What is hydrogen energy?

You may have heard ‘hydrogen energy’ pop up quite a bit recently, but you may not know what it is all about! This blog takes you through the basics of all you need to know about hydrogen energy and the energy it provides.

Hydrogen: What is it?

Hydrogen, a naturally occurring element on earth, is the simplest element, with each hydrogen atom only having one proton. Hydrogen is also the most abundant element in the universe; the sun is actually mostly made up of hydrogen! 

In the same way as gasoline, hydrogen is an energy carrier thar must be produced from another substance. Hydrogen can come from fossil fuels, biomass, and water sources. As an element, hydrogen has three times the amount of energy by weight of any other standard fuel; however, it has the lowest amount of energy by volume.

It does take more energy to produce hydrogen than hydrogen provides when it comes to useful energy; however, hydrogen is useful as an energy source because as mentioned, it has a high energy content by unit of weight. Hydrogen is used to fuel to produce electricity on some spacecraft!

Hydrogen fuel is produced through various methods, including Thermal processes, Electrolytic processes (Link blog), Solar-driven processes, and Biological processes. ‘Hydrogen colour codes’ are used to define the production route for the specific hydrogen in question. The colours and types of hydrogen used in the spectrum include green, grey, yellow, turquoise, and pink.

As mentioned in our blog about Electrolysers and their processes, a massive benefit of using hydrogen as an energy source is to limit foreign energy dependence. In the unpredictable climate, having alternatives readily available will never go a miss; pluses include fewer transportation costs and fewer special issues.

Whilst the current cost for production of Hydrogen is relatively expensive, there is a massive amount of work being undertaken to reduce the cost of hydrogen. The graph below shows the International Energy Agency predictions for the reduction in this production cost over the next 40 years. It is fait to say that the industry is already ahead of the curve and that production costs will approach these levels far earlier than 2060.


IEA, Global average levelized cost of hydrogen production by energy source and technology. 2019 and 2050, IEA, Paris.

https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/global-average-levelised-cost-of-hydrogen-production-by-energy-source-and-technology-2019-and-2050, IEA. Licence: CC BY 4.0

Global Predictions

We don’t know when or if the future of clean energy lies with 100% hydrogen as the source; we do know the benefits and opportunities hydrogen energy gives, but at the same time, it is also essential that whole optimism remains, so does realism. As we advance, understanding the disadvantages and drawbacks of this sustainable clean energy source allows for a better understanding of how hydrogen energy can be used in the most efficient way possible.

Whilst we do not have a full picture of the future energy market, there has been a significant increase in the amount of global finance earmarked for investment in hydrogen production since the invasion of Ukraine. This is demonstrated by the hydrogen project data published by Rystad Energy which indicates that Hydrogen will have a big future as a fuel in our future sustainable World.