What is hydrogen?

Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is the foundation for the creation of heavier elements. Over 90% of all atoms and three-quarters of the universe’s mass consist of hydrogen.

In the context of energy production, hydrogen acts as an energy carrier, a channel that stores and transports energy from a source to a specific application. Although the transfer of energy through carriers like hydrogen involves some loss, often in the form of lower energy forms such as heat, they are indispensable for efficient and practical energy use.

Energy sources such as solar and wind are not directly storable or controllable in their raw form, but by converting them into electricity, we can store and distribute the energy through cables, batteries, or in the form of hydrogen. Even though batteries and hydrogen involve some energy loss in the process, they enable the transfer and use of energy across various applications.

Hydrogen gas stores energy in the shared electrons of hydrogen atoms. This energy can be harnessed through processes like electrolysis, where electricity is used to split water molecules into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas, or through steam-methane reforming, where methane gas and water molecules are split at high temperatures. When these processes are powered by renewable energy, the produced hydrogen becomes an environmentally friendly alternative.

  • Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe – over 90% of all atoms and three-quarters of the universe’s mass consist of hydrogen.
  • Global demand for hydrogen is predicted to more than double by 2030, with significant increases from the power, industrial, and transportation sectors.
  • With a molar mass of only 1.00794 g/mol, hydrogen is the lightest element.
  • Hydrogen emits no greenhouse gases – only water vapor.

Different types of hydrogen

The environmental benefits of hydrogen also depend on how the hydrogen is produced.

Gray hydrogen

Hydrogen produced from fossil sources. This can include gas reforming of natural gas or gasification of fuel. Gas reforming has a negative environmental impact during the reforming process (about 7 kg CO₂e per kg of H₂ produced¹ and a total carbon footprint of 10-14 kg CO₂e per kg of H₂.²

Blue hydrogen

Hydrogen produced from fossil sources, but the CO₂e emissions are reduced through carbon capture and storage (CCS). With CCS, the CO₂e emissions from gas reforming and gasification can be reduced by 50-95%.

Green hydrogen

Hydrogen production based on renewable sources. This can include hydrogen produced by electrolysis using power from solar, wind, or water. The total carbon footprint will be less than 1 kg per kg of H₂.³

(¹) Princeton University 1997, (²) f DNV GL Rapportnr 2009-0039 (³) DNV GL Rapportnr 2009-0039

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GreenH establishes the production and sale of hydrogen at several locations in Norway. If you are interested in hearing more about us and some of our projects, please get in touch.