Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is a versatile
fuel that can be produced from a variety of sources, making it a promising
option for transportation, electricity generation, and other
What is hydrogen used for?
Hydrogen has many uses. Most hydrogen consumed in the United States is
used in industrial processes such as petroleum refining, metal treatment,
fertilizer production, and food processing.
Beyond industry, hydrogen can be used as an alternative fuel
source in transportation. Like gasoline, hydrogen can be used to power a car,
but with zero tailpipe emissions, making it an attractive solution to
decarbonize the automotive industry. Currently, drivers of light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles
(FCEVs) can fuel up at retail stations in less than five minutes and obtain a driving range
of more than 300 miles. However, the infrastructure needed to expand the use of
fuel cell vehicles is not yet established. Industry, government entities, and
stakeholders across the nation are working to establish hydrogen refueling
corridors, lower the costs, and increase production to prepare for the
The above are just a few of the many uses for hydrogen. Hydrogen is
also used to fuel rockets, store and transport power, and even power entire
power plants. Hydrogen has the potential to facilitate decarbonization of the
electric power sector by storing excess generation from renewable energy
sources when production is high and using it to generate electricity when
renewable resources are limited or electricity demand is high.
How is hydrogen made?
There are several methods to make hydrogen; each is categorized via
color. The most common method for hydrogen production is the thermal process of
natural gas reforming (Grey/Blue hydrogen). This process can be done utilizing
other hydrocarbon fuels such as gasified coal, gasified biomass, or renewable
liquid fuels. Electrolysis (Pink/Green Hydrogen), is another method in which
hydrogen molecules are separated from water using an electrolyzer. Below is a
diagram that depicts the most common methods of hydrogen production by the
level of greenhouse gas emissions they produced.
There are other less adopted methods like solar-driven and biomass
processes. Solar-driven processes use light as the
agent for hydrogen production while biological processes utilize microbes that
break down organic matter like biomass or wastewater to produce hydrogen.
Solar-driven processes include photoelectrochemical and solar thermochemical
methods. Photoelectrochemical processes use specialized semiconductors to
separate water into hydrogen and oxygen and solar thermochemical processes uses
concentrated solar power to drive water splitting reactions. Photobiological
processes use bacteria and green algae to produce hydrogen; these bacteria and
algae use sunlight as their energy source, thus this process is both biological
Learn more about: