Hydrogen is a multi-skilled industrial chemical. It is valued as a powerful reducing gas and for its high thermal conductivity, and is widely used for industrial processes such as metals processing and fabrication, as well as chemical processing.
Hydrogen’s reducing and thermal properties are also highly important in semiconductor manufacturing. In addition to its primary reducing gas and thermal properties, hydrogen has many other unique attributes that are not easily substituted for other products, such as a power plant cooling gas; a lift gas for dirigibles and balloons; a powerful fuel for thermal spray, leak checking, gas chromatography; and more.
There are also new and significant hydrogen requirements that are emerging in the environmental realm, including hydrogen to replace carbon monoxide (CO) in primary steel production and hydrogen to replace natural gas for furnace heating. Additionally, new hydrogen demand is growing from a small base in the mobility market as a fuel for carbon-free transportation for heavy and light-duty vehicles, and in stationary power applications. While demand is up for hydrogen, its availability is showing signs of trending down. This article will explore the reasons for hydrogen’s shortfalls, as well as options for those users that need hydrogen for their processes and products.
Significant trends are narrowing the availability of hydrogen
Hydrogen is generated in certain industrial processes, particularly in chlorine and caustic manufacturing, and petroleum manufacturing. These processes generate excess byproduct hydrogen which is then collected, purified, and made available for distribution to others who need hydrogen for the variety of applications previously mentioned. Its distribution is mostly provided by truck, along with pipeline supply. If hydrogen demand exists, but no byproduct hydrogen is available, it is created by some means of near or onsite generation. There are three megatrends happening that will strain delivered hydrogen availability. The first is the emergence of hydrogen as a vehicle fuel for over-the-road freight trucks. From 2010 to 2020, the market for hydrogen in the lift/forklift truck market alone has grown from non-existent to being the top user of liquid hydrogen worldwide, just for lift trucks (fork trucks) used inside factories. The impact on availability when over-the-road freight trucks begin to use hydrogen as fuel, too, will be huge.
The second is the return and expansion of semiconductor manufacturing in the US that is currently happening at speed. The US government enacted the CHIPS for America Act in 2021, and further investment in various semiconductor-related bills are now undergoing the legislative process. In addition to the hydrogen used for annealing in semiconductor fabrication, the emergence of extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), which will enable the production of more advanced chips, is expected to double the hydrogen requirement in fabrication shops that adopt the technique ...
Written by David Wolff, Nel Hydrogen, USA.
Read the article online at: https://www.hydrocarbonengineering.com/special-reports/04072022/hydrogen-for-all/