Hydrogen by application

Introduction

This section looks at the users of hydrogen either as a feedstock or as an energy vector. The map shows the application of hydrogen in these sectors. Principle projects shown here are in the transportation and industrial use.

Additionally, we have included hydrogen research projects, some of which are exploring new methods to produce or use hydrogen.
Field Description
Type Hydrogen end user
Project name Name of the project
Description Brief description of the project
Technology Technology type or process used
Status Phase of project
Project participants The project operator, promotor and /or shareholders
Region Which continent
Country Name of the country
Location Name of nearest town or city
Start date Date at which the project started or is expected to start

Hydrogen as feedstock

Hydrogen can be used in several industrial processes. Hydrogen is an essential element for making ammonia, fertilizers, and methanol, which is used in the manufacture of many polymers. It is also used in refineries or the processing of intermediate oil products.

About 55% of the hydrogen produced around the world is used for ammonia synthesis, 25% in refineries and about 10% for methanol production. The other applications worldwide account for only about 10% of global hydrogen production. (Source: Hydrogen Europe)

Principle applications are:
Industrial: Metal working (alloying), glass production, in electronics industry and applications in electricity generation.
Fuels: Process crude oil into refined fuels (gasoline and diesel), removing contaminants (sulphur etc.)
Ammonia: Through the Haber-Bosch process hydrogen-nitrogen compound form ammonia (NH3). This in turn is used in the production of fertilisers.

Hydrogen as energy vector

Hydrogen can be used in the energy transition as an energy vector. Combined with a fuel cell, hydrogen is a clean energy vector that does not release any CO2 locally. It releases only water. Fuel cell electric vehicles produce 20% less greenhouse gas than combustion engine vehicles when the hydrogen used is made from natural gas.

Principle applications are:
Transportation applications: Heavy duty vehicles, cars, and buses,
Station energy applications: Electricity generation, domestic energy, or industrial purposes

H2 Usage graphs

Based upon data from the map above

Total number of projects

By region

Total number of projects

By country

Technology types

Low temperature electrolysis (LTE)

Electrolytic

The electrolysis process uses electricity to split water into Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules. A typical electrolyser cell consists of two electrodes (cathode and anode) and a conducting electrolyte. The functioning of different types of electrolysers differs depending on the electrolyte material, as explained below. Low-temperature electrolysis refers to electrolysis at operating temperatures below approximately 300 °C and typically use Alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) cells or Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) cells.

Alkaline water electrolysis (AWE)

Electrolytic

Alkaline water electrolysers employ alkaline liquid (usually aqueous KOH or NaOH) electrolytes which readily conduct electricity. In AWE cells, water dissociation and hydrogen generation occurs at cathode and hydroxyl ions (OH-) transfer through the porous diaphragm producing water and oxygen at the anode. These cells use inexpensive metals as electrode material and produce hydrogen of purity up to 99.9% at approximately 70-80% efficiency but operate best at low current densities. Alkaline electrolysis is a mature technology where significant advances with respect to electrode and separating diaphragm materials have improved the cost, efficiency, and durability of the cells.

Polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis (PEM)

Electrolytic

Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers use a solid ion-conducting membrane as the electrolyte instead of a liquid. In PEM cells, water dissociation occurs at the anode and protons migrate selectively through the membrane generating hydrogen at the cathode. This type of electrolysis has advantages such as smaller footprint, high current density, higher efficiency, low (20-80 °C) temperature operation, higher dynamic operation, and higher hydrogen purity. PEM cells, however, uses high activity noble metal electrocatalysts which makes them more expensive than AWE cells.

High temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE)

Electrolytic

High-temperature steam electrolysis employs high temperature (750-1000 °C) for electrolysis of water. It utilizes inexpensive thermal energy from nuclear reactors to convert water to steam and the dissociation reaction proceeds in vapor phase producing Hydrogen. The energy demand for electrolysis in vapor phase is lower thus consuming nearly 35% lower electricity compared to LTE. The overall efficiency for HTSE is therefore higher than LTE. In HTSE, high temperature electrolysis of steam at the cathode produces hydrogen molecules and oxygen ions which migrate through the solid oxide electrolyte to form oxygen molecules at anode. HTSE cells are also called Solid Oxide Electrolyser Cells (SOEC).

