Hydrogen areas of application

Whether we are looking at the energy sector, transport or industry – hydrogen is multi-talented and highly versatile when we consider the options for its use.

There are diverse ways to use hydrogen: in the form of synthetic gas it can be used to produce water, in the transport sector it can be used with fuel cells and in synthetic fuels to power vehicles, and in industry H2 can be used as the base material for a wide variety of processes. Hydrogen also has the potential to be used in electrolysis in modern power plants. (H2-ready).

H2 can be widely used. For instance to generate heat, as a key part of the climate-neutral industrial sector of the future, in the transport sector and for electrolysis at times when limited wind and sun are available. The development of the hydrogen infrastructure will offer extensive opportunities to use this gas:

Hydrogen produced without causing CO2 emissions can replace fossil-based natural gas as fuel in many heat-intensive processes. No local CO2 emissions are released when it is burnt, just water vapour. Furthermore, it is a feedstock for the chemical industry and a potential reducing agent in the steel industry. Hydrogen can also be used to chemically bind unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes, such as in the cement industry, and return them to the supply chain. Generating high temperature process heat presents complex challenges in some cases. Hydrogen can also offer a solution in this respect. Furthermore, as a source of energy for operating fuel cells, hydrogen can contribute to the de-fossilisation of the transport and building sectors and link the energy, transport, industry and heating sectors in an intelligent way.

Hydrogen in the industrial sector

Hydrogen is currently one of the key feedstocks used in industry and as such is crucial to various processes and high-grade products: hydrogen is used, for instance, for metal processing, hardening fats, manufacturing fertilisers (or ammonia) and in the desulphurisation of fuels. 

A climate-neutral raw materials industry, in particular, is inconceivable from today’s perspective without the use of hydrogen. Primary steel production, for instance, can be made largely carbon neutral by using hydrogen. In the chemical industry, too, hydrogen can make a significant contribution towards climate protection. Converting ammonia production to green hydrogen, for example, allows a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as several million tonnes of hydrogen per year are used in this area. Moreover, in the future hydrogen will be needed as a feedstock to produce primary materials containing carbon to avoid using fossil-based raw materials. This is possible if the carbon required for the hydrocarbons is extracted, for instance, from biomass, waste or CO2. Hydrogen can also be used to produce process heat at high temperature levels for energy-intensive industries that cannot be electrified, or not completely electrified, such as the metalworking and glass industries.

 

Numerous companies, who are committed to a climate-neutral industrial sector as part of the IN4climate.NRW initiative, are already researching and testing hydrogen technologies that will facilitate a future where hydrogen is the main source of energy. Projects focus on areas such as carbon-free steel production, generating hydrogen by electrolysis on an industrial scale, establishing a transport infrastructure by repurposing natural gas pipelines, using green hydrogen in refineries or for glass smelting and promoting sector-coupling.


Despite all the activities by the federal and state governments, industry still faces a series of regulatory and economic obstacles on its path towards the hydrogen economy of the future. As part of the IN4climate.NRW initiative, a discussion paper has been compiled which summarises the central requirements for a climate-neutral industrial sector based on hydrogen and addresses decision-makers with specific demands.

Hydrogen in the communication, logistics and transport sectors

In the future, hydrogen will also be used in areas where the direct use or timely coupling of electricity supply and demand is more difficult, technically impossible or not cost-effective. For instance, scenario calculations assign hydrogen a potential role in parts of the transport sector, where hydrogen fuel cells can constitute a market-oriented option. But newly-developed hydrogen motors can also contribute towards making the transport sector climate neutral. In a largely greenhouse gas neutral world, the topics of hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthetic fuels are expected to play a key role in the goods transport sector, public transport, maritime traffic, and non-electrified rail and air transport. Initial touchpoints in private transport (hydrogen filling stations) and public transport (hydrogen buses) already exist.

Vision of a climate-neutral and sustainable industrial sector: hydrogen will play a key role in the industrial network of the future

You will find further information on these pages

Want to know more about heat in the industrial sector? Then click here.

Want to know more about the topic of transport? Then click here.

Want to know more about the topic of heating and buildings? Then click here.

Want to know more about carbon management? Then click here.

Want to know more about the IN4climate.NRW initiative? Then click here.

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Dr. Stefan Herrig

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Akram El-Bahay

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Portrait der Projektmanagerin Industrie und Produktion Tania Begemann vor einer Glasfront.

Tania Begemann

Project Manager Industry and Production.

Phone: +49 209 408 599-11

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