Basics of Green Hydrogen vs. Blue Hydrogen
Green hydrogen and blue hydrogen are terms that refer to how the hydrogen is produced, with each method having different environmental impacts.
- Blue Hydrogen: This is produced from natural gas through a process known as steam methane reforming (SMR). The process involves reacting methane with steam under 3–25 bar pressure in the presence of a catalyst to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide and other impurities are then removed from the gas stream, which gives the hydrogen gas. A significant feature of blue hydrogen production is the capture and storage of the carbon emissions generated during the process, which is why it’s considered ‘blue’. However, it’s important to note that not all of the carbon dioxide is captured, and therefore this process still contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Green Hydrogen: This is produced through the electrolysis of water. In this process, an electric current is passed through water, causing it to separate into hydrogen and oxygen. If the electricity used in this process is generated from renewable sources, like wind or solar power, then the hydrogen produced is considered ‘green’ because its production doesn’t release any carbon emissions. Green hydrogen production is the most environmentally friendly method of producing hydrogen, but it can be more expensive and less efficient than other methods due to the high energy needs of electrolysis.
Both blue and green hydrogen have the potential to play significant roles in a future low-carbon economy, but their viability depends on various factors, including the availability of low-cost renewable energy for green hydrogen and effective carbon capture and storage technology for blue hydrogen.
Clearly, green hydrogen is the preferred production route as it is cleaner, but there is still significant development work required to improve hydrolysis efficiency.
Investments in Green Hydrogen
There is significant investment in green hydrogen. A report from Deloitte projected that the green hydrogen market could surpass the value of the liquid natural gas trade by 2030, reaching a value of $1.4 trillion per year by 20501.
Additionally, governments are increasing their subsidies for the production of green hydrogen. For instance, the Dutch government announced an increase in subsidies for green hydrogen production by 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion)2.
Furthermore, investments are being made in various regions around the world. For instance, state-backed firms from the Netherlands are helping to create a $1 billion green hydrogen fund for investment in South African projects, as part of broader Dutch and Danish investments in renewable energy3.
These examples show the growing interest and investment in green hydrogen as part of the transition towards renewable and cleaner energy sources.
Large Green Hydrogen Companies
Here are some green hydrogen companies as of late 2022, though for many of them, green hydrogen is only a small part of their business as they are first and foremost energy or oil companies.
- Ballard Power Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:BLDP): A Canadian company based in Burnaby, British Columbia, Ballard Power Systems Inc. is focused on designing, developing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing proton exchange membrane fuel cell products worldwide. They mainly cater to bus and commercial vehicle operators. In Q3 2022, they generated a total revenue of $25.6 million.
- FuelCell Energy Inc. (NASDAQ:FCEL): This company operates in more than 50 countries across the world and runs the world’s most expansive fuel cell park which consists of 21 power plants in South Korea. It also operates the largest fuel cell park in North America in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The company primarily caters to commercial and industrial customers and uses trigeneration technology to produce green hydrogen from natural gas or biogas. The process has a negligible carbon footprint when compared to conventional methods of reformation1.
- Bloom Energy Corp. (NYSE:BE): Bloom Energy is an American clean energy company based in San Jose, California. It manufactures and markets solid oxide fuel cells that are able to generate electric energy on-site. The company’s fuel cells run on pure, green hydrogen and provide continuous reliability without the added risk of carbon emissions. As of 2022, Bloom Energy has installed more than 900 megawatts worth of fuel cells. In September 2022, Bloom Energy announced its plans to install 245-kW electrolyzers at Xcel Energy’s nuclear plant to produce emissions-free green hydrogen1.
- Plug Power Inc. (NASDAQ:PLUG): Plug Power is an American company headquartered in Latham, New York. It specializes in the development and production of hydrogen fuel cell systems that are intended to replace conventional batteries in equipment and electric vehicles. The company also specializes in hydrogen fuel cell turnkey solutions, and associated hydrogen and green hydrogen generation, storage and dispensary. As of the third quarter of 2022, Plug Power generated a total revenue of $188.6 million1.
- Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI): An American multinational corporation based in Columbus, Indiana. Cummins Inc. designs, manufactures, distributes, and services diesel and natural gas engines, and power generation products. The company is also a significant player in the green hydrogen industry with its expertise in electrolyzers, which are devices that use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Cummins Inc. generated a total revenue of $6 billion in Q3 2022.
- Reliance Industries (NASDAQ:RELI): An Indian multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. The company operates in various sectors including petrochemicals, refining, oil, and telecommunications. In the green hydrogen sector, Reliance Industries has made a commitment to become net carbon zero by 2035 and has outlined plans to build solar energy factories, produce green hydrogen, and develop fuel cells over the next three years. As of Q3 2022, the company generated a total revenue of $19.8 billion.
- Linde plc (NYSE:LIN): An Irish-domiciled multinational chemical company formed by the merger of Linde AG of Germany and Praxair of the United States. It is the largest industrial gas company by market share and revenue. Linde is a key player in the green hydrogen space as it operates along the entire hydrogen value chain – from production and processing to storage, refuelling stations, and fuel cell applications. In Q3 2022, the company generated a total revenue of $7.6 billion.
- Shell plc (LON:SHEL): A British-Dutch multinational oil and gas company headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands and incorporated in the United Kingdom. As a part of its energy transition strategy, Shell has invested heavily in green hydrogen projects. It operates the world’s largest PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) hydrogen electrolyzer in Canada. In Q3 2022, Shell generated a total revenue of $180.5 billion1.
- Iberdrola: A Spanish multinational electric utility company. Based in Bilbao, it operates in several areas of the energy industry, including electricity generation, distribution, and trading. It is one of the world’s largest utilities and leads the global wind power sector.
Clean Hydrogen Non-Profit Organizations
There are several non-profit organizations involved in research, advocacy, and education around green hydrogen and renewable energy technologies. However, I should note that while these organizations focus on broader aspects of clean energy, they all play significant roles in the green hydrogen sector:
- International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA): IRENA promotes the widespread and increased adoption and use of renewable energy. Their work includes a focus on green hydrogen, which is a type of renewable energy.
- The Hydrogen Council: This global initiative of leading energy, transport, and industrial companies has a long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the clean energy transition. While not a traditional non-profit, it is a CEO-led initiative that functions similarly in its dedication to promoting hydrogen energy solutions.
- Renewable Hydrogen Coalition: Based in Europe, the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition unites renewable electricity and hydrogen stakeholders behind a common vision of scaling up renewable hydrogen across Europe.
- The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE): ACORE is a national non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the renewable energy sector, including green hydrogen, through finance, policy, technology, and market development.
- The Green Hydrogen Coalition (GHC): A US-based non-profit, the GHC is focused on building top-down momentum for scalable green hydrogen projects that leverage multi-sector opportunities to simultaneously scale supply and demand.
- Energy Networks Australia: While it is the national industry body representing Australian electricity networks and gas distribution businesses, it also works on advancing green hydrogen projects.
Government Hydrogen Organizations
Governments around the world have recognized the potential of green hydrogen as a key technology for a sustainable energy future, and have created organizations or initiatives to research, develop, and promote it. Below are seven noteworthy entities as of my last knowledge update in September 2021:
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO): The HFTO conducts research and development in hydrogen production, delivery, storage, and fuel cells, as well as activities in technology validation, manufacturing, systems analysis, and safety, codes, and standards.
- European Commission – Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU): The FCH JU is a unique public-private partnership supporting research, technological development, and demonstration activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe.
- Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy – National Hydrogen Strategy: Germany is one of the global leaders in green hydrogen and has outlined a national strategy to expand its production capacity and usage over the coming years.
- Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy: The Australian Government is developing a National Hydrogen Strategy to open up a potentially massive new industry and export market for Australia.
- Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) – Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Strategy: Japan has a roadmap to become the world’s first ‘hydrogen society’, and aims to establish hydrogen as a new energy option.
- The New Zealand Hydrogen Association: While not a government organization itself, it works closely with the New Zealand Government to develop and promote a hydrogen economy.
- The Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy – Hydrogen Program: The Dutch government sees hydrogen as an important link in achieving the objectives of the Climate Agreement and a CO2-free energy supply by 2050.
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