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What Is Hydrogen Economy?

Hydrogen economy relates to the future, where most of humanity’s energy needs will be met via hydrogen. As is common knowledge, hydrogen is a flammable gas and it can be used to power vehicles, in industries for heat, and for electricity generation. There’s growing interest in hydrogen economy, as hydrogen is one of the cleanest fuels known to mankind. Upon combustion, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to create only water vapor. This is why hydrogen is being considered better than fossil fuels that are currently the primary energy source of world economy.

Hydrogen use on the rise

Some experts predict that hydrogen economy may become a reality a lot sooner than expected. Evidence to that is available in the consistently increasing production of hydrogen. As of 2020, world’s total hydrogen production is estimated to be around 80 million tons. By the next decade, production would have increased to more than 100 million tons. And by 2050, hydrogen production could easily cross 500 million tons.

Hydrogen is currently utilized primarily for fertilizer production and oil refining. Its use as an energy source is yet to take off on a big scale. A lot of research will be needed to develop the machines that can safely and efficiently use hydrogen as fuel. Significant investments will also be needed to produce, store and transport hydrogen.

Green production method

Based on how it’s produced, hydrogen is color coded in various colors. For example, hydrogen tagged as white refers to naturally occurring hydrogen. Similarly, blue, gray and brown/black is hydrogen produced via fossil fuels such as hydrocarbons and coal. Turquoise hydrogen is one that is produced via thermal splitting of methane and purple/pink/red is hydrogen produced from nuclear power. As is evident, all of these production methods create pollution and are unsustainable.

For hydrogen economy to flourish, hydrogen will have to be primarily sourced through electrolysis of water. Moreover, the electricity used for electrolysis of water will have to come from renewable sources such as solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, hydroelectric energy, etc. When hydrogen is produced in this manner, it is color coded as green. This is one of the primary requirements of a hydrogen economy. Getting water for electrolysis should not be a problem, as water from our vast oceans can be used for that.

Key challenges for hydrogen economy

While hydrogen economy can significantly reduce pollution levels, there are a number of challenges that need to be tackled. One key challenge is to find a safe way to store and use hydrogen as fuel. Another key challenge is the mega investments that will be required to change the current fossil fuel ecosystem to hydrogen ecosystem.

Hydrogen economy will become a possibility only with collaborations with government and private players. Consumers also need to be made aware of the benefits of hydrogen, so that they too can make the switch without any doubts in their minds.

About Satya Singh

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