21 April 2021
Andrew Jack By Andrew Jack

Can Hydrogen Save the World?

Hydrogen as an energy source is not something new. The global demand for hydrogen has grown threefold since 1975 to the present day.

Despite this, fossil fuels and other conventional energy methods have been around for much longer and consist of a larger scale in comparison. Within my industry, however, I am starting to see hydrogen picking up significant momentum in the journey to becoming a leader in clean, secure and affordable energy for the world.

The world is in urgent need of sustainable energy options that offer a more positive impact on the environment and the potential for hydrogen is huge. It has application in industrial sectors, transport, buildings and power generation to name a few.

With such potential, why is hydrogen not used more frequently as a main source of energy? This question led me to a conversation with Grant Strem, Chairman and CEO at Proton Technologies - a company looking to transform the deep earth into a reliable source of green, clean and affordable energy.

Grant Strem, Chairman and CEO at Proton Technologies

Current issues

There is a big problem with pollution. More specifically, air pollution. It’s an issue that needs a lot of attention, discussions, and most importantly, solutions. Grant agreed.  

It seems crazy to me that the biggest filtration system we have in a lot of cities is human lungs. So, we have diesel vehicles, idling outside, delivery vans, garbage trucks. All this stuff when we could save money by switching to fuel cells now.

The current climate issues in the world are known. We’re all aware of the negative impact fossil fuels, transport and food production, to name a few, have on the environment. It’s a race against time to find viable energy alternatives that have a more positive effect on the environment, whilst also not coming with a large price tag.  

We’re seeing more momentum build up over time to tackle these issues. Businesses are aiming to become carbon neutral, governments are looking to ban petrol and diesel cars and legislations are being put in place to reduce emissions overall.

The need for a sustainably viable energy solution has never been bigger. So, could making a larger use of hydrogen help us with these goals? It’s very possible.

Comparing hydrogen against conventional methods

Hydrogen isn’t a widely used energy source compared to current, conventional methods like fossil fuels and other renewables. However, many energy experts and leaders believe that is about to change.

When you directly compare hydrogen to other energy sources, it can be easy to quickly outweigh the positives from a sustainability perspective. It’s a clean energy source, non-toxic and is in bountiful supply.

It’s efficient too. During my discussions with Grant, he made a clear point towards the efficiency of hydrogen in comparison to other energy sources. It has the ability to convey a lot of energy for every pound of fuel compared to diesel or gas. Thinking in terms of transportation, a vehicle using hydrogen energy will travel more miles than one with an equal amount of petrol/diesel.

If you're talking about cost per gigajoule of each fuel, it's already cheaper to produce hydrogen than it is to produce diesel. If you compare the efficiency gained by going through fuel cells and electric motors, they're clearly less expensive and more efficient.

With the positives in mind, it’s also worth looking at a major driver as to why hydrogen is yet to make a break as a main source of energy for the world. Its production.

What’s the catch?

One of the biggest issues in getting hydrogen towards the top of energy consumption rates is its cost to extract and produce.

This is where companies like Proton Technologies come in. In terms of production, Grant believes Proton Technologies are using a process that can drop the cost of hydrogen per gigajoule lower than natural gas. Innovations like these are enabling the use of hydrogen to be more widespread and available as an energy source.

The lack of pollution and emissions, of course, is super attractive. It's already cheaper to make hydrogen through solar, wind, our process or a few other ways to electrolysis rather than diesel and gasoline on a gigajoule basis.

Bringing production costs down is a massive play in making hydrogen a more attractive choice. Grant mentioned the success of Proton Technologies hydrogen production, projecting hydrogen to become ubiquitous and their process to be replicated all over the world. There’s clear demand for innovations like this too, with the company selling multiple licenses for production.

The future I envision is its energy. Lower cost electricity from hydrogen through turbines on industrial scale and through fuel cells. As the mass production of those ramp up, it's going to be a tremendously transformation, both to the cost of energy and the toxicity of our energy system.

Areas to focus on

We know the potential for hydrogen is high. With innovations like Proton Technologies enabling for a more cost-effective choice, it’s only a matter of time before an increase in overall demand. So, where does the potential for hydrogen lie?

Through the use of fuel cells, there’s a large focus on areas such as transportation with hydrogen. I mentioned above the performance benefits hydrogen can have for a vehicle, but with the potential for lower running costs, it’s an option being considered by many to use hydrogen. As the crackdown on air pollution continues, hydrogen for vehicle power is an eye-opening consideration.

If people realised how much money they can save by switching to hydrogen, even if they have a brand-new diesel car, they might consider getting a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle if their monthly fuel costs change substantially. The savings are significant enough, which is part of our plan, to basically flood the market and swamp the world with very low-cost hydrogen. Very clean.

Looking ahead

Focusing on Proton Technologies, the demand being experienced is huge. With licenses being sold globally, there’s clear interest in these new energy sources. The increasing demand has led Proton Technologies to consider expansions.

There's been so many phone calls from South America that we thought, well maybe we should open a South American office.

It would come as no surprise to see the company generate a large amount of success off the back of the technological advancements being made, allowing for more widespread usage.  

Hydrogen has the ability to play a huge role in reaching sustainability goals and reducing pollution overall. Grant mentioned the need for focus and incentives towards building the infrastructure of hydrogen. He also raised the importance of having incentives for buying hydrogen vehicles and for there to be disincentives for current, traditional vehicles.

The use of advancing technologies is allowing for a bigger push in transitions to cleaner sources of energy. And with the urgency rising for these sustainable options, we’re not far away from hydrogen becoming a major supplier of the world’s energy.  

If you have something to say on this topic or would like to share your experiences working in the hydrogen space, please get in touch and email andrew.jack@industrial-cm.com. I’d be really interested in what you have to say.

You can find more content like this on my profile page here.

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Andrew Jack

Andrew specialises in recruitment across the Global Hydrogen industry. His strong understanding of the market allows him to tap into a very niche market of candidates and deliver a thorough search process for organisations throughout the hydrogen supply chain. Andrew is passionate for green energy and the ongoing global energy transition.

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