Hydrogen Background

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'Types' of Hydrogen

Hydrogen itself is a colorless, odorless gas. It is the most abundant element in the universe and forms water when burned or reacted with oxygen.

Hydrogen 'colors' disguises the impact GHG emissions have with hydrogen production from different manufacturing processes. The hydrogen color spectrum can be summarized as:

  • Green - hydrogen made from renewable sources, essentially the electrolytical processes, using water and renewable energy such as wind and solar.
  • Blue - gray hydrogen with carbon capture and sequestration processing added.
  • Gray - hydrogen made from the methane in natural gas and other oil and gas products, mostly using Steam Methane Reforming.
  • Brown - hydrogen made from coal mostly via Coal Gasification.
  • Pink - hydrogen via electrolysis of water using energy from nuclear power.
  • Turquoise - hydrogen made using an unproven process called methane pyrolysis to produce hydrogen and solid carbon.
  • Yellow - hydrogen made through electrolysis using only solar power.
  • White - hydrogen is a naturally-occurring geological hydrogen found in underground deposits.

'Clean' hydrogen is an ambiguous phrase meant to refer to any hydrogen production that has a net-zero or better GHG emissions 'footprint'. Sometimes it is used to refer to hydrogen made with low but not insignificant CO2 emissions, compared to fossil-fuel hydrogen.

Renewable hydrogen is made from renewable energy and water. 'Yellow and 'green' hydrogen fall into this category.

Fossil-fuel hydrogen or fossil-hydrogen is made mostly from methane in natural gas and other oil and gas products. 'Blue', 'gray', 'brown' and 'turquoise' hydrogen fall into this category.

Note, until all manufacturing, storage and transportation industries and so on have been decarbonized, all hydrogen production will have some life-cycle carbon footprint.

Green Hydrogen in Residential Applications

According to a report from FuelCellWorks:

Green Hydrogen: A Scottish Village Leads A Green Revolution - March 2022

On the east coast of Scotland, from next year, about 300 homes in Buckhaven and Methil, in the area of Levenmouth, will be powered by green hydrogen gas. Customers will be offered free hydrogen-ready boilers and cookers in the project, which will initially last five and a half years.

Off the coast at Buckhaven a 200-metre wind turbine will generate electricity to power an electrolyser, which turns water into hydrogen gas and oxygen. The hydrogen will then be stored in pressurised secure tanks, before being pumped into people's homes.

The £28m project, partly funded by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM), has the capability to be expanded to 1,000 homes from the same turbine. The project hopes to save more than 2,650 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to half the homes taking their cars off the road.

'Blue' Hydrogen Analyses

'Blue' Hydrogen Briefing

A ‘Blue‘ Hydrogen Briefing by Tom Solomon of 350 New Mexico was presented to a meeting of the NMSEA on November 16, 2021. It is now available on YouTube. The 42 min talk itself starts at the 5:30 mark, with Q&A starting at minute 47.

Also the slide deck now includes a new slide on p18 with a second scientific study warning about the climate impacts of producing hydrogen from methane.

Highlights include:

  • Blue hydrogen (H2) from methane is a fossil fuel program.
  • Blue hydrogen subsidies are fossil fuel subsidies
  • The carbon footprint of blue hydrogen is >20% worse than burning fossil natural gas directly. Per two scientific studies.
  • Hydrogen is a wasteful energy carrier, 2.3x worse vs electricity.
  • Electricity from hydrogen is so much costlier than solar or wind electricity that it is unprofitable.
  • Job #1 for the climate is to urgently build wind & solar to replace fossil fuel emissions, not to push hydrogen.
  • The draft H2 Hub Act:
* would allow major CO2 emissions:
* defines ‘clean hydrogen’ as 2-6 kg of CO2 per kg of H2 produced. Not clean.
* will increase New Mexico’s carbon footprint.

The Economics of 'Blue' Hydrogen

The Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis has also studied the economics of 'blue' hydrogen:

Blue Hydrogen: Technology Challenges, Weak Commercial Prospects and Not Green - IEEFA - February 2022

Highlights include:

  • Blue hydrogen requires methane; production is energy-intensive
  • Blue hydrogen requires carbon capture and storage (CCS)
  • Commercial CCS projects have never achieved the industry target rate over time, despite years of efforts
  • CCS projects have been very costly
  • Cleaner competition has big head start, investments
  • Must play catch-up to other technologies, especially batteries
  • Blue hydrogen markets likely to shrink due to green competition

Hydrogen - A Greenhouse Gas too?

Studies are now indicating hydrogen may behave a stronger greenhouse gas impact than previously thought according to studies in the UK.

"Hydrogen 'twice as powerful a greenhouse gas as thought before': UK government study" - Recharge - April 2022

The 75-page report, Atmospheric Implications of Increased Hydrogen Use, explains that H2 is an indirect greenhouse gas, since it reacts with other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to increase their global warming potential. The researchers calculate reactions that also occur in the second lowest layer, the stratosphere, concluding: “we estimate the hydrogen GWP(100) [that is, over a 100-year period] to be 11 ± 5; a value more than 100% larger than previously published calculations.” A previous study from 2001, which has been frequently cited ever since, put the GWP of hydrogen at 5.8. The report also discussed possible leakage rates and recommends they be kept to a minimum.

