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Hydrogen as the Key to a Sustainable Industry

Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Admin

Hydrogen is not only the lightest and most abundant element in the universe, it also plays an increasingly important role in modern industry. Due to its versatility, it will likely become an essential raw material and processing agent in many areas in the future, such as energy generation, chemical production, and steel manufacturing. While grey and blue hydrogen are currently prevalent, experts specifically consider green hydrogen as the sustainable energy carrier for a decarbonized future. Advocates of a hydrogen-based economy particularly emphasize the benefits of sector coupling.

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Colors of Hydrogen

Although the gas itself is colorless, there is often talk of grey, blue, and increasingly green hydrogen. These color codes refer to the method of hydrogen production and the associated manufacturing processes. They also indicate how sustainable the hydrogen used is. Grey hydrogen and carbon monoxide are byproducts of steam reforming of natural gas, creating a dependency on fossil fuels. In the production of blue hydrogen, the released CO₂ is captured and stored using carbon capture techniques, making it more environmentally friendly than grey hydrogen. However, only green hydrogen, generated through electrolysis powered by renewable energy sources, is completely carbon-neutral. Other methods classified as blue or green production processes depending on the techniques used include:

  • Biomass gasification: This method utilizes organic materials such as wood, waste, or plants to produce hydrogen through thermal conversion.
  • Biological hydrogen production: Microorganisms such as algae or bacteria can produce hydrogen through a biological process.
  • Thermochemical water splitting: In this process, hydrogen is obtained from water through high temperatures and chemical reactions.

Advantages of Hydrogen

Environmental Friendliness: Hydrogen can be produced in an environmentally friendly way and does not emit climate-harmful emissions during combustion or use.

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Versatility: Hydrogen is highly versatile and can be used as fuel, raw material, and energy source in various industries.

Reduced Dependence on Fossil Fuels: The use of green hydrogen in industries can reduce dependency on fossil fuels, increasing energy security.

Basic and Processing Material in the Industrial Sector

Due to its outstanding properties, hydrogen is already a crucial part of various processes in the industrial sector, including the production of chemical products, clean steel manufacturing, and energy generation. Recently, hydrogen has gained significant attention, particularly in the context of decarbonization. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energies requires alternative energy sources and storage solutions, ensuring that electricity from solar and wind farms is available when needed. In transportation, hydrogen could become part of the post-fossil energy mix essential for carbon-free personal and public transport. Moreover, hydrogen serves as an essential raw material for various production processes. It plays a vital role in hydrogenation reactions in the chemical industry and in the desulfurization and hydrocracking of crude oil products.

Currently, a major portion of the used gas is allocated to refining and fertilizer production. In the often complex and technically demanding applications of hydrogen, companies heavily rely on reliable facilities. Measurement technology specialists such as WIKA and other leading manufacturers anticipate a growing demand and corresponding growth in the associated industries.

Use in Different Industries

Branch of Industry Application
Energy Hydrogen as an energy storage solution, e.g., in fuel cells
Transportation Fuel for hydrogen vehicles
Chemical Industry Used in hydrogenation reactions to produce chemical products
Metal Industry Acts as a reducing agent in steel production
Refinery Utilized in desulfurization and hydrocracking of hydrocarbon products

The Potential of Sector Coupling

A significant argument for hydrogen is its ability to serve as both an energy source and a storage solution, absorbing excess energy from renewable sources. By integrating hydrogen into the energy system, its usage supports the stability and reliability of future energy supply. Moreover, hydrogen can facilitate sector coupling, allowing unused energy to be exchanged between different sectors such as industry, electricity and heat generation, and transportation according to demand and availability. The Power-to-X technology (P2X) enables this flexibility, making hydrogen a universally applicable link between various economic sectors. However, the efficiency of sector coupling heavily depends on the development of corresponding infrastructure. Several pilot projects of various scales are currently underway in leading industrialized nations, which could provide long-term guidance for sector coupling.

Guiding the Way to a Sustainable Future

An examination of the possibilities within hydrogen application reveals that its full potential is far from being exhausted. Particularly as a flexible energy source, hydrogen will gain significance. Once enough facilities for the P2X process and a distribution infrastructure are in place, the advantages of sector coupling can be fully realized through green hydrogen. Until then, hydrogen, both as a vital raw material and processing agent, has various roles to fulfill. However, for green hydrogen to establish itself as a carbon-neutral and sustainable alternative, further investments in hydrogen production are necessary. More efficient electrolysis methods and plant scaling could significantly reduce production costs in the coming years, making hydrogen even more attractive for energy storage purposes.

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