Hydrogen's role in the green economy
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Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in existence. People have imagined possible applications for hydrogen for a long time, but these ideas have often been full of promise yet short on delivery. So far, the element's uses have mostly been limited to large-scale, carbon-heavy industries. However, we believe hydrogen's potential in clean energy solutions is now becoming apparent, supported by innovations in technology, the falling cost of renewable energy, and global efforts to reduce emissions. The combination of these factors has opened up investment opportunities across the emerging hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen's Role in the Green Economy

Hydrogen is a highly efficient way to decarbonise a wide range of carbon-emitting activities. It has the versatility to operate across the transport, heat, industry and electricity sectors, which together ac-count for around two-thirds of global carbon dioxide emissions.

One of the cleanest and most promising applications of hydrogen is in fuel cells. A hydrogen fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electrical energy, leaving only water vapour as emissions. Fuel cell technology has a vast number of applications, from small, portable devices to enormous power plants. Hydrogen fuel cells can also power commercial and public transport vehicles, such as buses, trucks, trains, and ships. Actually operating vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells produces zero emissions, and the use of such vehicles can become totally carbon-free if the hydrogen has been sourced from 'green' productions methods such as renewable-powered electrolysis (see below). Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles also have shorter re-fuelling times and longer ranges than electric vehicles.

Hydrogen could play an important role decarbonising industrial processes. For example, in steelmaking it could replace carbon-in-tensive coke as a feedstock. The ability to store hydrogen for future energy demands means that it can also be used to provide carbon-free heat and power to buildings, in a similar manner to how natural gas is used today.

The Hydrogen Council was established in 2017 with the aim of driving a united vision for the development and possible future uses of hydrogen (Figure 1). It is comprised of over 80 members, including automotive suppliers, energy and chemical companies, and several large investment entities.

Carbon-free Production Methods of the Future

Global demand for hydrogen has increased by over 300% since 1975 (Figure 2) and we believe this trend will accelerate over the next decade as more hydrogen economy infrastructure is built as countries look to use hydrogen technologies to decarbonise.

However, since hydrogen does not exist naturally on Earth as a gas it must be manufactured. This is generally done using natural gas in a process called steam-methane reforming (SMR). This natural gas-to-hydrogen pathway is the lowest-cost production method, but it does result in carbon emissions. For hydrogen to be a truly clean, zero-emission energy source, its production needs to be decarbonised.

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