Measurement and Testing
Is Hydrogen a Practical Fuel Source?
Apr 13 2022
As one of the most abundant elements in the universe, hydrogen has incredible potential as a fuel source. From transport to oil and gas refining, the chemical element has an important role to play as countries around the world transition to renewable, sustainable and low-carbon energy.
So, is hydrogen a practical fuel source? Read on as we explore the pros and cons of hydrogen fuel.
The pros of hydrogen fuel
Energy dense fuel source
Hydrogen is an energy dense fuel and significantly outperforms the efficiency offered by petrol and other standard fuel sources.
Other than heat and water vapour, hydrogen-powered cars emit zero by-products. Unlike petrol engines which produce more than 2kg of CO2 per litre, Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) release no carbon into the atmosphere. While the pandemic temporarily hindered growth in the FCEV market, analysts expect strong momentum moving forward.
“More than 40 000 FCEVs were on the road globally by the end of June 2021. Stocks grew an average 70% annually from 2017 to 2020, but in 2020 stock growth fell to only 40% and new fuel cell car registrations decreased 15%, mirroring the contraction of the car market overall due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” reads a report issued by the International Energy Agency. “However, 2021 is expected to be a new record year, with more than 8 000 FCEVs sold in the first half of 2021, and record-high monthly sales recorded in California (759 in March) and Korea (1 265 in April).”
Potential to step up as a ‘green’ fuel
When produced using renewable energy, hydrogen offers incredible eco-friendly credentials. The low-carbon hydrogen production industry is gaining traction, with governments around the world embracing eco-friendly hydrogen production technologies.
An abundant fuel source
Currently, the majority of the world’s hydrogen is produced using natural gas. With roughly 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available in reserves around the world, hydrogen is considered an abundant fuel source. Of course, natural gas isn’t the only way to produce hydrogen, with new sources such as solar energy, wind power and biomass currently being explored.
A variety of applications
Hydrogen is a diverse fuel used for a variety of applications. The oil refining industry is one of the largest consumers of hydrogen, with plants using the chemical element to reduce sulphur concentrations in diesel fuel. The industrial sector is another big hydrogen consumer, with manufacturers using the chemical element to produce products such as methanol and ammonia. Hydrogen is also widely used in the steelmaking industry.
The cons of hydrogen fuel
Not necessarily sustainable
While the ‘green’ hydrogen market is growing at a rapid pace, much of the world’s hydrogen is still manufactured using non-renewable natural gas. This process generates significant CO2 emissions and drastically reduces hydrogen’s status as a clean fuel.
Limited refuelling infrastructure
Limited refuelling infrastructure has limited the popularity of hydrogen-powered vehicles.
While hydrogen does have its downsides, new technologies are helping establish the chemical element as a practical and sustainable fuel source. Find out more in our complete guide: ‘Everything You Need to Know About Hydrogen Fuel’.
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