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Help! - Making Sense of the Hydrogen Buzz

Everywhere you look these days, someone is talking about hydrogen and, if you’re not well-versed in emerging technologies aimed at reducing carbon, you may not know what any of it means. A quick internet search isn’t much help either, as you will likely get lost quickly in discussions of fuel cell efficiency and electrolysis technology developments, not to mention the various “colors” of hydrogen and the myriad of ways it can be stored and transported. Don’t bother turning to your traditional green energy gurus either, as hydrogen is just one of many competing approaches to reducing the world’s carbon footprint, and electric vehicle folks like Elon Musk aren’t big fans. All the same, hydrogen news and investment plans seem to proliferate daily, and understanding this fuel — which, by the way, is not new to the energy space — seems prudent. At least that’s our view, which is why we today start a series to help us hydrocarbon experts unravel the mysteries behind the recent hydrogen ruckus.

To be honest, when we started looking into the subject of hydrogen for a blog, it seemed like a fringe subject. Our assumption was the topic likely merited some analysis but could probably be filed away with other various “industry-changing” topics that buzz through the markets every now and then. We also thought it would be pretty quick and easy to get the low-down on the key ingredient in stars. After all, what is there to know really? Isn’t hydrogen just an element that makes our classic hydrocarbons so full of energy? Well, turns out we were wrong, at least in part. Nothing about the current hydrogen buzz is simple and the topic is far from straightforward to get your mind around. That said, with a little time spent you can see that the basic elements of using H2 as an energy source are in many ways not all that far removed from some familiar topics many of us have mastered in understanding the traditional hydrocarbon value chain. Regarding whether or not the hydrogen chatter is just a fad, time will tell. However, it does seem like supply and demand fundamentals may be converging in a way that may ultimately cement hydrogen’s role in the domestic energy market.

Why Are You Hearing About Hydrogen?

A few things are clear. Hydrogen has been around a long time and just about every use of it that is being proposed has been tried, at least on some level. That said, technology has advanced over time and costs to produce hydrogen are falling. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap or even economic just yet, but it’s a trend that hydrogen proponents hope continues. And, whether you agree or not, demand for hydrogen, and renewable or green energy sources, has continued to increase. Rising demand and falling supply costs have many players in the energy industry taking a renewed look at hydrogen as a fuel source in various industries.

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