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Green Hydrogen

Green Hydrogen
January 26, 2023 James Plumb

As the world moves towards net-zero targets over the coming decades, some industries are likely to be much harder to de-carbonise than others. Though there is a large capacity for carbon emissions to be reduced through switching from petrol to electric cars, and from gas boilers to heat pumps, many industries will require more complex solutions.

Green hydrogen could have a large role to play in certain industries which are difficult to otherwise decarbonise, and allow us to reduce our carbon emissions in industries such as steelmaking and fertiliser production.

green hydrogen

Figure 1: Hydrogen Recharging Station [1]

How is Green Hydrogen Produced?

Hydrogen can be produced through the electrolysis of water; by running an electric current through water, it is split into its constituent parts, oxygen and hydrogen. This hydrogen can then be stored and used either in hydrogen fuel cells or internal combustion engines.

Green hydrogen refers to when renewable energy is used to perform the electrolysis, whereas blue and grey hydrogen is produced from natural gas. 

How Could Hydrogen Be Used?

Green hydrogen has a great potential to be used in the fertiliser industry in order to produce green ammonia, as an alternative to using natural gas. The transport industry could also benefit by using green hydrogen in fuel cells or combustion engines, where electric vehicles are not a feasible alternative. In the longer term, aircraft could also be powered using hydrogen, which could avoid the challenges of incorporating heavy batteries on aircraft.

Another benefit is the storage potential of green hydrogen, allowing renewable energy to be stored and transported more easily. It may be possible for existing infrastructure such as pipelines to be converted for use with hydrogen [2], or for compressed hydrogen to be shipped to where it is needed; allowing the continuation of international trade in energy. This can also be used to store energy and transport it to where it is needed, which is vital given the short-term unpredictability of renewable energy production. Existing natural gas power stations could be converted to burn hydrogen to cope with periods of high demand [3].

What Are the Challenges Regarding Green Hydrogen?

Green hydrogen is not a silver bullet for carbon change; it still requires renewable energy to be supplied by other means to produce the hydrogen before it can be used. Producing green hydrogen is also very expensive compared to the current alternatives, and recent increases in energy prices have not helped this [4]. In order to grow the industry, prices of green hydrogen will need to fall significantly, and recent investment could lead costs to fall below $2/kg by 2030, which would make green hydrogen a much more competitive alternative [5].

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[1] Syced (18th July 2021) from WikiCommons. Accessed on: 15th Jan 2023.

[2] Llewellyn King, “The Hydrogen Revolution And Natural Gas: In Tandem For A Greener Future” (29th June 2020)

[3] Peter Fairley, “Solar and Wind Power Could Ignite a Hydrogen Energy Comeback” (1st February 2020)

[4] Emma Penrod, “Green hydrogen prices have nearly tripled as energy costs climb: S&P” (21st July 2022)

[5] Nina Chestney, “High gas prices spur green hydrogen investment -report” (20th October 2022)


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