Hydrogen, alongside other renewables and natural gas has an increasingly vital role to play in the clean energy landscape. Hydrogen is found in various things including light, water, air, plants, and animals, however, is often combined with other chemicals, the most familiar combination is with oxygen to make water.
What is Hydrogen and what are its benefits?
Historically, Hydrogen Gas has been used as a component for rocket fuel as well as in gas turbines to produce electricity or to burn to run combustion engines for the power generation. In the Oil and Gas Industry, excess hydrogen from the catalytic reforming of naphtha has been used as fuel for other unit operations.
Hydrogen Gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is lighter than air this means it float higher than our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found, but instead must be created. This is done by separating it from other elements and collecting the vapour. Electrolysis is completed by taking liquid usually water and separating this from the chemicals found within it. In water the hydrogen and oxygen molecules separate leaving two bonds of hydrogen and one bond of oxygen. The hydrogen atoms form a gas which is captured and stored until required, the oxygen atoms are released into the air as there is no further use. The hydrogen gas that is produced leaves no damaging impact on the environment, leading to many experts believing this is the future.
Why Hydrogen is seen as a cleaner future.
In order to make energy a fuel that is a chemical is burnt. This process usually means chemical bonds are broken and combined with oxygen. Traditionally, Methane gas has been the natural gas of choice with 85% of homes and 40% of the UK’s electricity depending on gas. Methane was seen as a cleaner gas compared to coal, however, when its burnt carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product thereby contributing to climate change. Hydrogen Gas when burnt only produces water vapour as a waste product, this being already a natural resource.
The difference between blue hydrogen and green hydrogen.
Blue hydrogen is produced from non-renewable energy sources, through two methods either Steam or Autothermal. Steam Methane reformation is the most common when producing hydrogen in bulk. This method uses a reformer which produces steam at a high temperature and pressure and is combined with methane and a nickel catalyst to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Autothermal reforming uses the same process however, with oxygen and carbon dioxide. Both methods produce carbon as a by-product.
Green hydrogen is produced using electricity to power an electrolyser that separates hydrogen from the water molecule producing oxygen as a by-product. It also allows for excess electricity to electrolysis to create hydrogen gas that can be stored for the future.
The characteristics that hydrogen presents, has set a precedence for the future of energy. The UK Government have seen this a way forward for a greener way of living and have set a target for a thriving hydrogen economy by 2030. Whilst Japan, South Korea and China are on course to make significant progress in hydrogen development with targets set to match the UK for 2030. Similarly, the European Commission have presented a hydrogen strategy in which hydrogen could provide for 24% of the world’s energy by 2050.
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