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HYDROGEN PRODUCTION PRIMER

As the Net-Zero movement gains momentum, interest in hydrogen is skyrocketing because “total-electrification” has limits. Even in the most extreme implementation of an electrification policy, some industrial processes and heavy transport will have to run on gas. Hydrogen is one of the least carbon-intensive gases and can be produced with renewable energy.

Hydrogen has promise as a fuel because it burns without creating greenhouse gases, and there are multiple ways to produce hydrogen, some cleaner than others. Hydrogen has multiple uses, powering homes, cars, planes, ships, and factories.


Hydrogen production can rapidly scale to meet potential demand, but we also need to figure out how to transport and store all that fuel. That’s where natural gas pipelines come into play. The gas industry’s vast infrastructure network, which is also extremely safe and resilient, is an essential part of this solution.

Here’s a look at some of the major production processes:

  • Steam methane reforming — This process usually uses natural gas as a source of methane to produce hydrogen. The methane reacts with steam in the presence of a catalyst to produce carbon oxides and hydrogen. The by-products are carbon dioxide and hydrogen

  • Partial oxidation — Methane from natural gas is used to produce hydrogen. A mixture of natural gas and air is partially combusted, creating a gaseous mixture that includes hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. The by-products are also carbon dioxide and hydrogen

  • Coal gasification — Coal is transformed to produce hydrogen. The coal reacts with oxygen and steam under high pressure and temperature to form a mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water vapor.

  • Electrolysis — Water is pumped through an electrolyzer that splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

Depending on the production process, hydrogen can be more or less carbon-intensive and have been given color-coded names accordingly:

  • Green Hydrogen — Green hydrogen is the one type of fuel that’s produced using only renewable sources — Hydro, wind, or solar power is used to power the electrolysis production process.

  • Gray Hydrogen — Natural gas is used to produce hydrogen through steam methane reforming or partial oxidation. The carbon dioxide resulting from the process is released into the atmosphere.

  • Brown Hydrogen — Coal is used to produce hydrogen through gasification. The carbon dioxide resulting from the process is released into the atmosphere.

  • Blue Hydrogen — Natural gas or coal is used to produce hydrogen through processes such as steam methane reforming, partial oxidation, and coal gasification. The carbon dioxide resulting from the process is captured and stored.

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