Every day we read something new about new technologies for a sustainable environment. We have all heard of “renewable” or “clean” energy sources. We call it ‘renewable’ because it is an ‘infinite’ source that does not diminish and is sustainable. Well-known examples are solar and wind. No matter how much solar or wind energy one can use to generate energy (electricity), it is not reduced compared to other conventional sources like coal, oil or gas. The other word called “clean” energy source is because these sources do not pollute the environment in the process of generating energy.
Recently, there is a lot of talk about “green” hydrogen as a future source of clean energy. So what is it? We all know hydrogen or “H2” as an element if water (H2O). Hydrogen is an element abundantly available in the world and is currently used in sectors including the chemical industry for the manufacture of ammonia and fertilizers; the petrochemical industry to produce petroleum products and moreover, it is beginning to be used in the steel industry. So what’s the new buzzword for ‘green’ hydrogen? Currently, hydrogen is mainly produced from natural gas and coal, and during this process hundreds of millions of CO2 are emitted into the environment around the world. Therefore, some now call it “gray” Hydrogen. By adopting technologies to capture and remove CO2 from the process, it still pollutes the environment, albeit to a lesser extent, and can therefore be called “blue” hydrogen.
“Green” hydrogen, on the other hand, is produced using a process called water electrolysis. This process involves the splitting of water (H2O) into oxygen and hydrogen gas using a direct electric current passed through the water with electrodes. And when that electric current comes from renewable energy, it becomes the most sustainable way to produce green hydrogen. This hydrogen is then used in and as a fuel cell, where we combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce electricity and the only by-product produced is water – Wow!
There are several ways to use this green hydrogen in the sustainable energy transition process, some of them are:
- Solar and wind energy, when produced in excess of demand, can be used to produce and store clean, compressed hydrogen in specific tanks. And later, when we need power, it is channeled through a fuel cell, as explained above.
- Fuel cell electric vehicles are the future eMobility that would run on this clean energy by having a hydrogen tank that connects to the fuel cell, where the electricity that powers the motor is generated. Green hydrogen may well be essential for mining vehicles, trains, planes, trucks, buses and even shipping.
- It would continue to be used in the chemical and steel industries but without emitting carbon.
- It would replace the natural gas network and provide electricity and heat to households without producing polluting emissions.
However, there are still many challenges to be overcome to make it economically viable for commercial use. But it was the same thing 10 or 15 years ago with solar and wind power. Worldwide, it is envisioned as a major source of clean energy transition by 2030.
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