All about renewable hydrogen energy

Have you heard of the hydrogen fuel revolution?  

What if one of the world’s most complex challenges: climate change, had a simple answer? Well, it doesn’t per se, but hydrogen, the simplest & lightest element, can be produced as a renewable energy source and replace the heavy carbon emitting and noxious fossil fuels we’ve relied on for years. 

One way that governments, corporations, and startups are working to limit global temperature rises is to increase their use of alternative and renewable fuel sources that emit less CO2. As the world grapples with the urgent need to transition to renewable energy sources, hydrogen has emerged as a promising candidate.  

With its potential to produce clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, renewable hydrogen energy has garnered significant attention, especially in the construction industry. The clean hydrogen revolution is coming, but there are lingering questions about its renewability. In this article, we will dive into the concept of hydrogen energy, explore its renewability, and examine its advantages and drawbacks for heavy industry.

The clean hydrogen revolution is coming, but there are lingering questions about its renewability.

Table of Contents

What is hydrogen energy?

Hydrogen is found in vast quantities on Earth, primarily in water and organic matter. An energy carrier, hydrogen can be used to store, move, and deliver energy produced from other sources. But because hydrogen is not found in nature in its pure state, it must be produced from other sources (e.g., natural gas, biogas, solar power, wind power, etc.) through different methods (e.g., electrolysis, steam methane reforming, pyrolysis, biomass gasification, etc.). 

Hydrogen energy is a clean alternative to methane (aka natural gas) because when it is used in fuel cells to generate electricity or combusted to produce heat and power it does not emit CO2 emissions. 

How energy is produced with hydrogen

Once hydrogen has successfully been produced in its pure state, there are two traditional methods of producing energy with hydrogen: fuel cells and combustion. 

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that combine hydrogen and oxygen atoms to produce electricity, water, and a small amount of heat. This method does not release any greenhouses gases, so it’s a method of clean electricity production. Major CO2 emitting industries, such as power, transportation and construction have begun employing this technology to lower their carbon footprints.   

On the other hand, combustion involves burning liquid or gaseous hydrogen, similar to how gasoline or diesel fuel is burned in traditional engines. When hydrogen is combusted, it reacts with oxygen to produce heat, which can be used to generate electricity or provide heat for industrial processes. However, unlike the combustion of fossil fuels, hydrogen does not emit CO2 when burned.

Environmentally friendly renewable energy storage solution of hydrogen gas

Is hydrogen energy renewable?

Hydrogen energy itself is not inherently renewable, as it does not occur naturally in its pure form, but it can be produced from renewable sources, such as solar, wind, biomethane or hydroelectric power, making it a renewable energy carrier.  

What makes hydrogen a renewable or clean energy source is the raw material or process used to convert it to its pure state. Moreover, depending on the type of production used, different color names are assigned to the hydrogen. Think green, turquoise, blue, brown, grey and yellow hydrogen! 

Renewable hydrogen is often produced through a process called electrolysis, where an electric current is passed through water, splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen. The electricity used in electrolysis can be sourced from renewable energy sources, ensuring that the hydrogen produced is truly renewable. Alternatively, it can also be sourced from renewable natural gas or biomethane, produced by the fermentation of organic matter with no carbon footprint. 

What advantages does it have over other renewable energies?

Hydrogen energy has several advantages over other renewable energy sources.  

  • High energy efficiency: Meaning that a relatively small amount of hydrogen can store a large amount of energy. This makes it an ideal fuel for transportation or industrial processes which require huge energy capacities. 
  • Versatile: Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity, providing a clean and efficient power source for various applications. It can also be combusted to produce heat and power, or it can be used as a feedstock to produce chemicals and materials. This versatility makes hydrogen a valuable resource in the transition to a low-carbon economy. 
  • Not dependent on weather conditions: Sometimes with solar and wind energy, the supply of electricity may exceed demand and vice versa. Excess electricity can be used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, acting as a form of energy storage. The stored hydrogen can then be used during periods of high demand or when renewable energy generation is low. 

What about the drawbacks?

While hydrogen energy has many advantages, there are also some drawbacks to consider.  

  • Current infrastructure for widespread adoption: Hydrogen production, storage, and distribution infrastructure need to be developed and scaled to support the use of hydrogen as a mainstream energy source.  
  • Difficult to store and transport: Hydrogen takes up a lot of space because it is typically produced at low pressures, therefore, it must be compressed prior to storage and transport to occupy less volume.  
  • Safety considerations: Hydrogen is a highly flammable gas and requires careful handling to prevent accidents. However, with proper safety measures and regulations in place, the risks associated with hydrogen can be effectively managed. 
  • High cost of production. The production of hydrogen from renewable sources is more expensive compared to traditional methods, such as steam methane reforming.

Meet HiiROC, the future of hydrogen energy

However, there are many companies who are developing solutions to overcome the barriers of hydrogen energy production for application in the construction industry. In particular, turquoise hydrogen technology has the potential to heavily decarbonize cement production and HiiROC is one such company with the potential to revolutionize the production of this source.  

Established in 2019, HiiROC’s world leading and a patented protected technology utilizes thermal plasma technology to produce a low-cost, zero-emission hydrogen. HiiROC’s disruptive process for hydrogen production avoids the disadvantages of steam methane reforming (which results in CO2 production) and water electrolysis (which loses original input power). Its thermal plasma technology is cheap as steam methane reforming without requiring CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage) and uses a fraction of the energy/costs of water electrolysis.  

Moreover, this process creates a valuable, zero-emission by product called Carbon Black that can be used in a variety of industrial applications. HiiROC’s innovative technology has the potential to significantly accelerate the adoption of hydrogen energy and help construction transition to the ‘Hydrogen Economy.’

In conclusion, hydrogen energy is a promising energy source that acts as a replacement to traditional fossil fuels and when produced renewably, has numerous advantages over other renewables energy resources.  

Cemex is staking a stance on the green fuel revolution by ramping up its use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen energy, to produce cement. If your startup has a renewable hydrogen solution for the construction industry, get in touch with us!