Hydrogen in and of itself is not considered a greenhouse gas so if there were no other GHGs in the atmosphere there would be no effect.

Referenced reports are:

Atmospheric implications of increased Hydrogen use - Nicola Warwick, Paul Griffiths, James Keeble, Alexander Archibald, John Pyle, University of Cambridge and NCAS and Keith Shine, University of Reading - April 2022
Fugitive Hydrogen Emissions in a Future Hydrogen Economy - Frazer-Nash Consultancy - March 2022

Chemical Composition of Natural Gas

Locally, natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture, consisting mainly of methane sourced from supply basins in the Four Corners and Permian Basin in New Mexico.

The following composition is an overall system average and may vary from the typical values listed depending on location.

Component Typical Analysis (mole %) Range (mole %)
Methane 94.7 87.0 - 98.0
Ethane 4.2 1.5 - 9.0
Propane 0.2 0.1 - 1.5
iso - Butane 0.02 trace - 0.3
normal - Butane 0.02 trace - 0.3
Propane 0.2 0.1 - 1.5
iso - Pentane 0.01 trace - 0.04
normal - Pentane 0.01 trace - 0.04
Hexanes plus 0.01 trace - 0.06
Nitrogen 0.5 0.2 - 5.5
Carbon Dioxide 0.3 0.05 - 1.0
Oxygen 0.01 trace - 0.1
Hydrogen 0.02 trace - 0.05

Helium in Natural Gas

A number of natural gas fields have also accumulated Helium gas. Such finds make it a bonus to the well owners as helium can bring a premium price in the open market. Some fields can have as much as 7% or more. Helium can occur in reservoirs without natural gas. Major helium reservoirs have been found in Tanzania in Africa:

Massive Underground Helium Reserve Found in Tanzania - Live Science - October 2017

Properties of Natural Gas

A selection of physical properties of natural gas are included below.

Property Typical Analysis Range
Specific Gravity 0.58 0.57 - 0.62
Gross Heating Value (MJ/m3), dry basis * 38.8 36.0 - 40.2
Wobbe Number (MJ/m3) 50.9 47.5 - 51.5

﹡ The gross heating value is the total heat obtained by complete combustion at constant pressure of a unit volume of gas in air, including the heat released by condensing the water vapour in the combustion products (gas, air, and combustion products taken at standard temperature and pressure).

Sulphur may vary from 3 - 6 mg/m3 depending on the field.

Water vapour may be less than 65 mg/m3 and can vary from 16 - 32 mg/m3 depending on the field,

Typical combustion properties of natural gas:

Ignition Point: 564 oC * Flammability Limits: 4% - 15% (volume % in air) * Theoretical Flame Temperature (stoichiometric air/fuel ratio): 1953 oC * Maximum Flame Velocity: 0.36 m/s *

﹡ The properties shown may vary depending on the location. Information provided is from the Ortech Report No. 26392, Combustion Property Calculations for a typical Union Gas Composition, 2017.

Water Consumption

In the article:

"Hydrogen production in 2050: how much water will 74EJ need?" - EnergyPost - July 2021

on research into how much water will be needed in the production of hydrogen through electrolysis (green hydrogen):

It appears that total water use involved in producing hydrogen by electrolysis is about 32 kg H20/kg H2 and 22 kg H20/kg H2 when produced using electricity from photovoltaic cells or wind turbines, respectively (including electricity production, water purification and the electrolytic reaction itself).
In steam methane reforming (methane reacting with water under heat and pressure), total water consumption (including water consumed in the reaction itself as well as water use during production of natural gas to heat the reaction, ranges from 7.6-37 kg H20/kg H2, with an average of about 22. The higher water consumption figure results, at least in part, when the natural gas used (for both methane for the reaction and to power the reaction) is derived from (fracked) shales.
From a chemistry standpoint, SMR produces twice as much hydrogen per molecule of water consumed than does electrolysis, but it takes a substantial amount of water to produce the methane used in the process, so the net water use is not that different. But, electrolysis (theoretically) produces no CO2 whereas SMR does, both in the chemical reaction itself and in burning fossil fuels to generate heat to drive the reaction. Hence the need for extensive (and currently unachievable) levels of carbon sequestration to make 'gray' hydrogen 'blue'.

Some quotes from the article's summary:

"Assuming the world is using over 70EJ of electrolytic hydrogen by 2050, the water consumption will be about 25 bcm. That is relatively small compared with the global figure of 2,800 bcm for agriculture (the largest consumer), 800 bcm for industrial uses, and 470 bcm for municipal uses."

"the numbers suggests that water consumption shouldn’t be a major barrier for scaling up renewable hydrogen"

The report also notes that water has to be desalinated for electrolysis to avoid degradation of the electrolysis cells. And then, that water costs including treatment would only cost 2% of a best case total renewable cost of $2-3/kg H2. Fossil fuel hydrogen today (2021) is available at $1.80/kg H2, some current renewable numbers are up to $5/kg H2. Under the Biden Admin the DOE has a target to get costs down to $1/kg H2 by 2030.

Falling Costs

S&P Global report that falling green hydrogen costs are closing in on fossil-fuel hydrogen costs.

