The world’s largest green hydrogen plant is set to begin construction in Ordos, China. Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the entire universe. However, on earth, capturing and using it is a lot more tricky than many realize. There are many different uses for hydrogen; they include transportation, heating, power generation, and industrial manufacturing.
The process by which we have conventionally acquired hydrogen has been extremely detrimental to our environment. This is why green hydrogen has been such an important technological development, and as a result, green hydrogen is expected to become a trillion-dollar industry by 2030. Many countries are jumping on the opportunity to take a slice of the green hydrogen pie, with many projects being started or announced in the past few years. China is one of these countries, and they have just begun construction on the world’s largest green hydrogen plant, Ordos.
Historically, hydrogen has been created through a process called methane-steam methane source, using natural gas. In the methane-steam methane source process, the steam and methane react under high pressure with a catalyst, creating hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. This specific kind of hydrogen production with natural gas is called grey hydrogen because it outputs fewer greenhouse gases than other forms of hydrogen production, for example, black hydrogen, which is created using fossil fuels and coal.
Grey hydrogen, by far, is the most common form of hydrogen production. However, despite its less impactful environmental damage than black or brown hydrogen, it is nowhere near carbon neutral or environmentally friendly.
Green hydrogen is carbon neutral and is considered a critical aspect of the green energy sector. It can harmonize the intermittency of solar and wind energy while decarbonizing the chemical and industrial sectors. The process by which green hydrogen is created is through solar and wind-powered electrolysis, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is harvested, and the oxygen is released into the atmosphere, creating a zero-emissions system. Essentially, the entire green hydrogen process turns wind or solar energy into hydrogen, which is a much more versatile and dense energy source for powering mobile transportation applications. These applications could include ocean-going ships and aircraft with a large carbon footprint and cannot use batteries due to weight or distance constraints.
This elegant system, in combination with solar and wind, is why China is working hard to become one of the world leaders in green hydrogen production. The Ordos project is, as mentioned, the world’s largest green hydrogen plant, projected to produce 30,000 tonnes per year of green hydrogen. It also will have on-site storage capabilities of up to 288,000 cubic metres of hydrogen. The market for green hydrogen is projected to be a multi-trillion one by 2030 as more and more nations demand clean energy as a priority for their respective economies. In inner Mongolia, where a vast majority of Chinese clean energy projects are taking place, five different green hydrogen projects are being worked on or creating hydrogen as of writing. These projects make China’s ambitious goal of producing 200,000 tons per year of green hydrogen by 2025.
China isn’t alone in its ambition to become a world leader in green energy. According to predictions by Rystad Energy, Australia will be producing up to 1.5 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030, comparable to the goals set by the USA. Rystad Energy also has predicted that by 2030 the green hydrogen market will be led by Australia, the US, and Spain. However, other nations have consistently underestimated China’s goals and its ability to achieve them.
What isn’t up for debate is that this transition will be quick as each nation competes against each other for a share of the sizable pie that green hydrogen represents. Cooperation and reciprocity are key principles guiding the environmental movement; perhaps friendly competition will be what it takes to push the tide quickly toward green energy.