The Many Colours of Hydrogen

25 Jan 2021

Hydrogen, alongside other renewables and natural gas has an increasingly vital role to play in the clean energy landscape. Corporations and countries are increasingly interested in alternative fuels amid the global push for carbon neutrality. This year the EU pledged to become climate neutral (that is, to become an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions) by 2050, Australia launched its National Hydrogen Strategy to accelerate development of clean hydrogen and export it to neighbouring countries and Shell and BP pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

For many oil and gas companies aiming to decarbonise, hydrogen is a fuel of choice to comply with climate targets. The growth of hydrogen is expected to take off in the next 10–20 years, with costs driven down as hydrogen becomes more widely produced. With new applications, the low-carbon hydrogen market size could reach US$ 25 billion by 2030 and grow even further long-term.

Hydrogen burns clean when mixed with oxygen, and is seen as green fuel alternative in transport, shipping and heating (both domestic and industrial). Interestingly, the use of hydrogen as fuel is not new. Hydrogen is already a component of rocket fuel and is used in gas turbines to produce electricity, or burned to run combustion engines for power generation. Hydrogen is also used as feedstock to produce ammonia, methanol and other petrochemicals.

In general, we know that hydrogen is a good choice of fuel for industries looking to decarbonise, but not all hydrogen is created equal. Although the gas only emits water when burned, its contribution to carbon neutrality depends on how it is produced.

Brown hydrogen is made from the gasification of coal, which emits CO2 into the air as it combusts. Grey hydrogen is hydrogen produced using fossil fuels, such as natural gas, and is the most commonly-produced form of hydrogen in the world today. Blue hydrogen is made in the same way as grey, but carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies prevent the release of CO2, enabling the captured carbon to be safely stored deep underground or used in industrial processes. Turquoise (or low carbon) H2 is hydrogen produced from natural gas using molten metal pyrolysis technology.

As its name suggests, green or renewable hydrogen is the cleanest variety, producing zero carbon emissions. It is produced using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, like wind or solar power, to produce a clean and sustainable fuel.

Electrolysis splits water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, so there is no waste and all parts are used with zero environmental impact. If the energy used for electrolysis is taken from renewable sources this can be counted as ‘green fuel’ because there are no negative impacts on the environment.

In our next blog we will discuss the potential hazards of hydrogen that may occur during production, storage and transport, and the gas detection solutions that Crowcon offers.

To learn more download our Hydrogen fact sheet here.



Committing to climate-neutrality by 2050: Commission proposes European Climate Law and consults on the European Climate Pact (Apr 2020)

Shell unveils plans to become net-zero carbon company by 2050 (The Guardian, 16 Apr 2020)

BP sets ambition for net zero by 2050, fundamentally changing organisation to deliver (, 12 Feb 2020)

Shaping tomorrow’s global hydrogen market (Baker Mackenzie, Jan 2020)

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