Plans for GW Electrolyzer Factories

Electrolyzers are essentially the cells where electrolysis of water is contained producing hydrogen and oxygen. More and more plans have been announced.

1. S&P Global reports (Nov 9 2021) that the UK company ITM Power is planning to build a second electrolyzer factory to make renewable hydrogen production equipment as it prepares for rapid market expansion. The 1.5 GW/yr facility adds to their existing 1 GW/yr.
2. Recharge reported Jan 4, 2022, US company Cummins plans to build a 1GW hydrogen electrolyser factory in China with state-owned oil giant Sinopec.
3. Earlier, dated May 24 2021, Recharge reported that Iberdola and Cummins had plans to build a fourth electrolyzer gigafactory in central Spain:

"The €50m ($61m) proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyser plant will start up in 2023 in the central region of Castilla-La Mancha, near Madrid, as a 500MW-a-year facility, “and will be scalable to more than 1GW/year”, according to Cummins.

It is the fourth electrolyser gigafactory to be announced in Europe this year, following in the footsteps of the UK’s ITM Power, Norway’s Nel and France’s McPhy. Denmark’s Haldor Topsoe has also unveiled plans for a 500MW plant producing high-efficiency high-temperature solid-oxide electrolysers."

4. According to CleanTechnica, US-based Plug Power will partner with Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) to build:
"World’s Largest Electrolyzer Plant Now Under Construction" (2GW/annum) - CleanTechnica - March 2020
“The electrolyzer facility located at Gladstone, Queensland, Australia will have an initial capacity of two gigawatts per annum — more than doubling current global production, and enough to produce more than 200,000 tonnes of green hydrogen each year,” FFI writes.
By 2030, FFI plans to create 15 million tons of green hydrogen a year. That would require more than 200 gigawatts (GW) of new wind and solar generation and a lot more electrolyzers and clean water."

Other electrolyzer manufacturers have also announced giga-scale factories, including Germany’s ThyssenKrupp (5GW), Norway’s Nel (2GW) and France’s McPhy (1GW).

Industrial Hydrogen Uses

The WHA(World Hydrogen Association?) reports on industrial hydrogen uses worldwide: 25% petroleum refining, 55% ammonia (thence to fertilizer), 10% methanol and 10% other that includes fuel cells, glass, electronics, medical, food and metallurgical uses. In a transition away from fossil fuels the petroleum refining segment will decline but still leave considerable demand in other sectors.

NOx Emissions from Burning Hydrogen in Air

The amount of NOx emissions when burning hydrogen in air either for industrial or residential purposes depends on many factors. NOx are greenhouse gases so their generation should be minimized. NO2 has a molecular weight of 46 making it denser than air (avg MW 29.87) while NO has a molecular weight of 30, about the same as air, N20 has a molecular weight of 44.

Some proposals include adding hydrogen to fuel gas in for example industrial furnaces. NOx generation is discussed in this article from The Chemical Engineer and discusses the factors involved, e.g. burner design, flame temperature and such. Since NOx emissions are legally constrained in some jurisdictions, burner design plays an important role to meet such specification.

Diesel and gasoline internal combustion engines are a major source of NOx emissions.

Permeation Rates

Permeation rates of hydrogen in various storage configurations has been reported. During some safety investigations, researchers reported the following leakage rates:

"Based on the data provided by the manufacturers, the hydrogen permeation rates of the hydrogen storage vessels of vehicle A and B were approximately 2.35 mL/min and 1.80 mL/min, respectively."

One presumes the volumetric measurements corresponded to standard temperature and pressure conditions (STP).

Hydrogen tanks in trains, boats, planes and cars are made of carbon fiber and run around 10,000 psi their NWP (normal working pressure) but designed for 25,000 psi. Apparently there are at least Type III and Type IV hydrogen storage tanks in use.

Meanwhile, at NWP and ambient temperature, ISO 19881 requires that the steady-state permeability of Type IV hydrogen storage tanks in the system should be less than 6 Ncm3/h/L. (see "Review of the Hydrogen Permeability of the Liner Material of Type IV On-Board Hydrogen Storage Tank".

The density of hydrogen at STP (68 deg F 1 atm) is 0.08376 kg/m3. A typical(?) hydrogen vehicle gets 70 miles/kg H2, so a 300 mile range requires a tank capacity of 4.28 kg. A 10,000 psi hydrogen tank will be about 200 liters or 3-4 times the volume of gasoline tanks typically found in internal combustion engine cars.

So for an automobile tank to meet the ISO standard it will lose hydrogen, when fully pressurized, no faster than the rate of:

6 Ncm3/h/L * 200 L * 30 (days/mon) * 24 (hr/day) = 864,000 cm3/month

At a density of 0.08376 kg/m3 and with 1,000,000 cm3/m3, hydrogen losses are:

864,000 * 0.08376 / 1,000,000 kg/mo = 0.0724 kg/mo equivalent to 1.3% of a 5.6 kg charge per month.

The 2mL/min rate of the A and B vehicles above and a 200L tank, equates to about 2 mL/min * 60 /200 = 0.6 Ncm3/h/L or 10x lower than the standard demands, making their tanks lose only 0.13% of a charge per month.

The Toyota Mirai 2022 has a Type IV tank capacity of 5.6 kg H2 spread over three tanks running at a pressure of 70MPa (10,150 psi).

