Understanding Hydrogen Fuel Production: The Fuel of the Future, MPG

Hydrogen fuel production is entering the forefront of sustainable energy production as a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuel use. The abundance of hydrogen lends itself to use as a fuel alternative. Is it the fuel of the future, or just a pipe dream?


There are many ways hydrogen fuel can be produced. Natural gas can be transformed through combining it with high heat steam, causing the gas to separate into carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, freeing the hydrogen to be used for fuel. Biomass gassification is the process of heating biological byproducts such as forestry wastes, straw, sewage and solid community wastes to extremely high temperatures in a reactor, producing a gas. This gas is then separated into carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, creating hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen can also be obtained through electrolysis of water. This process involves sending an electric current through water, splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen.

Coal can be transformed through gassification by heating to a high temperature in a reactor, producing gaseous coal. It's then converted to hydrogen gas, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide through the use of steam and oxygen. Carbon black and hydrogen process uses carbon based materials and heats them to a high temperature. Then the hydrocarbons are split through the use of a plasma burner. Once this occurs the products are cooled and filtered into carbon black and hydrogen.

Pros and Cons

Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth. In cars the only emission is water. Pound for pound hydrogen has more inert, inherent energy than regular gasoline, which could lead to higher gas mileage. On the flip side, the most abundant source of hydrogen is natural gas, a nonrenewable resource. A consistent storage system has yet to be found, as hydrogen is hard to store and contain. The use of energy to create an energy source seems counterintuitive. The development of stations comparable to gas stations would cost billions to develop.


While hydrogen fuel may be the fuel of the future, it will be a faraway future, 10 to 20 years at least. There are strong benefits to its development and production. Costs, if mass produced and distributed, could be less than $2 a gallon. Fuel cells are up to three times more efficient, leading to higher gas mileage. The drawbacks will be numerous, however. There is no infrastructure for mass use, which would cost billions to develop and would necessitate the cooperation of government, energy and automobile agencies.