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Green Hydrogen: Powering a Carbon-Free Future

Environment / Gases

Hydrogen gas occupies very little of the earth’s atmosphere, but its abundance makes up three-quarters of the mass of the universe. The element is found in water, hydrocarbons, in natural gas (petroleum and coal), and in organic matter such as plants and soil. Combined with other elements, it forms important compounds such as water, ammonia, methane, and even table sugar.

Its abundance in the universe begs the question: why wouldn’t humanity try to find a way to use one of the most abundant elements in the universe as a resource to power the world? This is the question clean energy industry professionals are asking, as they seek to turn away from brown and blue hydrogen to green hydrogen.


The “Colors” of Hydrogen

Hydrogen comes in a variety of “colors.” What this means exactly, is that hydrogen manufacturing methods of separating hydrogen from various compounds (water, ammonia, methane, etc.), and the emissions that result thereafter, are labeled as three main color distinctions: brown, green, and blue.

Brown hydrogen – which comprises 95% of hydrogen production – is the byproduct of fossil fuels. Steam reforming and gasification is the separation of hydrogen atoms from carbon atoms in either natural gas or coal production. During this process of gasification, carbon dioxide emissions are high.

Electrolysis is the process in which an electrical current is used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. When hydrogen is harvested, only oxygen is left over. The lack of Co2 emissions makes this production method green.

Blue hydrogen is the capture and storage of hydrogen during steam methane reformation, which causes some, but reduced, carbon dioxide emissions.


The Move Toward Green Hydrogen

Transitioning to the production and use of green hydrogen is not an easy task. Smaller scale industries can utilize green hydrogen, but the following industries could create the greatest measurable impact: steel plants, oil refineries, and fertilizer units.

As part of production, steel plants are powered by non-renewable fossil fuels, or brown hydrogen, which both emit copious amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Using green hydrogen to replace coal will help to decrease the 2.6 gigatons of Co2 emissions produced each year by the steel industry alone, which is currently the largest coal consuming industry in the world.

The oil refinery process of refining crude oil into petroleum requires mass quantities of fossil fuels to power the application. Plants requiring such mass outputs of energy are highly responsible for the continuing issue of carbon emissions. Using hydrogen that has undergone separation by electrolysis can be used onsite and may even be tax exempt in some countries, making it a cost-effective alternative.

Hydrogen and nitrogen, when bonded, create ammonia, which is an essential compound used in fertilizer. Additional nitrogen helps plants thrive, and ammonia fertilizer has the highest nitrogen content. However, agricultural fertilizer production is highly responsible for carbon dioxide emissions. To manufacture ammonia, fertilizer plants must separate hydrogen from natural gas before combining it with nitrogen to create a new compound. By eliminating the separation and creation of brown hydrogen, green hydrogen takes away any consequential carbon dioxide emissions in the process.

These three industries are the most effective spaces to begin this endeavor, and many countries are already making the move toward the use of green hydrogen in industrial manufacturing.


Fuel Cell Economy

Hydrogen fuel cells are a lot like batteries and can power cars, trucks, trains, and even buildings. Unlike batteries, however, rather than needing downtime to recharge, they can be refilled by hydrogen fuel just like standard petroleum tanks. Ideal for off-grid locations or as a back-up power source, they can run if they have enough hydrogen fuel to maintain power, all the while, only emitting water as a byproduct.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, this off-grid ability makes hydrogen fuel cells an innovative energy option for military defense, telecommunication towers, data centers, hospitals, and emergency response systems. For standard cars, they can drive over 300 miles before filling up again at a hydrogen fueling station with the only exhaust being water vapor. Fueling stations are still growing in the United States, with California offering the most of any state.


Bulk Hydrogen at Rocky Mountain Air

As more industries make the move toward green hydrogen, hydrogen remains a vital gas component for many industrial manufacturing needs such as those listed above. Rocky Mountain Air offers bulk hydrogen options for our partners, such as tanks and trailers, and scheduled refills on site for such applications.

Contact your local branch today in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, or Nebraska today to discuss your hydrogen uses, or to set up a usage evaluation. We look forward to serving you!

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