Types of Hydrogen Storage

Pressurized Tanks

The hydrogen storage tanks used for high-pressure gaseous hydrogen storage can be roughly divided into five types:

  • Type I: metallic pressure vessel,
  • Type II: metallic liner hoop wrapped with CFRP
  • Type III: metallic liner fully wrapped with CFRP
  • Type IV: polymer liner fully wrapped with CFRP
  • Type V: has 20% less weight than type IV, is made of composites without a liner

Vehicle tanks are designed to operate at 10,000 psi but rated for 25,000 psi.

Metal Hydride Tanks

Metal hydride storage systems for hydrogen operate at much lower pressures than pure hydrogen tanks. For a discussion of the technology see:

"How Powder Metal Hydrides Solve Safety And Size Challenges For Hydrogen Storage" - GKN Sinter Metals Engineering GmbH - Jan 2020

Some quotes:

"As an alternative to high-pressure storage systems, metal hydrides are a safe and controllable technology to store hydrogen at lower pressures in small spaces. This low-pressure concept works because the hydrogen molecules are chemically bonded within the metal compound structure and remain stable and nonhazardous at atmospheric pressure. Metal hydride storage systems typically operate at 10-40 bars, which is twenty times less than typical high-pressure systems. Once the hydrogen is needed, the desorption process begins by feeding thermal heat (45 – 65°C) so gas begins to flow outward. At this stage, pressures are down to around one to two bars."

Metal Hydride tanks are too heavy though for transportation applications.

High Pressure Hydrogen Pipelines

As an alternative to on site compression of gaseous hydrogen at hydrogen gas stations for fuel-cell vehicles fill-ups, an analysis of the economics of a high pressure hydrogen distribution pipeline shows cost savings over hydrogen delivery trucks. The report "Economic analysis of a high-pressure urban pipeline concept (HyLine) for delivering hydrogen to retail fueling stations" was developed by staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and independent contractors. The Green Car Congress site carries the same story.

Hydrogen Safety

An in depth review of the safety of hydrogen was presented at the 2nd Joint Summer School on Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies, on 19 September 2012, Crete:

Hazards related to hydrogen properties and comparison with other fuels - Ulster University - Vladimir Molkov, 2012

a briefer discussion of hydrogen safety is shown at:

Dispelling Common Hydrogen Safety Myths - July 12, 2018

Worldwide Hydrogen Production

Meanwhile, (from a Nov 2012 article) 2019 total world production of pure hydrogen is 75 million metric tonnes. The same article reports:

"Electrolysis of water at ambient temperatures requires 50-55 kWh per kilogram of hydrogen produced* (hence 60% and potentially 70% efficient with improved catalysts)."

The power to make the world's 75 million tonnes of pure hydrogen via electrolysis is therefore 75,000,000,000 kg * 55 kWh/kg = 4,125,000 GWh.

From Wikipedia,

"As of the end of 2020, the United States had 97,275 megawatts (MW) of installed photovoltaic and concentrated solar power capacity combined."

If all the US installed solar power operated for 2000 hr/yr, it would generate 2000 * 97,275 MWh = 194,550 GWh. That in turn could then make 4.7% of the world's supply of hydrogen, insufficient for US purposes. At $1.8/kg H2, the corresponding annual gross income would be $75,000,000,000 * 0.047 *1.8 = $6.345 billion/yr.

Worldwide Oxygen Production

When electrolyzing water for hydrogen it of course produces pure oxygen at the same time. Wikipedia reports the industrial production of oxygen via a number of processes was 100 Mtpa in 2003. The economic impact of renewable hydrogen and it's cogenerated oxygen very much needs to take this into account.

At $10/kg, the 2050 forecast demand for US' 41 Mtpa H2 comes with 41 * 16/2 Mtpa O2 = 328 Mtpa O2 which would on the face of it be worth $3,280 Billion/yr.

Utilizing Byproduct Oxygen

In the report "Effective utilization of by-product oxygen from electrolysis hydrogen production", the researchers at the Nagoya University, Japan, review the economic impact of byproduct oxygen on renewable hydrogen production.

Another study "Oxygen From Electrolysis For Medical Use: An Economically Feasible Route" from Italy shows how medical centers could benefit from cogenerated oxygen from renewable hydrogen electrolyzers.

Retail Oxygen

Oxygen can be bought in canisters in stores under such brand names as 'Oxygen Plus' or 'Boost Oxygen' for 'recreational' purposes. As of Feb 2022 a 6 pack, each with 11 liters of oxygen at NTP costs about $90. At 1.429 gm/litre at NTP, the 66 liters cost the equivalent of $1,958/kg!

US Hydrogen Demand

For a perspective on the US hydrogen demand see:

Hydrogen’s Present And Future In The Us Energy Sector - Shearman & Sterling - October 2021

The report notes that 90% of the 10 Mtpa of US hydrogen production is from natural gas. To put it in perspective, current US solar power could produce about 3.525 Mtpa H2 (with no solar power going into the grid). If NM could grow production to meet that demand, the state could enjoy a gross income of $6.345 billion/yr. For comparison 2016 NM state revenues were $5.462 billion/yr (Ballotpedia). But there are lots of buts: we should back out hydrogen from chlorine production from the calcs, for example.

