Benefits of hydrogen

Myth busting

What is hydrogen?

Hydrogen is a colourless, odourless gas and the most abundant element in the universe. Combined with oxygen it forms water, essential to all life on earth. 

It is a fabulous source of energy or fuel.  It is clean. A zero-carbon energy source or raw material for industry, transport and the home. Burn it and the only pollutant you get is water.   We can all live with that.

Even better, hydrogen can be made from water.   Using green electricity.  From cradle to grave and zero carbon.

Replacing natural gas with hydrogen, we can significantly reduce CO2 emissions  

If it is colourless, why do people talk about blue, grey and green hydrogen?

Those are the three main colours often attributed to it and simply refer to how it is produced. Grey hydrogen has been produced for many years from fossil fuels, which gives off CO2  in the process. Blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas, but the vast majority of CO2 is captured and permanenty stored through carbon capture and storage technology.  But green hydrogen is the ultimate in clean fuel because it is made from 100% renewable energy and so it does not create any CO2 in the process.

What is hydrogen used for today?

Hydrogen is primarily used by industry as a fuel or raw material to make other chemicals. 

What could hydrogen be used for?

We already have hydrogen cars, buses, lorries and construction vehicles. Hydrogen is also used in industry as a source of energy and a raw material, used to produce other products. It can also be used in the home in gas boilers to replace natural gas. But for this to happen we need to improve the hydrogen infrastructure to encourage production and distribution.

Can hydrogen replace oil and gas?

Yes it can. And it can be done safely. Britain’s gas supply to people’s homes used to contain 55% hydrogen. We used it once before so there’s no reason not to use it again.

Why is hydrogen so good for the planet?

It has the potential to play a hugely significant role in helping us along the road to a net zero economy because its only emission, when burned, is water.

Is hydrogen safe to use?

Yes. Hydrogen is a well-established energy carrier that has been safely used in the UK for many decades. INOVYN has been manufacturing hydrogen at its Runcorn site for over 100 years.  

Hydrogen is a fuel which means it has to be handled, stored and used responsibly. As is the case with any fuel, we design systems with appropriate engineering controls and have clear guidelines to enable the safe handling and use.

In fact hydrogen is safer to handle and use than the fuels commonly used today. For example, it is non-toxic and because it is lighter than air, it rapidly disperses if released.

Some of hydrogen's properties require additional engineering controls, such as leak detection  and adequate ventilation. 

What about the Hindenburg disaster in 1937?

Things have moved on a long way since 1937. Like all fuels, hydrogen should be used in systems with appropriate engineering controls following clear guidelines to enable its safe handling and use.

Why is hydrogen not used more widely today?

Three things need to happen. Firstly we need technology that can run on hydrogen, such as cars, trucks and central heating systems. Secondly, we need the infrastructure in place to get hydrogen to where it’s needed, for example fuel stations. And lastly someone needs to make the hydrogen in sufficient quantities for it to be affordable.    

Environmentalists say ‘blue hydrogen’ is still bad for the environment, even though the vast majority of CO2 is captured. Why is that?

Blue hydrogen produces CO2 when it is made and that CO2 has to be permanently locked away through carbon capture and storage technology. But it enables energy to become much lower carbon. Only by massively increasing our use of clean, low carbon hydrogen, will we get to net zero by 2050.

As we produce more low carbon hydrogen, there will be more opportunities to replace fossil fuels to further reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. 

Hydrogen is a fabulous source of energy or fuel.  It is clean. A zero-carbon energy source or raw material for industry, transport and the home. Burn it and the only pollutant you get is water.   We can all live with that.

INEOS continues to prioritise the use and production of green hydrogen and this is at the centre of its investment strategy.  It will exploit the use green hydrogen at its facilities where it can, based on the availability of supply. It also supports the production of blue hydrogen when the carbon produced can be safely captured and stored underground.

INEOS is realistic about the constraints on green hydrogen and therefore agnostic about the ‘colour’ of the hydrogen it uses currently, so long as it is low carbon and contributes to the company’s ambitious decarbonisation strategy. 

Why do we call hydrogen an ‘energy carrier’?

Technically hydrogen is not an energy source. It simply carries energy produced from other sources. The hydrogen used in industry is manufactured through chemical processes. It is either split from its bond with oxygen in water or separated from carbon in natural gas.

What is an electrolyser?

It is a machine used to convert molecules into their constituent elements. In hydrogen production it converts water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is collected and used as fuel for heating, cooking, industry and transport. The oxygen can be collected and used for industry, or hospitals or simply be released into the atmosphere.

What is a fuel cell?

A fuel cell works like an electrolyser in reverse. It converts the energy in the hydrogen into electricity, using oxygen from the atmosphere to trigger a chemical reaction. Pure water is released through the process and is the only emission.

Is a fuel cell vehicle an electric vehicle?

The motor is electric in both. The only difference is that a fuel cell vehicle generates electricity from the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. A battery electric vehicle has to be charged from the mains and carries all of its electricity in a battery. There are already some hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the streets today - buses, taxis and construction vehicles.