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alternative fuels explainer: harnessing the power of hydrogen

2 min read | september 07, 2023

As the world works toward a lower carbon future, alternative energies, like solar and wind power, are expected to be key contributors. What doesn’t make as many headlines is the universe’s most abundant element: hydrogen.

This energy source can be produced in large quantities and used at scale. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects hydrogen, a lower carbon intensity fuel, to make up about 10% of the future energy mix in 2050 for heavy industry and long-distance transport.

Demand for hydrogen could reach 225 million tonnes per year by 2050. The IEA reports demand in 2019 was less than 100 million tonnes per year.

We’re taking a deep dive into this increasingly important element to explore how it’s produced and its role in our lower carbon future.

lower carbon intensity hydrogen demand

lower carbon intensity hydrogen demand

Source: IEA, Announced Pledges Scenario, 2030–2050

hydrogen as a fuel source

Hydrogen is typically bonded to other elements in compounds such as methane, water and biomass. After separating hydrogen atoms from these compounds, hydrogen can then be used to store and transport energy.

Like electricity, hydrogen is an energy carrier that must be produced from another substance. Given the properties of current battery technologies, creating electric power is challenging in industries such as aviation, marine and heavy-duty, long-haul freight.

hydrogen value chain
“Hydrogen is a lower carbon solution that is particularly effective where direct electrification is not feasible.”

bryan farmer

senior commercial analyst, hydrogen

transforming hydrogen

Energy sources such as renewables, nuclear energy and geothermal can produce hydrogen, but it’s most commonly generated from natural gas. Hydrogen produced from natural gas can be made with a lower carbon intensity through carbon capture and storage (CCS) methods.

Hydrogen is produced by passing electricity, generated from sources such as solar and wind, through water in a process called electrolysis—the least carbon-intensive production method.

hydrogen life cycle

Hydrogen can also come from biomass conversion and waste-to-energy methods. It can also help lower carbon emissions in sectors like heavy-duty transportation, power generation, chemical manufacturing and hard-to-abate sectors like steel and iron production.

Hydrogen is used in those production processes as a fuel source or feedstock.

our investment

As part of Chevron’s commitment to a lower carbon future, we have a target to produce 150,000 tonnes per year of lower carbon intensity hydrogen for existing and new markets by 2030.

“We’re seeking to create a profitable, large-scale hydrogen business that builds on our assets, capabilities and customer relationships,” said Austin Knight, vice president, hydrogen. “We have decades of relevant experience producing and managing it.”

updated 9/12

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