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Uses of hydrogen as a source of energy

5 possible uses of hydrogen as an energy source. Discover these innovative projects

The uses of hydrogen, particularly green hydrogen , have been heavily invoked as one of the most promising drivers of the energy transition [1]. The range of potential applications and uses of hydrogen extends from small-scale vehicle fueling solutions to broader adoption scenarios as a flexibility mechanism. In some of our recent challenges we have addressed this new typology of energy models.

The proven possibility of what is called “energy mix” highlights the importance that the uses of hydrogen will have in a gradual change, progressively eliminating fossil fuels, especially natural gas. This report aims to describe the different production and storage techniques, as well as the deployment strategies, providing a detailed analysis of the efficiencies, costs and, ultimately, a vision of the potential of these technologies.

The price of electricity represents around 75% of the cost of green hydrogen (H2) generated with electrolyzers [3], which depends on several factors such as: system efficiency, capital cost or capacity factor, among others. H2’s struggle to take off in the past is explained by the fact that splitting water through electrolysis required more energy than that stored in the final product, making it economically unfeasible. Today, renewable energythey are a game changer due to their virtually unlimited resources, being able to support hydrogen production plants locally. The current levelized cost of energy (LCOE) has been estimated at $26-54/MWh for wind and $29-42/MWh for solar. The cheapest solar production is currently in Portugal, with an LCOE of $13/MWh.

Hydrogen generation projects

  1. The Norwegian company Nel will reduce the cost of its electrolysers

Although some analyzes show that H2 can already be produced close to the DOE’s $2/kg target [4], that price is expected to continue to decline. In fact, Norwegian electrolyser manufacturer Nel has unveiled plans to reduce the cost of its electrolyzers by around 75% in a new 2GW factory and to reduce the price of green hydrogen to around $1.50/kg by 2025. The same cost as gray H2 derived from unconsumed fossil fuels [5]. The price prediction was based on a renewable electricityat 20 dollars/MWh, including the costs of the useful life for 20 years: the cost of the land, civil works, installation, start-up and operation and maintenance. With the completion of its first 500MW production line at its new fully automated alkali electrolyser factory in Herøya, Norway, the company expects to reduce the cost of production by 50% and drive cost savings in the future.

2. SGH2: Think outside the box

Conventional approaches will not be the only ones that make a difference. In Lancaster, California, a proven project has been launched, supported by pioneering technology: the production plant, built by the global energy company SGH2, will use mixed recycled paper waste to produce H2. This technology, which reduces carbon emissions by two to three times compared to electrolysis and renewable energy production, is also five to seven times cheaper. The company estimates that it will produce up to 11,000 kilograms of H2 per day (3.8 million kilograms per year, almost three times more than any other H2 production facility), processing 42,000 tons of recycled waste per year [6]. The gasification process uses a plasma-enhanced thermal catalytic conversion process optimized with oxygen-enriched gas. In the catalyst bed chamber of the gasification island, plasma torches generate such high temperatures (3500 – 4000 degrees Celsius), that the raw material of the waste disintegrates into its molecular compounds, without combustion ash or toxic fly ash . As the gases leave the catalyst bed chamber, the molecules come together in abiosynthesis . This process is rich in very high quality hydrogen and free of:

  • Tar
  • Soot
  • heavy metals [16]

3. The artificial sun of the DLR

For its part, Germany, aiming to reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas pipelines, is now one of the world leaders in the use of hydrogen breakdown. The DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luftund Raumfahrt or German Aerospace Center) is also making creative strides [7]: with the help of a 350kW array of 140 xenon short-arc lamps, which are concentrated on 400 square centimeters, scientists they are exerting 10,000 times the intensity of solar radiation on the Earth’s surface. This configuration allows the manufacture of fuels, including H2, thanks to the resulting 3000 degrees Celsius. The concentrated radiation from the lamps is used to split water molecules directly into hydrogen and oxygen. [17]

Uses of hydrogen in different projects

4. Hydrogen as fuel for heavy vehicles

As far as the aviation sector is concerned, the DLR continues to push [8] for synthetic fuels, hydrogen in gas turbines, electric propulsion systems and climate-optimized routes. Its roadmap points to the full decarbonization of the aviation sector by mid-2030. A different example, considering how the German Armed Forces manage their fleet, is how they have long used H2 to propel underwater submarines using electrolysis. , taking advantage of the raw material involved [15]. However, a diesel engine is started while the submarines are still on the surface.

5. Hydrogen also moves cars

Apart from the compatibility required for pipeline transport, H2 storage itself is challenging, particularly for hydrogen usesin small vehicles [12]. Beyond the relatively small total energy efficiency of H2-powered cars, the volume required for hydrogen storage systems to achieve an acceptable range remains a problem, resulting in inadequate vehicle range compared to conventional vehicles. Conventional oil-fueled vehicles. This makes electric vehicles the best option so far, especially for small trips. Fortunately, a car with a range of 1,500 km [15] is already on the market in Germany with a current price of 25-35 euros per full tank. There is also the hydrogen fuel cell car that uses hydrogen for the production of electrical energy on board.


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