There has been more talk in recent times about using hydrogen as an alternative fuel as the world strives for carbon neutrality, but could the gas really take the place of more traditional fuels?
Hydrogen is the most basic of all Earths elements and occurs naturally in water. With 75% of the universe made up of hydrogen, it is our most abundant element. Hydrogen is produced by using electricity to extract it from water by electrolysis. In gas form, it can be stored in fuel cells to power engines.
As a fuel, hydrogen has many advantages. It is more powerful and energy efficient than many fossil fuels, it produces near zero emissions, and it is non-toxic, to name a few. Its applications range from consumer and industrial power supplies to transportation and spaceflight. However, the cost of production is its biggest barrier, although falling production costs and technological improvements are making it more feasible.
Governments are increasingly realising that reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 will be impossible unless hydrogen is part of the energy mix. Globally, public and private industry experts are partnering to research hydrogen production and storage innovations. A consortium led by multinational oil and gas company Shell are developing large-scale liquid hydrogen storage for international trade applications and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems are pioneering technology for converting surplus renewable electricity into ’green’ hydrogen.
Innovative concepts for hydrogen storage are underway in the United States and similar concepts are being developed in Europe; German and French plans are in progress to build salt caverns for the storage of hydrogen. Europe has high suitability for the development of many more storage facilities like this, particularly in U.K., Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands where salt formations are plentiful.
Solar 21’s planned North Lincolnshire Green Energy Park aims to use many cutting edge and rarely seen before technologies including green hydrogen production and storage. This hydrogen could be used locally as a clean fuel in cars, HGVs and buses, to create a range of hydrogen products or injected into the gas network to decarbonise the gas supply.