Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. On Earth hydrogen is connected to other elements or compounds so it must be extracted. In its purest form, hydrogen is a non-toxic colourless and odourless gas.
Many millions of tonnes of hydrogen are safely produced annually around the world. It is widely used in industry, especially the petroleum, chemical and food sectors. Currently, most hydrogen is made by an industrial process called steam methane reforming (SMR). This takes natural gas and reacts it with steam to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
As with every chemical or fuel, safe handling practices are required but hydrogen is non-toxic and does not pose a threat to human or environmental health if released.
The key reason that everyone is becoming so interested in hydrogen is that it acts like electricity, in that it is an energy carrier. Both can also be produced from many of the energy resources we have available locally, wherever we are in the world, (including natural gas, petroleum products, coal, solar and wind energy, biomass and others) enhancing our long term energy security.
When hydrogen and electricity are generated from greenhouse gas-neutral sources, they are seen as a primary method to address climate change and urban air quality problems. This is why governments are focussed on understand how both these energy carriers can be used to deliver a completely decarbonised future. Initial projects have taken place and for more information on developing hydrogen infrastructure around Europe please click here.