Last year was pivotal for the hydrogen industry with big breakthroughs both in technology and market growth. 2018 was the year the world began to embrace the massive commercial future of the hydrogen market, which a report backed by BMW, Air Liquide, and the Hydrogen Council estimates could reach a value of $2.5 trillion by 2050.
The pace of innovation and adoption of hydrogen has never been greater. From Asia to America, hydrogen innovation partnerships between governments and industry were created, challengers were launched, new technologies emerged, and the price of production continued to fall. These actions enabled new hydrogen applications to expand beyond vehicles, with hydrogen technology now powering villages, enabling hybrid storage systems for renewables, and moving into the aerospace and marine sectors.
In today’s post, we’ll review some of the year’s hydrogen highlights that put our industry at an unprecedented starting point in 2019.
Hydrogen as green as the one that powers most of nature is making its way into all sectors of our economy.
“The Green Hydrogen Revolution Has started and It Won’t be Stopped.”
This was the headline of an article by The World Economic Forum a few weeks ago as they reviewed the major hydrogen milestones that occurred last year. The main premise of their article was that the price of hydrogen production has fallen by as much as 80% in the past few years. Importantly, because many leading processes to produce hydrogen use electricity, their analysis concludes that green hydrogen production will continue to move forward as the grid incorporates ever more sustainable sources of energy.
Alongside other renewables, the price of hydrogen production followed a downward curve that indicates zero-carbon grids and transportation will be on the horizon even sooner than people had predicted just a few years ago. In particular, as hydrogen gets incorporated into the grid to store renewables (making up for the intermittency of wind and solar), the steady production of carbon-free energy on a 24/7 basis will become the norm in many parts of the world, regardless of weather conditions.
Even traditional fossil fuel industries are benefiting from the falling costs of producing hydrogen. An article written by the Cleantech Group notes, “There are over 60 million tons of hydrogen produced annually, worth almost $100 billion dollars. Today, 80% of the hydrogen we produce is for three main industries: refineries, ammonia production or metal processing.” The article goes on to explore the growing role of hydrogen in global decarbonization. The latest Economist Technology Quarterly also points to the growing influence of hydrogen, calling it “the most promising technological solution to decarbonize our energy system.”
Fueling the Green Hydrogen Revolution
To reach global decarbonization targets, the Cleantech Group writes, “Global hydrogen production needs to rise from about 60 million tons a year to 500-700 million tons by mid-century, without considering rapid uptake of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV). Coupling hydrogen production with renewables is a viable path to achieve this because, as they point out, “95% of today’s global production of hydrogen is from carbon-based CO2 emitting methods.”
Incorporating renewables into the electricity grid is one way to produce cleaner hydrogen. However, other common methods such as natural gas steam methane reforming (SMR) and coal gasification produce carbon. New technologies need to emerge to fully realize the hydrogen economy and ensure that this unlimited source of energy is as clean when produced as it is when combusted. This is where new innovative technologies to produce hydrogen can make a difference, such as Hydrogen 2.0, which is designed to enable the clean and affordable production of hydrogen from water 24/7.
Championed by Governments and Industry in 2018
Last year the hydrogen revolution that the World Economic Forum referred to in their article was enthusiastically championed by governments and industry around the world. These big votes of confidence in hydrogen saw investors and policymakers around the globe taking note. In July, multinational energy giant Royal Dutch Shell named hydrogen one of its core “new energies” in its energy solution investment sphere. Last month Hyundai announced it would be investing $6.7 billion in hydrogen fuel cell technology, raising output 200 fold by 2030.
National governments were keen to associate themselves with the positive forecasts about hydrogen’s future. Research suggests up to a one-third of the UK’s natural gas could be replaced by hydrogen, while the French government earmarked 100 million euros for the deployment of decarbonated hydrogen in industry, mobility, and energy, as part of its national hydrogen plan. In November, ministers and government officials from 20 countries attended a Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting, in Tokyo and pledged to “step up cooperation in promoting the use of hydrogen as an alternative energy source by sharing technology and standards.”
In December, the Hydrogen Council published their list of “Hydrogen Moments” for 2018, which highlighted some of the most important actions taken by both the public and the private sectors to advance the research, innovation, and deployment of hydrogen. These initiatives included the launch of a new “Hydrogen Innovation Challenge” that promotes international collaboration to accelerate the development of a global hydrogen market, led by Denmark and Sweden. Another notable piece of news was the addition of 14 new corporations to the Hydrogen Council. AFC Energy, Airbus, Air Products, Cummins, EDF, Johnson Matthey, KOGAS, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., Re-Fire Technology, SINOPEC, Southern California Gas, Sumitomo Corporation, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, and ThyssenKrupp joined existing members including Shell, Honda, 3M, and dozens of other organizations who are investing and collaborating on hydrogen innovation.
The Hydrogen Wave Rolls On in 2019
Decades of persistent innovation, bold initiatives, and hard work to bring down the cost of producing hydrogen are now spurring its adoption by industry and governments around the world. This clean, always-available, and increasingly affordable form of energy will continue to play a leading role in the global transition away from fossil fuels and toward a zero-emissions future. Here’s to another record-breaking year for the number one element in 2019!
As the Hydrogen 2.0 ecosystem gains momentum, we’ll be sharing our views and insights on the new Hydrogen 2.0 Economy. We also update our blog every week with insightful and current knowledge in this growing energy field.