Hydrogen Made a Green Comeback

Zero-emission production methods and increased affordability fuel the resurgence of this clean energy solution. Here’s a glimpse of the tech behind it.

Hydrogen has long been a vital resource for diverse industries, such as ammonia, steel, fertilizers, and transportation, and plays a significant role in the global energy economy. However, traditional hydrogen production methods have historically relied on substantial amounts of fossil fuels. This reliance required extensive resources and led to significant environmental pollution.

As various industries push toward greener and more sustainable practices, the demand for “green hydrogen” has surged. Until recently, this shift was challenging due to the high costs of producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources. This compelled many industries to rely on traditional, less environmentally friendly methods.

However, this reality is swiftly changing these days.

Turning a Green Vision into Economic Reality

The traditional method of hydrogen production, known as gas reforming, relies heavily on fossil fuels, mainly natural gas, making the process highly polluting. This method, used by large-scale hydrogen production companies due to its economic viability, produces what is commonly referred to as “grey” hydrogen.

However, advancements in renewable energy technologies and the extensive global deployment of wind and photovoltaic fields have significantly reduced the cost of green electrical power. Solar panels harness solar power, and turbines utilize water and wind energy, all contributing to the lower cost of producing green hydrogen.

An alternative process for producing green hydrogen, known as water electrolysis, relies on these renewable energy sources. Water electrolysis is a chemical process that uses electrical energy to separate hydrogen molecules from oxygen atoms in water (H2O).

Not long ago, producing one kilogram of hydrogen using renewable energy was 25 times more expensive than creating gray hydrogen. Today, thanks to technological innovations, the cost of producing green hydrogen is comparable to, and in some cases even less than, that of traditional methods.

For example, producing 1 kilogram of hydrogen through water electrolysis requires approximately 50 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electrical power. At $0.25 per kWh, this results in an energy cost of $12.50 per kilogram (excluding additional expenses such as capital equipment cost, financing, and maintenance). However, with today’s green electricity prices dropping to around 2-2.5 cents per kWh – just a tenth of the earlier cost – the price of producing 1 kilogram of hydrogen plummets to approximately $1.

This dramatic reduction highlights the economic viability of green energy and underscores the transformative potential of sustainable practices in hydrogen production.

Entering the Membrane

Dr. Ervin Tal-Gutelmacher, CEO of Hydrolite, explains the current advancements in hydrogen production technology. “Electrolysis technology has been in use for nearly a century, but the emergence of cheap renewable energy combined with technological advancements and innovation has created an unprecedented opportunity. The race is now to find the next generation of sufficiently cheap and efficient electrolysis technology to capitalize on the growing demand by producing and selling green hydrogen as a cost-competitive, carbon-free fossil fuel replacement,” she elaborates.

According to her, “Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) technology has emerged recently as a new promising route, effectively combining the benefits of traditional alkaline with the efficiency of the solid-state Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology.”

“Incorporating advanced materials chemistry utilizing favorable alkaline media, environmentally-friendly PFAS-free membranes, and non-critical raw materials allows significant cost reductions, decreased environmental footprint, and increased sustainability,” adds Dr. Tal-Gutelmacher.

Over the past couple of years, AEM has emerged as a cutting-edge technology poised to break the hydrogen cost barrier.

Dr. Tal-Gutelmacher highlights a shift in perspective within the industry. “The world can now see that it is possible to approach things differently,” she adds. “Our goal as a society should be for more hydrogen producers to abandon old and ecologically harmful methods in favor of producing green hydrogen, irrespective of regulatory trends. This revolution will change the world.”

Experts predict that within three decades, as the adoption of renewable energies and green hydrogen increases, humanity may have virtually unrestricted access to renewable energy. The following article will explore this in further detail.