Booming hydrogen market heralds water technology opportunities
12 Oct 2021
Water technology firms could be among the biggest beneficiaries of the future hydrogen economy, claims a sector report.
BlueTech Research’s study says the size of the global market could reach US$12 trillion by 2050, powered by growing international global decarbonisation efforts that are likely to see hydrogen emerge as an alternative fuel.
BlueTech Research chief executive and founder Paul O’Callaghan commented: “Our research highlights different opportunities for water and wastewater business in the growing hydrogen technological and economic landscape. A particular focus will be on green in green hydrogen production, in which hydrogen is produced by renewable energy through electrolysis.”
As water is the main feedstock for hydrogen production, this heralds potentially massive opportunities for water and wastewater businesses, claims author Kim Wu.
“Interestingly, water utilities have a unique role to play in the hydrogen economy. There are different pathways that water utilities can produce hydrogen at their wastewater facilities and benefit from implementing those processes,” stated Kim.
Conventionally, hydrogen has been produced via steam methane reforming (SMR) using natural gas as the feedstock. To date, 90% of hydrogen from methane or light hydrocarbons is produced from SMR and the hydrogen produced is mostly used as a chemical feedstock.
The European Union anticipates investment of up to US$557 billion into hydrogen production and infrastructure by 2050, with annual capital expenditure topping US$200 billion. Over the next decade, the EU alone expects to invest US$29-50 billion in electrolysers and a further US$260-400 billion in scaling-up production and directly connecting 80-120GW of solar and wind energy capacity to the electrolysers.
However, the report cautions, there remain concerns about the amount of water and renewable energy needed.
“Water demand could be a concern for the large number of green hydrogen projects being planned, particularly for water utilities and councils, or in water-stressed areas as some hydrogen projects might expect to use tap water supplied by local utilities,” stated Kim.
The author added that so-called green hydrogen projects will also rely on the availability of, and investment in, renewable energy infrastructure. Securing sufficient hydrogen storage and transport facilities will significantly add to investment costs.