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Know Your Hydrogen-Supply Options

By Alexander Stubinitzky and C.J.J. Reijerkerk Linde Gas Div., Linde AG |

    At present, around 540 billion Nm3 of hydrogen is produced worldwide, and the trend is upward (Hydrogen: The Real Action Is Today, CE, February, pp. 28ff). The numerous chemical-process and other industrial applications of this colorless, odorless gas vary widely as regards the quantities and purities required. Thus, it is useful for the engineer to have a working knowledge of the several ways in which hydrogen can be supplied and delivered. It is instructive to glance first at how hydrogen is employed (Figure 1), and how it is produced. About half of all hydrogen is used to manufacture ammonia (which in turn is mainly employed to make nitrogen fertilizer). Petroleum refineries can also consume substantial quantities of hydrogen, depending on their end products, and various refining processes account for about 45% of total hydrogen production . This versatile gas is also used in the metals, glass, food, semiconductor and numerous other industries. Currently, industrial-scale hydrogen production relies mainly on fossil reserves, a major example being natural gas for steam reforming. Other common production processes include the partial oxidation of heavy fuel oils and, where the economics are favorable, the electrolysis…
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