Hydrogen is found in abundance around the world and can be utilized as a fuel source after it is separated from different chemical compounds. Hydrogen is generally found in the gaseous form, and it is colorless and odorless in nature. It is insoluble in water and can be produced by a series of chemical processes in the laboratory. Hydrogen gas is generally produced by electrolysis of water. It can also be produced through a chemical reaction between diluted acids and iron or zinc. Commercial production of hydrogen gas includes a two-step process. In first step, hydrogen and carbon monoxide are produced by combustion of natural gas with steam. The second step involves the conversion of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide through water-gas reaction. The converted carbon dioxide is then removed through the selective washing process. Hydrogen gas has a number of potential applications due to its high energy-weight ratio and ultra-low emissions during the time of usage. Hydrogen gas for industrial and chemical operations is produced through a variety of chemical reactions and energy sources. The produced hydrogen gas can further utilized to deliver power in combined heat power and fuel cell technologies.
Hydrogen is an important chemical feedstock that has been used for several decades in many chemical and refining operations. And owing to its application in clean energy production, it is viewed as a potential fuel source for future energy production. Merchant hydrogen gas is the amount of hydrogen gas that is traded around the globe for different chemical and energy applications. Hydrogen gas can be segmented into captive hydrogen and merchant hydrogen. The selling price of merchant hydrogen gas is high as it requires additional energy for compression, purification, storage, and transportation to end-users. Hydrogen gas is commercially produced through steam methane reforming, partial oxidation of coal, electrolysis of water, and thermochemical reactions in fuel cells. Storage and transportation of the merchant hydrogen requires high capital expenditure. It is transported using high pressure cylinders. Some of the hydrogen gas is also transported through pipeline networks. Most refineries and petrochemical companies receive merchant hydrogen through pipelines directly from the hydrogen producers. Merchant hydrogen gas for the purpose of trading can be stored using different modes such as glass microspheres, cryoadsorption, encapsulation, metal hydrides, and chemically bound hydrogen.
Petroleum refineries require most of the hydrogen gas for ammonia production, followed by petroleum refining, and desulfurization. The merchant hydrogen gas market is expected to be driven by emphasis on clean energy production, rise in energy demand, increase in cost of fossil fuels, higher demand from petroleum refineries, and a rise in use of hydrogen in the food and beverage industry. Major restraints that can hamper the merchant hydrogen market are high cost of storage and transportation and safety concerns. North America is one of the dominant regions for merchant hydrogen production followed by Europe and Asia-Pacific. Demand for merchant hydrogen in Asia Pacific is anticipated to grow in the near future owing to growing demand of hydrogen gas from the food and beverage, petrochemical, petroleum refining, metallurgy, and power utility industries in the region.
Leading players in the merchant hydrogen market include Air Liquide SA, Linde AG, Praxair Inc., Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Airgas Inc., and Hydrogenics Corp.