Meanwhile US demand for hydrogen is forecast to quadruple to 41 Mtpa by 2050.

US Hydrogen Electricity Demand

According to Tom Solomon's (350NM) projections, for 100% energy production from renewables the US will need an installed base of 4,545 GW (by 2036) Operating at 2000 hr/yr that's 9,090,000 GWh, To meet the 2050 US demand for hydrogen of 41 Mtpa at 55 kWh/kg H2 then would require:

41,000,000,000 kg * 55 kWh/kg / 1,000,000 kWh/GWh = 2,255,000 GWh.

(Note, by 2050 improved technologies may exceed the 55 kWh/kg H2. 2000 hr/yr is 5.5hr/day 365 days a year. See Unbound Solar)

Based on a 2000 hr/yr operation, this would require increasing the installed renewable energy base by 1,127.5 GW an increase of 24.8% over Solomon's 2036 number. At $1.8/kg (current fossil hydrogen prices), 41 Mtpa H2 is worth $73.8 Billion/yr.

Reduced GHG emissions

At 7 kg CO2/kg H2 on average for steam methane reforming (SMR), converting a US 2050 demand of 41 Mtpa to renewables saves 41 * 7 = 287 million tonnes/yr of CO2 emissions and an unknown amount of leaked potent methane emissions.

Hydrogen Production Processes

Steam Methane Reforming

Most of the 10 Mtpa of the hydrogen produced in the US is generated from methane gas in the Steam Methane Reforming process. The process uses water as steam to generate hydrogen from the reactions:

CH4 + H2O => CO + 3 H2O

CO + H2O => CO2 + H2

CH4 + 2 H2O => CO2 + 4 H2O

Energy has to be provided to maintain high temperatures.

Electrolysis of Water

A DC electrical power source is connected to two electrodes, or two plates (typically made from an inert metal such as platinum or iridium) which are placed in water. Hydrogen appears at the cathode (where electrons enter the water), and oxygen appears at the anode.[4] Assuming ideality the amount of hydrogen generated is twice the amount of oxygen, and both are proportional to the total electrical charge conducted by the solution. However, in many cells competing side reactions occur, resulting in different products and less than ideal efficiency.

Electrolysis of pure water requires excess energy in the form of overpotential to overcome various activation barriers. Without the excess energy, the electrolysis of pure water occurs very slowly or not at all. This is in part due to the limited self-ionization of water. Pure water has an electrical conductivity about one-millionth that of seawater. Many electrolytic cells may also lack the requisite electrocatalysts. The efficiency of electrolysis is increased through the addition of an electrolyte (such as a salt, an acid or a base) and the use of electrocatalysts.

Solar Thermochemical Production

An emerging water-splitting technology called solar thermochemical hydrogen (STCH) production, which can be potentially more energy efficient than producing hydrogen via the commonly used electrolysis method is in development at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. STCH relies on a two-step chemical process in which metal oxides are exposed to temperatures greater than 1,400 C and then re-oxidized with steam at lower temperatures to produce hydrogen. Like electrolysis, the system produces byproduct oxygen. See:

System and technoeconomic analysis of solar thermochemical hydrogen production - Renewable Energy - May 2022

Sea Water as a Source of Electrolysis Water

"A step closer to sustainable energy from seawater" article from phys.org Aug 2018 talks about a catalyst that reduces the amount of chlorine produced when using seawater in electrolysis. Presumably brine (saltwater) would have the same problem. Properly captured and separated/managed chlorine has the potential to be used in other products (chemicals such as bleach).

From Wikipedia on Chlorine:

"In industry, elemental chlorine is usually produced by the electrolysis of sodium chloride dissolved in water. This method, the chloralkali process industrialized in 1892, now provides most industrial chlorine gas. Along with chlorine, the method yields hydrogen gas and sodium hydroxide, which is the most valuable product."

From the article "China set to drive global chlorine capacity by 2024"

"The global chlorine capacity is poised to see moderate growth over the next five years, potentially increasing from 87.69 million tons per annum (Mtpa) in 2019 to 92.13 Mtpa in 2024, registering total growth of 5%"

The chlor-alkali process is electrolysis of sodium chloride solutions (e.g. brine) to produce hydrogen, chlorine and sodium hydroxide (the alkali bit). Stoichiometrically, for every molecule of chlorine produced there is one molecule of hydrogen produced. So 87.69 Mtpa of 2019 chlorine (atomic weight 35.45) should produce 87.69/35.45 = 2.47 Mtpa of hydrogen. Does the US really need anymore chlorine?

'Produced' Water as a Source for Electrolysis Water

Produced water is naturally occurring water that rises with oil and gas streams from the rocks below.

By 2050 the projected US demand of 41 Mtpa H2 (four times today's) will consume 41 * 18/2 Mtpa water i.e. 369 Mtpa water whether by electrolysis or Steam Methane Reforming.

The Permian Basin is estimated to generate 32 million barrels of produced water per day in 2025 (SFNM). Much is disposed of by reinjecting into wells. In a year with say 10% downtime, that's 10.5 billion barrels/yr.

The current 10.5 billion barrels produced water/yr x 42 US gals/barrel x 8.33 lb/US gal / 2204.6 lb/tonne is equal to 1,666 Mtpa of water. This Permian Basin produced water is more than 4 and half times the water consumption needed for 2050 US hydrogen production via electrolysis or SMR.

