Hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth and indeed the Universe. It is fast becoming a central pillar of the energy transformation required to reduce global carbon emissions and support a progressive move away from the reliance on hydrocarbons. Hydrogen has been safely produced, used and handled for a range of industrial processes for more than 50 years. Today, around 70 million tonnes of hydrogen is produced each year, of which two-thirds is pure hydrogen and one-third is a blended mix with other gases. This equals about 4% of global final energy and non-energy use according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) statistics. In the 1990’s, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) proposed that a “2-degrees” warming scenario, as an upper limit of global warming, was necessary to avert the worst consequences of climate change. Today, in order to sustain those targets, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest cuts of over 70% in global carbon emissions by 2050 will be necessary. However, other analysts suggest that a more radical change is required, to the extent that CO2 must be removed from the global energy system altogether. Hydrogen production and distribution at scale can play a crucial role in todays energy markets by contributing to reducing the net carbon emissions of the global economy through its potential to integrate renewable energy sources with power generation for transportation, industrial energy production, feedstock for industry and the provision of heat and power.
Water and electricity are required to create hydrogen via electrolysis. ”Green” hydrogen, or green H2, is the production of hydrogen gas via electrolysis using only renewable or zero-carbon power sources, and therefore the only byproducts are oxygen and heat, meaning zero carbon emission during production and at the point of use. H2, as a form of clean energy, is fast becoming a significant factor in the planning of future energy productions and is anticipated by analysts from Wood Mackenzie, BNEF and McKinsey to become more widely competitive as an alternative energy source by as early as 2030, as economies of scale drive-down the cost of electrolysers and the price of wind and solar power continues to fall. McKinsey wrote in a recent report for the Hydrogen Council: “Within five to ten years — driven by strong reductions in electrolyser capex of about 70-80% and falling renewables’ levelised costs of energy — renewable hydrogen costs could drop to about $1-1.50 per kg in optimal locations, and roughly $2-3 per kg under average conditions.”