The Colors of Hydrogen, Explained
Renewable energy is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. Hydrogen is a renewable energy source that emits zero carbon emissions — only water vapor, electricity, and heat.
What Color is Hydrogen?
Hydrogen is naturally colorless. In conversations about hydrogen production, the energy industry utilizes a color spectrum to differentiate types based on diverse production methods. This color system simplifies hydrogen's complexity, fostering a clearer understanding of its diversity and innovative applications.
So, what exactly is the meaning behind each color of hydrogen? Today, we’ll talk about the twelve colors of hydrogen, including their production methods, use cases, and our predictions for the future of hydrogen energy.
Table of Contents
- Gray hydrogen
- Black hydrogen
- Brown hydrogen
- Blue hydrogen
- Green hydrogen
- Pink hydrogen
- Red hydrogen
- Purple hydrogen
- Gold hydrogen
- Turquoise hydrogen
- Yellow hydrogen
- White hydrogen
Traditional Hydrogen Production Methods
Hydrogen's historical roots lie in traditional production methods, each with its unique color on the hydrogen spectrum. Understanding these methods is crucial in appreciating the industry's evolution towards cleaner alternatives.
Even though all hydrogen burns “cleanly,” not all hydrogen production is equal. The most common form of hydrogen production is gray hydrogen, extracted from natural gas without recapturing the greenhouse gases released during the process.
Today, almost all hydrogen produced for industrial use is gray.
Black hydrogen, produced from anthracite or black coal, is a traditional hydrogen production method with notable environmental challenges. The gasification process emits substantial CO2 and carbon monoxide, contributing to environmental concerns.
As the energy sector moves towards cleaner alternatives, understanding the environmental impact of black hydrogen becomes crucial for making informed decisions.
Brown hydrogen, derived from lignite or brown coal, shares similarities with black hydrogen. The gasification of brown coal releases significant CO2 and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, posing environmental challenges.
Both production methods highlight the need to transition to cleaner energy sources to address the environmental impact associated with traditional hydrogen production.
Innovative Hydrogen Production Methods
As we explore the future of hydrogen energy, innovative production methods emerge, introducing a spectrum of colors beyond convention. These methods signify a pivotal shift toward sustainability and cleaner energy solutions.
Blue hydrogen is made in a process known as steam methane reformation (SMR), in which natural gas is mixed with hot steam and a catalyst.
The result is hydrogen, with carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Therefore, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a crucial part of the production of blue hydrogen. The process can be considered carbon neutral once the emissions are captured and stored underground.
Blue hydrogen could release methane emissions during drilling, extraction, and transportation, even with proper carbon capture and storage. Although methane has a shorter atmospheric lifetime than carbon dioxide, just one ton has the same impact as 28 to 36 tons of carbon dioxide after 100 years.
Green hydrogen is a true zero-emissions energy source, often called the future of clean energy. Although many other forms of hydrogen emit greenhouse gases somewhere in the production process, green hydrogen does not.
To be considered 100 percent clean energy, green hydrogen must be produced using electricity from renewable sources, such as hydro, solar, or wind power.
In a process known as electrolysis, water molecules are split into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is extracted as fuel, and the oxygen is then vented into the atmosphere with no negative environmental impact.
The result is a completely clean form of hydrogen made from renewable energy sources without carbon emissions.
Similar to green hydrogen, pink hydrogen is generated through electrolysis. But rather than renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, this process is powered by nuclear energy.
Red hydrogen, a variant of pink hydrogen, is produced with thermolysis. Nuclear power is used for the high-temperature catalytic splitting of water. This process leverages nuclear energy to extract hydrogen efficiently, showcasing an innovative and clean approach.
Purple hydrogen leverages electrolysis and thermolysis together – the process is also referred to as thermochemical electrolysis. This cutting-edge method utilizes nuclear energy to facilitate hydrogen extraction, a dynamic solution within the spectrum of clean energy alternatives.
Gold hydrogen is produced by extracting hydrogen from abandoned oil wells using microbes and enzymatic processes. This cost-effective and sustainable approach revitalizes depleted oil fields, offering an innovative solution inspired by natural occurrences in oceans.
Despite regulatory challenges like carbon dioxide emissions during the microbial process, gold hydrogen is a significant leap towards efficient and environmentally friendly clean energy solutions.
One of the newer forms of hydrogen production, turquoise hydrogen, uses methane pyrolysis to produce hydrogen and solid carbon rather than gaseous emissions. This eliminates the need for carbon capture and storage. In addition, the resulting carbon can be used in other applications, like manufacturing tires or improving soil.
Yellow hydrogen is an emerging form of hydrogen production through solar powered electrolysis. However, sometimes yellow hydrogen means hydrogen generated through electrolysis using mixed energy sources.
White hydrogen refers to geological hydrogen found in naturally occurring underground deposits created by fracking. However, there are currently no means to extract this hydrogen.
Innovative Hydrogen Production: Advancements and Trends
The hydrogen industry is witnessing a transformative shift with advancements and research driving innovation in production technologies. Recent studies showcase the potential of novel methods to produce hydrogen with reduced environmental impact.
Read how FASTECH built a pioneering Tri-generation fueling facility in Long Beach, CA.
The Future of Hydrogen Energy
Overall, hydrogen is a critical component of global efforts to address the pressing challenge of climate change.
By transitioning from fossil fuels to hydrogen, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint and slow the pace of climate change. In addition to reducing emissions, hydrogen will create jobs, improve energy security, and promote sustainable development.
However, there is one form of hydrogen that has the potential to be a game-changer in the transition to a low-carbon economy: green hydrogen. It can be used as a clean fuel for transportation, heating, and industrial processes and can help decarbonize difficult sectors to electrify.
The cost of producing green hydrogen is currently higher than other hydrogen colors. Still, experts predict this will change as technology improves and economies of scale are achieved.
Governments worldwide are investing heavily in green hydrogen infrastructure, research, and development, which is expected to drive down costs further.
With its versatility and potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, green hydrogen has a promising future as a vital component of a sustainable energy system.
Partner With FASTECH For Hydrogen Infrastructure Projects
Hydrogen stands as a crucial player in the ongoing transition to renewable energy. It offers industries a powerful means to significantly curtail carbon emissions while addressing climate change’s pressing challenges.
As a leading provider of hydrogen fueling infrastructure solutions, our track record speaks volumes. Having successfully built over 30 hydrogen stations for industry giants like Shell and Chevron, we bring unparalleled expertise to the table.
Our end-to-end Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) services cover everything from design and engineering to construction, maintenance, testing, and compliance.
Embrace the future of sustainable energy with FASTECH as your trusted partner. If you're gearing up for an upcoming energy infrastructure project, connect with us today and pave the way to a greener, more resilient tomorrow.