Produced water could be used as a source for electrolysis water but it is generally highly contaminated and relies on the continued operation of oil and gas fields to be generated. Produced water is naturally occurring water that rises with oil and gas streams from the rocks below. Before it could be used for electrolysis it will need to be decontaminated to prevent damage to electrolyzer cells. Oil and gas wells produce:

  • crude oil (a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons)
  • natural gas (a mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons)
  • sand and other mineral solids in suspension.
  • water (containing salinity and other dissolved solids and hydrocarbon contaminants)

The American Geosciences Institute reports that:

The composition of produced water depends on the chemistry of the rocks it has been in contact with. In the Bakken (North Dakota) and Marcellus (Pennsylvania and neighboring states) formations, produced waters can be over 10 times more saline than seawater. In California and Wyoming, many produced waters are much less saline than seawater. Produced water can also contain varying amounts of oil residues, sand or mud, naturally occurring radioactive materials, chemicals from frac fluids, bacteria, and dissolved organic compounds. Differences in composition affect how produced waters are treated, used, and/or disposed. The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a database of produced water compositions based on over 165,000 measurements across the United States.

Fracking Water as a Source for Electrolysis Water

Fracking Water is surface water that is mixed with a cocktail of chemicals and sands and injected into an oil and gas well under pressure to crack or fracture the rock allowing more hydrocarbons to be released. Such Hydraulic Fracturing, known as 'fracking' has to be repeated to keep wells producing. Cutting back on fracking 'releases' water resources for electrolysis.

According to the 2016 Ceres Resaearch Paper, around 100 billion gals/yr are used for hydraulic fracking in the US, equal to 378 Mtpa water, or more than enough for current hydrogen generation demands of about 91 Mtpa water

Flowback water is hydraulic fracturing water that returns to the surface with the oil and gas.

Fracking Water Consumption in New Mexico

A USGS FracFocus report quoted in a Dec 2020 article in the Carlsbad Current Argus, says that in 2019 14 billion gals of water were used in oil and gas production in New Mexico. The State Land Office is also reported to no longer sell freshwater to O&G but how that will be replaced wasn't specified. 14 billion gals of water if electrolyzed could produce 5.88 Mtpa of Hydrogen or over half the US supply:

14,000,000,000 gal/'yr * 8.345 lb/gal / (2.2046 lb/kg * 9 kg H20/kg H2 * 1000 kg/tonne) = 5.88 Mtpa H2

Note that at the current 55 kwh/kg H2, renewable energy needs would be 323 GWh per annum. At 90% on stream time that's a 41 MW power generator or 75 MW unit at 50% OST. Compare that to the Xcel Energy's Sagamore Wind Project in Roosevelt County NM, which is rated at 522 MW!

This is about the same power generation requirements per Mtpa H2 that Fortescue Future Industries claimed above in Plans for GW Electrolyzer Factories.

The Physics of CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery

From the DoE National Energy Technology Lab.

"Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery: Untapped Domestic Energy Supply and Long Term Carbon Storage Solution" - March 2010

Shell Oil’s Denver Unit in the Wasson Field in West Texas CO2 EOR work provided an additional 120 million incremental barrels or more of oil from 1981 thru 2008. A barrel of oil typically comes in at 300 lb and contains 82-85% carbon. If all that carbon is used for fuel, total CO2 emissions equivalent are:

120,000,000 * 300 * 0.82 * 46/ (14 * 2204) tonnes CO2 = 44.0 million tonnes of CO2.

The United States leads the world in both the number of CO2 EOR projects and in the volume of CO2 EOR oil production, in large part because of favorable geology. The Permian Basin covering West Texas and southeastern New Mexico has the lion’s share of the world’s CO2 EOR activity for two reasons: reservoirs there are particularly amenable to CO2 flooding, and large natural sources of high purity CO2 are relatively close. However, a growing number of CO2 EOR projects are being launched in other regions, based on the availability of low cost CO2. See Bravo Dome & Pipeline

Numbers on CO2 used were not discernable.

Annual Water Consumptions in NM

2015 NM Water Usage Categories

The following numbers are based on:

* one acre-foot (AF) of water is 326,000 gals
* 0.419 metric tonnes of hydrogen are made from 1 billion gals of water via electrolysis

For 2015, the State Engineer tabulated the following totals for the whole state of New Mexico:

  • Total Withdrawals: 3,114,255 AF = 1,015 billion gals/yr - 100%
  • Public & Domestic: 312,106 AF = 101.7 billion gals/yr - 10.02%
  • Agriculture & Livestock: 2,412,111 AF = 786.3 billion gals/yr - 77.46%
  • Commercial: 57,526 AF = 18.7 billion gals/yr - 1.85%
  • Industrial, Mining & Power: 101,431 AF = 33.0 billion gals/yr - 3.26%
  • Evaporation from reservoirs: 231,081 AF = 75.3 billion gals/yr - 7.42%

To put this in context the 2019 USGS FracFocus database contains an estimated fracking water usage of:

  • NM Oil & Gas (fracking): 42.900 AF = 14 billion gals/yr - 1.38%

Src: State Engineer, USGS
Src: State Engineer, USGS

This corresponds to 1.38% of the state's 2015 total withdrawals and as noted above is enough to make 5.88 Mtpa H2 or over half US hydrogen market and corresponds to a 75 MW rated power unit at 50% OST. Compare this to the Xcel Energy's Sagamore Wind Project in Roosevelt County NM, which is rated at 522 MW.

