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Hydrogen

Hydrogen (H2) is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. It exists in water, hydrocarbons (such as methane), and organic matter. Hydrogen fuel is a colorless, odorless gas at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure. In nature hydrogen bonds with other elements, therefore pure hydrogen gas must be produced by separating it from other compounds.

Utah's Hydrogen Future is NOW!

As an energy exporter with significant renewable resources and a strategic location in the west, Utah will be key to accelerating the United States’ energy transition. Recently, the state has garnered international attention for its growing role in the bourgeoning hydrogen industry, with multiple industry-leading projects underway. Barriers remain to deploying hydrogen in a low-carbon future, but Utah has potential to play a leadership role in the hydrogen sector if it can address its own unique barriers. This brief provides insights from a C2ES roundtable held in November 2021 that explored the future of hydrogen in Utah. It highlights the benefits hydrogen can bring to the state, Utah’s unique advantages in the growing hydrogen industry, and the challenges that must be addressed to unlock hydrogen’s decarbonization potential, both in Utah and beyond. 

What is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen (H2) is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. It exists in water, hydrocarbons (such as methane), and organic matter. Hydrogen fuel is a colorless, odorless gas at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure. In nature hydrogen bonds with other elements, therefore pure hydrogen gas must be produced by separating it from other compounds.

Hydrogen Production and Distribution

Although abundant on earth as an element, hydrogen is almost always found as part of another compound, such as water (H2O) or methane (CH4), and it must be separated into pure hydrogen (H2) for use in fuel cell electric vehicles. Hydrogen fuel combines with oxygen from the air through a fuel cell, creating electricity and water through an electrochemical process.

Production

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.

There are several ways to produce hydrogen:

  • Natural Gas Reforming/Gasification: Synthesis gas—a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a small amount of carbon dioxide—is created by reacting natural gas with high-temperature steam. The carbon monoxide is reacted with water to produce additional hydrogen. This method is the cheapest, most efficient, and most common. Natural gas reforming using steam accounts for the majority of hydrogen produced in the United States annually.A synthesis gas can also be created by reacting coal or biomass with high-temperature steam and oxygen in a pressurized gasifier. This converts the coal or biomass into gaseous components—a process called gasification. The resulting synthesis gas contains hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is reacted with steam to separate the hydrogen.
  • Electrolysis: An electric current splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. If the electricity is produced by renewable sources, such as solar or wind, the resulting hydrogen will be considered renewable as well, and has numerous emissions benefits. Power-to-hydrogen projects are taking off, using excess renewable electricity, when available, to make hydrogen through electrolysis.
  • Renewable Liquid Reforming: Renewable liquid fuels, such as ethanol, are reacted with high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen near the point of end use.
  • Fermentation: Biomass is converted into sugar-rich feedstocks that can be fermented to produce hydrogen.

Several hydrogen production methods are in development:

The major hydrogen-producing states are California, Louisiana, and Texas. Today, almost all the hydrogen produced in the United States is used for refining petroleum, treating metals, producing fertilizer, and processing foods.

The primary challenge for hydrogen production is reducing the cost of production technologies to make the resulting hydrogen cost competitive with conventional transportation fuels. Government and industry research and development projects are reducing the cost as well as the environmental impacts of hydrogen production technologies. Learn more about hydrogen production from the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

Hydrogen Resources

Resources for more information on this fuel

Hydrogen Basics

Learn about hydrogen’s use as an alternative fuel, production and distribution, research and development.

Five Things You Might Not Know About H2 @ Scale

Learn about hydrogen’s use as an alternative fuel, production and distribution, research and development.

Hydrogen Laws and Incentives

State and federal governments enact laws and provide incentives to help build and maintain a market for hydrogen fuel and vehicles.

Benefits & Considerations

Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic resources with the potential for near-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are powered by hydrogen.

How Will It Benefit My Business?

Hydrogen is a promising fuel source that has the potential for near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Once produced, hydrogen generates electrical power in a fuel cell, emitting only water vapor and warm air. Similar to other alternative fuel sources, hydrogen can be produced domestically.

Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic resources with the potential for near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Once produced, hydrogen generates electrical power in a fuel cell, emitting only water vapor and warm air. It holds promise for growth in both the stationary and transportation energy sectors.

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The Utah Clean Cities and Communities  Board of Directors and staff welcomes inquiries from interested community members, businesses and organizations. You’ll find our team helpful and inclusive. We look forward to helping you get started with the Utah Clean Cities and Communities membership, opening up involvement with one (or more) of our many programs or grants today!