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Hydrogen Production

[Hydrogen Production - US Department of Energy]

- Overview

Hydrogen can be produced from diverse, domestic resources including fossil fuels, biomass, and water electrolysis with electricity. The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen depends on how it is produced. Several projects are underway to decrease costs associated with hydrogen production.

Currently, most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, specifically natural gas. Electricity -- from the grid or from renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass -- is also currently used to produce hydrogen. In the longer term, solar energy and biomass can be used more directly to generate hydrogen.

Today, about 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States comes from natural gas. It’s created using steam methane reforming, which basically uses high temperatures to convert steam and methane into hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide. 

The challenge is, global demand for hydrogen and its emerging applications could increase by a factor of ten, surpassing our current infrastructure for producing and delivering hydrogen.   

- Natural Gas and Other Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels can be reformed to release the hydrogen from their hydrocarbon molecules and are the source of most of the hydrogen currently made in the United States. Combining these processes with carbon capture, utilization, and storage will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions. Natural gas reforming is an advanced and mature hydrogen production process that builds upon the existing natural gas infrastructure. Today 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States is made by natural gas reforming in large central plants. This is an important pathway for near-term hydrogen production. Learn about hydrogen production processes using fossil fuels: Natural gas reforming, coal gasification, carbon capture, utilization, and storage.  


- Solar

Sunlight can directly or indirectly provide the energy to produce hydrogen. This resource is abundant, but it is diffuse and only available for a portion of the day. Learn about hydrogen production processes using solar energy: Solar thermochemical hydrogen (STCH), Photoelectrochemical (PEC), Electrolysis, Photobiological. 


- Biomass

Biomass is an abundant renewable resource that can be produced domestically, and it can be converted to hydrogen and other byproducts through a number of methods. Because growing biomass removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the net carbon emissions of these methods can be low. Learn about hydrogen production processes using biomass: biomass gasification, biomass-derived liquid reforming, microbial biomass conversion. 


- Wind

Wind is an abundant but variable resource for generating electricity. Wind-generated electricity can power water electrolysis to produce hydrogen, which could be used to fuel vehicles, or stored and then used in fuel cells to generate electricity during times of the day when the wind resource is low. Learn more about using electrolysis to produce hydrogen from wind. 


- Renewable and Grid Electricity

Electricity can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This technology is well developed and available commercially, and systems that can efficiently use renewable power—for example, wind, geothermal, or solar—are being developed. Learn more about using electrolysis to produce hydrogen from renewable and grid electricity.



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