What Impact Will Cannabis Growers Have on Water Usage?

Numbers are difficult to come by. An AP report "Questions raised about cannabis growers’ water use" from Feb 2019 suggests a cannabis farm typically consumes 3,000 gals/day. The Public Policy Institute of California in a June 2021 blogpost "How Does Cannabis Cultivation Affect California’s Water?" reported that there were 8,000 legal cannabis farms in California.

At that scale, which doesn't include illegal farms, the total water usage amounts to 8.76 billion gals/yr which is equivalent to 0.86% of 2015 NM total withdrawals.

While there currently are an unknown number of growers in NM, their water usage hasn't gone unnoticed per the January 2020 Albuquerque Journal report: State’s water takes a hit from cannabis farms.

What Impact Will Regenerative Agricultural Practices Have on Water Usage?

Future water consumption numbers, or even those since 2015 may be impacted by the adoption of Regenerative Agriculture practices across the state. Numbers have so far been impossible to find!

2015 NM State Engineer Water Usage Numbers

The 2015 data on the use of water across the state was compiled by the State Engineer:

New Mexico Water Use By Categories 2015 - New Mexico Office of the State Engineer - May 2019

Report Summary

The population of New Mexico increased from 2,059,179 in 2010 to 2,099,856 in 2015, an increase of 40,677 or almost 2%.

In 2015, withdrawals for all water use categories combined totaled 3,114,255 acre-feet (AF) down 14% from 2005. Surface water accounted for 1,629,968 AF (52.34%) of the total withdrawals, and groundwater accounted for 1,484,287 AF (47.66%) of the total withdrawals. A summary of withdrawals for 2015 by category and source is provided below.

Public Water Supply accounted for 284,157 AF (9.12%) of the total withdrawals, consisting of:

  • 87,399 AF (30.76%) of surface water
  • 196,758 AF (69.24%) of groundwater

Self-Supplied Domestic accounted for 27,949 AF (0.90%) of the total withdrawals, consisting entirely of groundwater.

Irrigated Agriculture accounted for 2,376,065 AF (76.30%) of the total withdrawals, consisting of:

  • 1,255,440 AF (52.84%) of surface water.
  • 1,120,625 AF (47.16%) of groundwater.

Surface water diverted for irrigation resulted in off-farm conveyance losses in canals and laterals, which amounted to 425,618 AF (33.90% of the diversion total). � New Mexico Water Use by Categories 2015 ii New Mexico Office of the State Engineer Technical Report 55 Water Use and Conservation Bureau The total estimated acreage irrigated (TAI) on farms in 2015 was 749,769 acres. Approximately 226,870 acres (30.26%) were irrigated with surface water, 408,628 acres (54.50%) were irrigated with groundwater, and 114,271 acres (15.24%) were irrigated with a combination of groundwater and surface water. Total drip irrigation (TDA) accounted for 23,466 acres (3.13%), total flood irrigation (TFA) accounted for 340,780 acres (45.45%), and total sprinkler irrigation (TSA) accounted for 385,523 acres (51.42%). In some areas of the state, surface water was not sufficient to meet the irrigation demand.

Livestock accounted for 36,046 AF (1.16%) of the total withdrawals, consisting of:

  • 2,904 AF (8.06%) of surface water.
  • 33,142 AF (91.94%) of groundwater.

Commercial uses accounted for 57,526 AF (1.85%) of the total withdrawals, consisting of:

  • 12,326 AF (21.43%) of surface water.
  • 45,199 AF (78.57%) of groundwater.

Industrial uses accounted for 8,718 AF (0.28%) of the total withdrawals, consisting of:

  • 0 AF (0%) of surface water.
  • 8,718 AF (100%) of groundwater.

Mining accounted for 42,294 AF (1.36%) of the total withdrawals, consisting of:

  • 1,141 AF (2.70%) of surface water.
  • 41,153 AF (97.30%) of groundwater.

Power accounted for 50,419 AF (1.62%) of the total withdrawals, consisting of:

  • 39,677 AF (78.69%) of surface water.
  • 10,742 AF (21.31%) of groundwater.

Evaporation from reservoirs with a storage capacity of 5,000 AF or more amounted to 231,081 AF (7.42%) of total withdrawals.

2005 NM State Engineer Water Usage Numbers

The 2005 data on the use of water across the state was compiled by the State Engineer:

New Mexico Water Uses by Category 2005 - New Mexico Office of the State Engineer - June 2008

Report Summary

In 2005, withdrawals for all categories combined totaled 3,950,398 acre-feet. Surface water accounted for 2,112,138 acre-feet (53.47%) of the total withdrawals; groundwater accounted for 1,838,260 acre-feet (46.53%) of the total withdrawals.

Public Water Supply accounted for 320,126 acre-feet (8.10%) of the total withdrawals. Surface water accounted for 42,092 acre-feet (13.15%) of the public water supply withdrawal.

