelmaking is another potential target for green hydrogen, with several organizations developing direct reduced iron processes that use the gas to remove oxygen from ore, according to NREL.
In 2015, the total U.S. hydrogen feedstock market amounted to 10 MT, and McKinsey estimates this could rise to between 13 MT and 14 MT by 2030.
Decarbonizing residential and commercial heating systems is a major challenge in countries that currently rely on natural gas to do the job. One immediate — albeit partial — answer to the problem is to mix green hydrogen into natural gas to reduce the latter’s carbon content. But this is only likely to be worthwhile in places where natural-gas prices are relatively high, such as in Europe. And there are limits to how far you can go.
“Blending up to 20 percent hydrogen (on a volume basis) is likely to be feasible for natural-gas applications, although not all natural-gas pipeline systems are constructed of materials that can withstand that concentration,” said NREL researchers in an article published in August.
3. Energy storage
A much-vaunted use of green hydrogen is to use it for electricity production via fuel cells. But there are significant challenges to overcome. If the hydrogen is produced from renewable energy via electrolysis, the AC-to-AC round-trip efficiency falls to around 35 percent, far below the 95 percent efficiency that can be achieved with batteries.
Nevertheless, an NREL study published earlier this year found it would make financial sense to use green hydrogen for energy storage applications with a duration of 13 hours or more — and that’s using today’s technology.
4. Alternative fuels
Although it's used widely for industrial purposes, scaling up hydrogen production for a wider range of applications poses challenges relating to distribution and storage. One way to get around these is to convert the highly volatile and flammable gas into a slightly more malleable fuel such as ammonia or methane. Since energy would be lost in this conversion, however, it would likely only be worth doing where the value of the resulting product is relatively high.
Hence, says NREL, “Market opportunities are likely to be driven either by a desire to use carbon dioxide or by the ability to tailor specific products that may be difficult to produce directly from natural gas.”
5. Fuel-cell vehicles
Powering fuel-cell vehicles is one of the most often-cited applications for green hydrogen. But it remains to be seen whether fuel-cell vehicles can gain traction as automotive markets flip from internal combustion engines to increasingly cost-competitive battery-powered cars.
Over the next ten years, experts predict there will be many exciting applications of Green Hydrogen in our lives.
Currently, along with the trend of environmentally friendly development, Messer Industrial Gas Company in Vietnam is building and developing a hydrogen production plant in Vietnam. The project will be put into operation and operational from the third quarter of 2021.
In addition, we are distributing other industrial gas products and are proud to be a leading gas supplier in Vietnam with a diversified product portfolio.
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