Blue hydrogen refers to the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels, mostly through natural gas reforming or coal gasification, in which most CO2 emissions are captured and stored or used in products via carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies. The removal of most CO2 emissions means that the hydrogen produced is classified as low-carbon. This category also includes green hydrogen, which is produced through electrolysis powered by renewables.
Low-carbon hydrogen production is one of the key paths to decarbonizing hard-to-abate industries like oil refining, ammonia, steel, and long-haul transportation. CCUS infrastructure has significant government backing and is being developed by companies worldwide to capture and store emissions from various industries by locating infrastructure near industrial clusters. These forces are accelerating blue hydrogen production, which is expected to grow as global decarbonization efforts intensify.
In the new report, "Blue Hydrogen Production and Markets 2023-2033: Technologies, Forecasts, Players", IDTechEx forecasts that the global blue hydrogen market will grow to reach US$34 billion by 2033, driven by demand from these hard-to-abate sectors. Future blue hydrogen demand will be mainly driven by industrial clusters, encompassing many industries in one area, refining, ammonia, and methanol. Other applications, such as steel production and mobility, will also begin to emerge. IDTechEx expects that the majority of blue hydrogen capacity installations will come from Europe, particularly from countries like the UK that want to decarbonize their large industrial clusters with blue hydrogen and CCUS. Significant growth will also come from North America, mainly due to an increase in the pace of development in the US driven by the Inflation Reduction Act and the development of many large-scale projects.
The processes analyzed in IDTechEx's new market report. Source: IDTechEx - "Blue Hydrogen Production and Markets 2023-2033: Technologies, Forecasts, Players"
There are different routes to producing blue hydrogen, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Below is a brief outline of these processes.
Conventional Thermochemical Processes (SMR, ATR, POX)
Steam-methane reforming (SMR) creates grey hydrogen and is today's most developed and widely used hydrogen production process. Coal gasification produces black/brown hydrogen and is particularly popular in China, which has some of the world's greatest reserves of coal. There is a significant business and technological development opportunity in retrofitting existing SMR and coal gasification plants through carbon capture to produce blue hydrogen. The report discusses the pre- and post-combustion capture technologies that can be used for retrofitting, an example of the latter being the industry-standard amine scrubbing process.
SMR is an energy-intensive process emitting considerable amounts of CO2. Various technologies and materials, such as heat-integrated pre-reformers and structured catalysts, have been developed to improve this process. However, other hydrogen processes, namely partial oxidation (POX) and autothermal reforming (ATR) may be more attractive for greenfield hydrogen projects due to their higher energy efficiencies and easier integration with carbon capture. IDTechEx believes that the self-heating ATR process will be the main process option for large-scale greenfield projects due to its many advantages over SMR, while POX may be more useful in converting low-value waste products from refineries to blue hydrogen. The comparisons between these processes were considered when forecasting the blue hydrogen capacity up to 2033.
Methane pyrolysis is an emerging process that creates turquoise hydrogen and solid carbon compounds, usually in the form of carbon black. While major process and technology developers
like Air Liquide and Topsoe dominate conventional processes, the methane pyrolysis field is dominated by start-ups and smaller-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), some of which are rapidly commercializing their solutions. Pyrolysis processes can be subdivided into several categories, but plasma pyrolysis stands out as the most advanced and promising technology.
Novel Thermochemical and Biomass-Based Processes
The report also identifies and describes novel thermochemical and biomass-based processes for blue hydrogen production. Although IDTechEx predicts that these processes will not account for a substantial portion of future production, their assessment is still valuable because it provides insight into the technologies that could further innovate blue hydrogen production.
What to Expect From The IDTechEx Report?
As previously mentioned, there are various methods for producing blue hydrogen, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The new IDTechEx report, "Blue Hydrogen Production and Markets 2023-2033: Technologies, Forecasts, Players", evaluates these different blue hydrogen processes, as well as their supply chains, key players, materials, major innovations, and projects. It compares the six main blue hydrogen technologies and determines which will be the most successful and promising for the blue hydrogen sector. IDTechEx also provides 10-year market predictions for those technologies, as well as seven application sectors and three adoption regions. The research also investigates relevant carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) methods for blue hydrogen generation and considers the more general prospects and challenges of blue hydrogen production.
Key Takeaways From This Report:
- Overview of hydrogen applications, national strategies, and issues surrounding blue hydrogen
- Analysis of blue hydrogen production technologies (including process units), materials, key players, supply chains, and projects.
- Novel blue hydrogen production methods (thermochemical, biological, biochemical)
- Technology comparisons based on metrics such as LCOH and emission intensity
- 10-year market analysis and forecasts by technology, hydrogen end-use, and region
- Background into CCUS and applicable technologies for blue hydrogen production
To find out more about this IDTechEx report, including downloadable sample pages, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/BlueHydrogen.
Upcoming Free-to-Attend Webinar
The Future of Blue Hydrogen Production: Developments, Prospect & Challenges
Chingis Idrissov, Technology Analyst at IDTechEx and author of this article, will be presenting a webinar on the topic on Thursday 23 March 2023 - "The Future of Blue Hydrogen Production: Developments, Prospect & Challenges".
Countries all over the world are turning to low-carbon hydrogen as one of the primary tools for decarbonization. Most of the focus is on developing green hydrogen infrastructure that uses water electrolyzers powered by renewable energy. However, countries such as the UK, US, Canada and Netherlands have put a major emphasis on developing blue hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) infrastructure, which will help to kickstart the decarbonization journey.
Blue hydrogen is a type of low-carbon hydrogen produced by natural gas reforming or coal gasification, with most of the CO2 emissions captured and stored using CCUS. Blue hydrogen is regarded as an important component in the decarbonization of hard-to-abate industries such as oil refining, ammonia, steel, and long-distance transportation. These pressures, when combined with the enormous support and development efforts behind CCUS, are accelerating the rise of global blue hydrogen capacity, which is likely to increase as global decarbonization efforts accelerate.
IDTechEx forecasts that the global blue hydrogen market will grow to reach US$34 billion by 2033, driven by demand from these hard-to-abate sectors. This webinar will outline some of the drivers behind this growth, discuss the technologies used to produce blue hydrogen and give an outlook on the industry as a whole.
The webinar will cover:
- Motivation for low-carbon and blue hydrogen production
- Overview of blue hydrogen production technologies
- Outline of key players, trends, and innovations in technologies
- Outlook on blue hydrogen
- Drivers & challenges for the industry
Click here to find out more and register your place on one of our three sessions.