Back in August 2008, I wrote a short column on the nascent hydrogen economy at the time and its future direction. Having just attended the 17th World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC) in Brisbane, Australia, I was greatly concerned that hydrogen was losing out in the alternative energies PR war.

In fact, I believe this is something that our own Managing Editor at gasworld, Rob Cockerill, still believes to be the case today, to an extent.

Hydrogen – Why collaboration and communication is a pressing challenge

I questioned the direction the hydrogen economy was moving in, and whether there was really a clear choice between what form the hydrogen was made and supplied in. If I recall correctly, I even urged us to collectively focus on the use of hydrogen and not necessarily where it came from (green or ‘brown’ origin).

During the past decade, many people I spoke to also felt the Hydrogen Economy was losing ground and prominence – despite the efforts of companies like Linde Group, Air Liquide, Air Products and others – as hybrid engines altered the face of the automotive sector. The other part of the Hydrogen Economy was the use of storing energy in hydrogen and re-use to provide energy.

The discussion surrounding the Hydrogen Economy has certainly moved far beyond its original aim or definition. While mobility remains one of the main drivers for growth, the attention is focusing more on the whole hydrogen supply chain and its original credentials of being green.

‘Green vs Brown (or Black)’ hydrogen is essentially still a topic for discussion within many current and potential stakeholders and the simple fact that the majority of hydrogen produced is brown or from hydrocarbon sources has, I feel, been one reason for the sector to stall.

”The discussion surrounding the Hydrogen Economy has certainly moved far beyond its original aim or definition…”

The very definition of ‘the hydrogen economy’ is a major topic in our industry right now, with the notion that this extends far beyond mobility and could even challenge many of the traditional understandings of the hydrogen supply chain. The whole hydrogen framework is now being redefined and a new, re-invigorated evolution is taking place.

An example is the major recent announcement that will make significant strides for acceptance and produce truly green hydrogen supply via electrolysis technology and even greater advances (AkzoNobel and Gasunie New Energy’s plans to build Europe’s largest green hydrogen plant in the Netherlands).

Plans to build Europe’s largest green hydrogen plant revealed

Re-defining the Hydrogen Economy will be a central topic at gasworld’s Europe Conference 2018 in Amsterdam this April (23rd-25th), as we explore current national governmental and EU supported initiatives, the status of the European hydrogen economy, the development of green hydrogen production and use, regional hydrogen fueling networks, and where this is all heading. As our theme suggests – Positioning Today for Tomorrow’s Opportunities – the event aims to get behind this new business environment and where the opportunities are, and enable delegates to make the right strategic moves going forward.

I will not only be hosting Day 1 of the conference, but I am eager to learn more on where we are at this stage, how exactly the Hydrogen Economy is evolving, and where we are heading. For example, understanding the new make-up of current fuels and how refiners and petroleum companies can benefit from the use of green hydrogen in their processes – refining being one of the largest end-users of hydrogen – and how realistic it is for green hydrogen to replace brown hydrogen in this and other applications, as well as serving the ever-growing mobility market.

I’m sure I, and I hope you, will come away from Amsterdam this Spring with answers to many of these questions. The hydrogen economy is evolving and at an ever increasing rate, and continues to develop every day – so much so that now is a far more appropriate time to debate its definition and future direction.

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