Provision of hydrogen

Hydrogen can be manufactured using a wealth of technical processes and a broad base of resources. Alongside the classic steam reforming of natural gas and the energy-intensive electrolysis of water, an increasing number of procedures are used for the gasification of coal and biomass.

The establishment of a widespread hydrogen infrastructure is considered to be an important factor for the market success of this technology. Expansion of the currently very fragmented supply network (some 200 hydrogen filling stations worldwide) presents a political and logistical challenge for the future.

The energy sources and the manufacturing process are of crucial significance for the climate impact of the hydrogen supply chain. If hydrogen is generated from fossil fuels, the proportion of manufacturing processes makes up around 90% of the greenhouse gas emissions along the hydrogen supply chain.

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Greenhouse gas emissions from hydrogen provision via different manufacturing routes  (IFEU 2011)

The electricity mix is crucial for electrolysis. If additional wind energy or other renewable energy sources are used, then the greenhouse gas emissions are around 90% lower than for hydrogen production using Germany’s power mix.

With the provision of hydrogen through electrolysis using wind energy, the environmental effects remain primarily with the manufacturing of the infrastructure and/or the transportation chain. The difference between on-site provision (i.e. manufacturing of hydrogen on the filling station site) and centralised supply concepts lies in the supply chain that is required.
A liquid is required for transportation by lorry, which leads to significantly increasing environmental pollution.