A leading analysis company is predicting hydrogen will have a major role to play as European countries seek to de-carbonise their economies.

Hydrogen’s overall share in the energy mix will ultimately depend on the extent of decarbonisation that is desired, according to IHS Markit. In Europe, currently the primary market for hydrogen projects, hydrogen could account for as much as one third of the energy mix if the aim was 95% decarbonisation or greater.

“In Europe it is now widely agreed that electrification alone cannot deliver the level of emissions reduction that many countries aspire to,” said Catherine Robinson, IHS Markit executive director, European power, hydrogen and renewable gas. “Hydrogen is a highly versatile fuel – both in terms of how it can be transported and the variety of its potential end-use applications. The greater the degree of a decarbonisation, the greater the likely role of hydrogen in the energy future.”

New analysis by IHS Markit Hydrogen and Renewable Gas Forum also predicts that by 2030 production of carbon-free “green” hydrogen derived from water – which can be carbon-free provided the electricity used in the process is produced by renewables – could become cost competitive with the currently predominant methods that use of natural gas.

Green hydrogen produced by electrolysis – a process that uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen – is rapidly developing from pilot to commercial-scale operation in many parts of the world.

“Costs for producing green hydrogen have fallen 50% since 2015 and could be reduced by an additional 30% by 2025 due to the benefits of increased scale and more standardised manufacturing, among other factors,” said Simon Blakey, IHS Markit senior advisor, global gas.

“The work that we have done for the IHS Markit Hydrogen Forum,” added Blakey, “very much focuses on economies of scale as a way of reducing costs, developing dedicated renewables in order to get the load factor on the electrolyser up and, of course, continued expectations of falling costs for renewables.

Hydrogen production that uses natural gas as a feedstock, via a process known as methane reforming, currently supplies the hydrogen to the chemical and refining industries that today make up the bulk of global hydrogen demand.

“There is growing potential for hydrogen to be used in transport, heating, industry and power generation,” said Shankari Srinivasan, IHS Markit vice president, global and renewable gas.

“Blue and green hydrogen are extremely complementary. If they are developed in parallel, hydrogen will be able to make a big contribution to future energy demand, especially with the ambitious goals on carbon.”