The French industrial company Air Liquide, established in 1902, has been producing and distributing hydrogen and hydrocarbon-based gases for 60 years now — and they’re not slowing down any time soon.
In times of rapid change, this established energy leader isn’t keeping things business-as-usual. Vice President of Air Liquide Pierre-Etienne Franc shared his hopes and insights for innovating the future of green hydrogen. “The hydrogen economy is progressing,” he said. “In the last 10 years, there has been an urgency around climate change that has put hydrogen back on the agenda.”
Because hydrogen is zero-emission at the point of use and can be produced without emissions, hydrogen fuel cells are widely regarded as a practical new technology that can decarbonize many industries and sectors.
But to power hydrogen fuel cells, you first need hydrogen, which is produced by splitting natural gas into hydrogen and carbon, or by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. While natural gas is the most commonly used and cost-effective method of producing hydrogen, it does produce carbon emissions. Splitting water, also known as electrolysis, produces no harmful emissions.
Currently, the global production of hydrogen equates to approximately 70 million tons each year. If challenges in green hydrogen production are solved, many studies show that the production of hydrogen could increase to 500 million tons as its potential as a clean energy source is realized.
The three main challenges in the production and adoption of green hydrogen are pricing, distribution, and technology, which require many of the same solutions. Currently, the cost of hydrogen produced from natural gas ranges from $1.50 to $2 USD per kilogram, which can power about 60 miles of travel for a hydrogen fuel cell passenger car.
“Green” hydrogen, on the other hand, is produced by an electrolyzer powered by renewable energy. The cost of green hydrogen currently sits around $5 or $6 USD per kilogram. To make green hydrogen a practical solution for decarbonizing the major consuming sectors, its price must become more competitive with or match that of natural gas-produced hydrogen.
The technology to make this happen is already making great strides. Cummins and other innovators are working every day to make innovations in hydrogen production that will bring down the cost of green hydrogen. Lower prices, along with innovation in distribution and powertrain technology, are poised to create a huge shift in the demand for hydrogen in many key markets.
Pierre-Etienne Franc, Vice President of Air Liquide said “Hydrogen will be a key factor to achieving an energy transition. We can use it to decarbonize many other sectors that can’t be decarbonized with battery technology, particularly heavy transportation.”
On the cusp of an unprecedented energy transition, Air Liquide and Cummins are all-in on our vision for a greener future powered by hydrogen.