Power to X (PtX)

Electrolytic

Besides being stored in batteries, electricity may be stored by converting it to another form of energy, including hydrogen. Power-to-X describes the process of converting power generated from various renewable sources to other forms of energy carriers for use in other sectors or for storage and then re-conversion to power when needed.
The X in the terminology can refer to one of the following: power-to-ammonia, power-to-chemicals, power-to-fuel, power-to-gas, power-to-hydrogen, power-to-liquid, power-to-methane, power-to-food, power-to-power, and power-to-syngas. For example – power-to-hydrogen refers to the process of using electricity to split water and produce hydrogen through electrolysis. Similarly, power-to-gas refers to converting renewable grid energy to gaseous carriers such as hydrogen or methane.

Autothermal reforming (ATR)

Thermal

Autothermal reforming is a process for generating hydrogen and carbon dioxide by partial combustion of a gaseous hydrocarbon feed followed by catalytic reforming in the presence of steam. The process supports a variety of feeds such as natural gas, refinery off-gas, tail gas, light ends or naphtha. ATR often combines partial oxidation and steam reforming in a single reactor for a combined reforming process. Despite higher capital cost for oxygen plant, this technology is popular for higher hydrogen production, lower operating temperature, less coking, easier start-up, and fast response times.

Steam methane reforming (SMR)

Thermal

Steam reforming or steam methane reforming is a mature and widely used technology that uses high temperature (700-1000 °C) steam to produce hydrogen from a methane source such as natural gas. In SMR, methane reacts with high pressure steam in presence of a catalyst to yield hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2). This is followed by the water-gas shift reaction where CO and steam react in presence of a catalyst to produce more hydrogen and CO2. The product H2 is separated and further purified using pressure swing adsorption (PSA). A variety of feedstock such as gasoline, LPG, naphtha, refinery off-gas, ethanol or propane may be used for SMR. Feed flexibility, low operating cost and existing infrastructure make steam reforming the most common method for producing hydrogen today.

Gasification

Gasification

Gasification is a non-combustion process that converts solid organic biomass or fossil fuel based carbonaceous material such as coal to hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide using controlled amount of steam and oxygen at high temperatures. . The carbon monoxide then reacts with water via the water gas shift reaction producing more hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is usually separated and concentrated from the effluent gas stream through adsorption or membrane separation.

Direct air capture (DAC)

Gasification

Direct air capture, as the name suggests, is a technology to capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere. It involves contacting atmospheric air with a chemical solution which reacts with the CO2 in the air to trap it in the form of a salt. The CO2 depleted air is recycled back to the atmosphere while the trapped CO2 is separated, concentrated, stripped via calcination, and compressed to be utilized or stored as pure CO2.

Carbon capture & Storage (CCS)

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing the carbon dioxide (CO2) formed from burning of fossil fuels in industrial processes, power plants etc. and storing it so that it is not emitted to the atmosphere. Employing CCS involves three main steps – capture, transportation, and storage. Various technologies may be used for CO2 capture at source and may be categorized as 1) post-combustion carbon capture – capturing CO2 from exhaust/flue gases, 2) pre-combustion carbon capture – separating CO2 from gasified fuel, and 3) oxy-fuel combustion systems –burning fuel in an oxygen rich environment producing concentrated stream of easily separable CO2. The captured CO2 is usually compressed into a liquid for transportation before being stored in underground geological reservoirs. Current CCS technologies can capture 90% and above of the CO2, thus avoiding emission to the atmosphere. The term sequestration is often used to indicate long term storage of the captured carbon in underground reservoirs.

Carbon capture, Utilisation & Storage (CCUS)

Carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS), refers to the CCS process explained above and adds the concept of ‘utilization’ of the CO2 for making useful products or for applications other than underground storage. One primary use of captured CO2 is to inject CO2 and water in oilfields to improve yields, known as Enhanced Oil recovery (EOR), while sequestering the CO2 underground. Other CO2-utilization technologies of interest include: CO2 conversion to fuels via methanol, methane, alkanes and syngas; CO2 as feedstock for chemicals such as organic polycarbonates, inorganic resins, or agrochemicals such as urea; CO2 mineralization for non-geologic storage; and the use of carbon to fabricate materials for construction or commercial products.