The hydrogen economy

With Tata steel UK having announced the replacement of two blast furnaces in south Wales with an electric arc furnace for recycling metal, there may be concerns about the viability of the production of steel in the light of global warming.

With Tata steel UK having announced, in Jan 2024, the closure of two blast furnaces in south Wales as part of plans to process more recycled steel using electric arc furnaces, there may be concerns about the viability of the production of steel in the light of global warming.     Hydrogen fuel looks likely to be the answer.

The future

Wikipedia says that the hydrogen economy is an umbrella term for the role hydrogen can play to decarbonize sectors which may be difficult to decarbonize.     Unlike electricity, hydrogen fuel can produce the intense heat required for industrial production of steel, cement, glass, and chemicals – things that are essential to life as we know it.

For transport, it is likely to be most widely used in shipping, aviation and to a lesser extent heavy goods vehicles.     Renewable electricity is more cost-effective to produce, though, so seems likely to remain the first option wherever reasonably possible.     Also the electrical infrastructure is so much better developed.     There are very few hydrogen refuelling stations.

Methods of producing hydrogen are colour-coded.     The most common are:

  • Grey: from hydrocarbons, mostly natural gas.     This emits carbon.
  • Blue: from hydrocarbons with carbon capture and storage
  • Green: electrolysis of water using renewable electricity

Where are we now?

The United States produces a great deal of hydrogen, emitting carbon in the process.    The adoption of other, cleaner modes of hydrogen production in the US is still in very early stages.     Click icon for an overview and details of government support for private investment in green hydrogen.

The United States produces a great deal of grey hydrogen.    The adoption of other, cleaner modes of hydrogen production in the US is still in very early stages.     Click icon for an overview and details of government support for private investment in green hydrogen from an international commercial lawyers.

China looks like the world leader in producing green hydrogen.    Their English language news channel said, in July 2023, The world’s largest green hydrogen project, which generates hydrogen from solar and wind renewables without emitting carbon dioxide, produced its first batch of green hydrogen.     In the US, a recruitment agency outlines the five green hydrogen projects only starting construction in 2023.


  Hydrogen fuelled

What is the future for hydrogen fuelled transport?      It will fill the gaps where battery power cannot compete.      It looks like these will be for larger vehicles and long distances on tight schedules.      Click icon to read about hydrogen powered cars.

Happily, hydrogen and electric power complement each other.     Hydrogen is particularly good for high demand uses such as trains or aeroplanes.*

London’s fleet of hydrogen powered busses has been under development for some years.      Their first permanent hydrogen bus service was introduced in 2010.     They have set out their vision for hydrogen fuel cell technology in the UK capital.     It looks like plans may be starting to gather pace.2021

It takes energy to produce hydrogen, though, so more work is needed to produce clean energy.

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