Groundwater accounted for 278,034 acre-feet (86.85%). Self-Supplied Domestic accounted for 35,796 acre-feet (0.91%) of the total withdrawals. In this category, 100% of the withdrawals for domestic purposes were from groundwater sources.

Irrigated Agriculture accounted for 3,075,514 acre-feet (77.86%) of the total withdrawals. Surface water accounted for 1,730,927 acre-feet (56.30%) of irrigation withdrawals. Groundwater withdrawals totaled 1,344,587 acre-feet (43.70%).

Surface water diverted for irrigation resulted in off-farm conveyance losses in canals and laterals, which amounted to 608,901 acre-feet (35.12%).

The total acreage irrigated (TAI) on farms in 2005 was 875,415. Approximately 279,665 acres (31.95%) were irrigated with surface water; 464,177 acres (53.02%) were irrigated with groundwater; and 131,573 acres (15.03%) were irrigated with a combination of ground and surface water. Drip irrigation (TDA) accounted for 18,875 acres (2.16%); flood (TFA) for 448,599 acres (51.24%); and sprinkler (TSA) for 407,941 acres (46.60%).

In some areas of the state, surface water was not sufficient to meet the irrigation demand. Livestock accounted for 57,009 acre-feet (1.44%) of total withdrawals. Surface water accounted for 3,279 acre-feet (5.75%) of withdrawals and groundwater for 53,730 acre-feet (94.25%).

Commercial uses accounted for 40,578 acre-feet (1.03%) of total withdrawals. Surface water accounted for 1,496 acre-feet (3.69%) of the withdrawals, and groundwater for 39,082 acre-feet (96.31%).

Industrial uses accounted for 18,251 acre-feet (0.46%) of total withdrawals. Surface water accounted for 1,967 acre-feet (10.78%) of the withdrawals and groundwater for 16,284 acre-feet (89.22%).

Mining accounted for 60,189 acre-feet (1.52%) of total withdrawals. Surface water accounted for 1,438 acre-feet (2.40%) of the withdrawals and groundwater for 58,751 acre-feet (97.61%).

Power accounted for 63,642 acre-feet (1.61%) of total withdrawals. Surface water accounted for 51,646 acre-feet (81.15%) of withdrawals and groundwater for 11,996 acre-feet (18.85%).

Evaporation from reservoirs with a storage capacity of 5,000 acre-feet or more amounted to 279,293 acre-feet (7.07%) of total withdrawals.

Problems with Oil & Gas Field Waters

Management of these waters is challenging not only for industry and regulators, but also for landowners and the public because of differences in the quality and quantity of produced water, varying infrastructure needs, costs, and environmental considerations associated with produced water disposal, storage, and transport.


The World Hydrogen 2023 Summit & Exhibition, 9-11 May 2023, the leading global platform dedicated to hydrogen industry advancement is produced by the Sustainable Energy Council (SEC) in partnership with the Province of Zuid-Holland, the City of Rotterdam and the Port of Rotterdam, World Hydrogen 2023 is the place to meet with government and private sector leaders to showcase, discuss, collaborate and do business, driving the hydrogen industry forward.

Hydrogen Tech World Conference & Exhibition Essen, 4–5 April 2023 - The Hydrogen Tech World Conference will focus primarily on the technologies used in green hydrogen production, storage, and transportation.

Special Interest Groups on Hydrogen

The UK Institution of Chemical Engineers, magazine The Chemical Engineer hosts a hydrogen special interest group that examines a wide variety of issues associated with a 'hydrogen economy.

Renewable Hydrogen Opportunities

If New Mexico were to overbuild solar and wind capacity it's possible to estimate how much excess power could be generated, converted to hydrogen and sold to the industrial users. The industrial gasses sector is orders of magnitude bigger than anticipated energy storage and transportation needs. Such a proposition needs to be compared with just selling the power in terms of costs, locations and jobs. Which is quicker and cheaper a) export H2 in trucks or pipelines or b) build transmission lines to export the energy?


Renewable hydrogen (made by electrolyzing water with renewable energy, aka 'green 'hydrogen))

  • is not a problem as far as water usage is concerned,
  • saves water when combined with curtailing fracking as methane demands are replaced,
  • does not have a leakage (permeation) problem in transportation applications,
  • is big business when decarbonizing industrial hydrogen (SMR) production,
  • makes big cuts in GHG emissions; CO2 from SMR and methane emissions,
  • brings additional economic benefits from the utilization of by-product oxygen.
  • is possible by repurposing the states fracking water demands to green hydrogen and would meet over half the US demand for hydrogen.

While, the power requirements to meet US industrial hydrogen demand may be only as much a 1/4 of total needs, building out a renewable hydrogen business in NM could go along way to meeting our state budgetary needs, depending on taxation and public ownership issues. Continuing technological improvements in efficiencies and performance in the electrolyzer, fuel-cell and storage fields make this picture improve all around.


bcm = billion cubic metres

CFRP = Carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

EJ = exajoules (1 EJ is about 947.8 trillion BTUs, or 278 thousand GWh)

ICE = Internal Combustion Engines

MPa = megaPascals (1 MPa = 145.04 psi)

psi = pounds per square inch

Ncm3/h/L = Normal cubic centimeters per hour per liter (of storage capacity)