Harnessing China’s by-product hydrogen

The China Hydrogen Alliance (CHA) forecasts that demand for the molecule will reach 35 million tonnes per year (MTA) and comprise 5% of the country’s total energy by 2035.

These figures are set to rise to 60 MTA and 10% by 2050, the year in which global hydrogen demand might reach 100 MTA. The maxim of commodity traders that ‘China consumes half of everything’ appears to be true in the case of the country’s burgeoning hydrogen energy and fuel cell industry, as well. Where will China find such large amounts of hydrogen?

China has an extensive history in industrial gas processing for the chemicals industry. The country is ‘rich in coal, poor in oil, and with a little natural gas’. Coal gasification is a major source of energy and raw materials for China, especially in the remote north. Aside from coal gasification and coke oven gas (COG), China also produces ethylene from ethane cracking and propylene from propane dehydrogenation (PDH), both chemical feedstocks for plastics and other downstream products. China also produces about half of the world’s caustic soda in chlor-alkali plants. All these processes produce hydrogen as a by-product and are therefore of interest to the emerging fuel cell industry as a potential source of cheap fuel.

China’s Hydrogen Thirst

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