What is hydrogen?
Methane, also known as natural gas, can be replaced with hydrogen, a clean fuel. It is the most prevalent chemical element and is thought to make about 75% of the universe’s mass.
Numerous hydrogen atoms can be found in water, plants, animals, and, of course, people here on earth. Although it is found in almost all living organisms’ molecules, it is extremely rare as a gas and only makes up less than one part per million by volume.
A number of sources, including natural gas, nuclear energy, biogas, and renewable energy sources like solar and wind, can be used to manufacture hydrogen. The difficulty lies in producing enormous amounts of hydrogen gas to power our buildings.
Why is hydrogen important as a future clean energy source?
Chemicals that can be ‘burnt’ to produce useful energy are known as fuels. Normally, when a fuel is burned, the chemical connections between its constituent atoms are broken, allowing them to chemically react with oxygen (typically from the air).
We have long used natural gas to heat our residences, places of work, and power plants that produce electricity. In the UK, gas today powers 85% of homes and 40% of the nation’s electricity, while in the US, 47% of households use natural gas and 36% use electricity.
The primary component of ‘natural gas’ from oil and gas sources is methane. Natural gas has replaced coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel that humans have historically used for heating and producing electricity, since it is a resource that is easily accessible, affordable, and clean.
Burning natural gas produces thermal energy. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is a waste product that, when released into the atmosphere, aids in climate change. Carbon dioxide is not produced when burning hydrogen.
What’s the difference between blue hydrogen and green hydrogen?
One of two main techniques, which both use natural gas as a feedstock, is used to create blue hydrogen:
- The most popular technique for creating bulk hydrogen is steam methane reformation, which generates the majority of the hydrogen produced globally. This process makes use of a reformer, which uses steam to react with methane and a nickel catalyst at high temperature and pressure to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide (CO).
- In autothermal reformation, methane is reacted with by steam, carbon dioxide (CO2), and oxygen to produce hydrogen.
Due to the fact that these two processes generate carbon as a byproduct, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is necessary to capture and store this carbon.
Electricity is used to power an electrolyser, which separates hydrogen from water molecules to make green hydrogen. Without any negative byproducts, this procedure yields pure hydrogen. An additional advantage of using electricity in this way is that it may be possible to use any extra electricity, which is difficult to store (like extra wind power), for electrolysis, producing hydrogen gas that can be stored for future energy demands.
Is fuel made of hydrogen already being used?
Yes. Fuel cell cars powered by hydrogen are already available. In terms of the number of hydrogen fueling stations for road cars, China leads the world. These stations allow drivers to refuel their vehicles with hydrogen in the same amount of time as they would with gasoline or diesel. These fueling facilities are most prevalent in South Korea, Germany, the US, and Japan.
Another intriguing, lightweight fuel possibility for shipping, aviation, and land transportation is hydrogen. DHL, a global delivery service, already has a fleet of “H2 panel vans” that can go 500 km without refueling.
What obstacles might slow down the utilization of hydrogen as a clean energy?
In order for hydrogen to be a practical substitute for methane, it must be produced on a large scale, inexpensively, and with modifications to the existing infrastructure.
The good news is that since gas pipelines can also carry hydrogen, less expensive infrastructure won’t be required to establish a new hydrogen transmission network and less disturbance will result from its use. Additionally, since people are accustomed to utilizing natural gas for heating and cooking, as well as the new hydrogen energy counterparts, there would be no need for a culture change in our daily lives.