Across the globe, there is a growing number of green hydrogen developments in the renewable industry sector. These projects are pushing forward the ways in which we can produce hydrogen and otherwise supply this largely clean fuel to power our future.
In 2020, the pipeline of planned green hydrogen projects globally exceeds 60 gigawatts, roughly the equivalent of 187.5 million solar cells, 25,000 wind turbines, or to put it in consumption perspective, enough to light 6.6 billion LED bulbs. Long story short, our green hydrogen production capacity is expanding and 2020 has been a great year for hydrogen development.
But what is green hydrogen? Essentially, these projects are hydrogen production projects that generally involve an electrolyzation process and they are powered off of renewable sources. Right now, Europe and Australia are leading the way on these projects, as they look to be a greater part of the renewable energy future of tomorrow.
There is some bad news, however. While the pipeline we mentioned at the beginning of this article was significant, it's important to note that this is just a pipeline. Experts forecast that only about half of the current green hydrogen pipeline will be fully operational in the next 15 years. To accelerate this, developers are hoping to leverage government benefits and other renewables subsidies.
The main reason that green hydrogen is such an important process is that hydrogen by itself is a fairly efficient and clean fuel. Hydrogen fuel cells can power cars with the only emission being water. However, the traditional process of producing hydrogen is a harmful one. In general, about 95 percent of hydrogen is produced in an energy-intensive process that involves burning fossil fuels like natural gas. This means that while hydrogen may be green on the consumer side, it has a pretty sizeable environmental impact on the production side, making the fuel as a whole far less green.
However, if the world was able to shift its hydrogen production to green hydrogen processes, the entirety of the production cycle would be low-carbon, making hydrogen a much more sustainable fuel to power our future.
In order to understand this industry further, let's take a look at how different countries around the world are working on expanding their green hydrogen energy production capabilities.
Green Hydrogen initiatives around the world
Renewables are now the fastest-growing energy industry, and hydrogen is growing along with it. We're likely going to see the growth of many hydrogen production companies in the next several decades, as it has the potential to be a green energy production powerhouse.
Spain has invested heavily in hydrogen production recently. They announced a $10.5 billion investment into Green Hydrogen technology over the next 10-years, with the end goal being that hydrogen can help propel their trucking and shipping industry to zero-emission outputs.
Specifically, Spain is aiming to produce green hydrogen electrolyzers with 4 gigawatts of capacity in the next 10 years. These electrolyzers, the main way in which green hydrogen is produced, utilize electricity to split water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. When the hydrogen is burned in a fuel cell, it is oxygenated and transformed back into water.
Spain has made itself a haven for renewable energy, in part through policy but also through geography. The landscape provides plenty of wind and sunshine, which makes it perfect for wind and solar production. Right now, the country has built its supply up to 62 gigawatts of renewable energy, but this still isn't enough to replace fossil fuels in the country.
One of the biggest reasons that Spain is investing in green hydrogen is because they currently produce a large amount of hydrogen through fossil fuel methods. This means that investing in green hydrogen could replace those traditional production techniques, allowing for a faster decrease in the nation's carbon footprint.
Spain, being part of the European Union, joins its other member countries in its commitment to a renewable energy policy that focuses heavily on green hydrogen as part of the future. The EU alone is hoping to bring its green hydrogen capacity up to 40 gigawatts in the next decade, which would be a significant growth. They're putting their money where their mouth is, too, by committing to invest $430 billion into green hydrogen during that span.
Saudi Arabia, the oil giant of the east is also investing heavily in green hydrogen production projects. Specifically, they have teamed up with a US company, Air Products, to develop a green hydrogen production plant that would be capable of producing 650 tons of green hydrogen fuel each and every day. All in all the project is receiving an investment of $5 billion and could signal a turning tide in the green industry sector with an energy giant such as Saudi Arabia embracing it so fully.
This one project is described as the world's largest green hydrogen energy project, which is significant, as Saudi Arabia seeks to continue its dominance in the energy sector, regardless of whether the fuel is oil, hydrogen, or natural gas.
The country of Chile is also working on its own green energy goals, one of the first in South America. The first green hydrogen project in the region was recently launched in the country, called the HyEx project. It's a solar farm capable of producing 2,000 megawatts of electricity; 1600 megawatts of that electricity would then be utilized in the electrolysis process to create 124,000 tons of compressed hydrogen every year.
Moving further east, Korea and Japan are leading the way among Asian countries when it comes to green hydrogen investments. Both countries, specifically the industrial giants within their countries such as Toyota and Hyundai, are pioneering hydrogen fuel cell technology as one of the many future methods of clean transportation. Toyota has developed the Mirai, and Hyundai has developed the Nexo. Neither of these automobiles are hot sellers yet, largely because the hydrogen fuel market is still developing. Practical and affordable hydrogen cars are essential to ensuring the growth of hydrogen fuel. After all, if there's nothing to do with the fuel, then there's no reason to produce it.
In China, Siemens Energy is building a 1 MW hydrogen production system for a fueling station in Beijing which will be the first-megawatt green hydrogen production project in the country. The hydrogen fueling station will be located in one of three main competition areas for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Moving further south to Australia, they're leading the way in renewably produced green hydrogen. Specifically, they are developing a 1,606,185 acre (6,500 square kilometers) renewable energy farm that generates electricity primarily through wind and sun. A significant portion of the energy that is produced here will be immediately transformed into hydrogen and ammonia through green processes. Coming in at a price tag of $16 billion, the project is ambitious, and project managers are projecting that it will be completed sometime in the next 10 years.
It is notable that as we've talked about all of these countries' efforts to develop green hydrogen into one of the fuels of tomorrow, green hydrogen itself is a relatively new and rapidly growing semi-renewable fuel source. As the market has grown, production costs have become somewhat more favorable, at least enough to warrant greater investment into the sector. At the end of the day, renewable fuels are still a money game, just like fossil fuels — the more uses there are for green hydrogen, the more will be produced, and the cheaper it will become.
For now, the future of green hydrogen around the world looks rather bright.