Industry, mobility and energy plants need different hydrogen qualities

Industry, mobility and energy plants need different hydrogen qualities

Study identifies core questions

Not all hydrogen is the same

Hydrogen (H2) is a key energy carrier and enabler of the energy turnaround. It can be applied in various areas, from industry to mobility to catalytic processes (e.g. (petro-) chemistry, PtX-processes (Power-to-X) and energetic fields of application (e.g. heat market, regenerative power generation). But not all hydrogen is the same. The purity is a key determinant for the application of the climate-friendly energy carrier. On the one hand, for example, high-purity hydrogen is necessary for sensitive applications such as PEM fuel cells. On the other hand, burners like those in lime or cement factories can easily be operated with an H2/natural gas mixture.

Short study by Frontier

The GET H2 initiative and the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water (DVGW) have commissioned research institute DBI GUT and Frontier Economics and to find out which purity is required for which application, which parts of the value chain influence the hydrogen quality and what which steps need to be taken.

For the short study "H2-Rein - Wasserstoffqualität in einem gesamtdeutschen Wasserstoffnetz" (H2 Pure - Hydrogen Quality in an All-German Hydrogen Network) (future) hydrogen demand in different sectors was assessed based on a meta analysis of existing hydrogen studies in various fields of application and forecasts for hydrogen demand by 2045.

Hydrogen demand goes beyond fuel cells

The study reveals that hydrogen is not only needed for thermic applications and the use in fuel cells – rather, it is an important raw material for production processes in the chemical industry, in refineries and for PtX-products.  . The study provides an overview on the various purity requirements for hydrogen in the different sectors and fields of application.  

As a starting point for an evaluation of the hydrogen qualities, we have examined the different production methods and their temporal and spatial variants. There are different impurity levels of hydrogen associated with different production processes, resulting in the production of one or more side components. Both alkaline electrolysis and polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis allow purities of over 99.99% while hydrogen from CCS reforming and from methane pyrolysis needs to be refined to achieve this level of purity.

Existing pipelines enable safe and reliable hydrogen transport

The study also describes the effects that hydrogen transport in converted natural gas pipelines and storage in salt caverns can have on the hydrogen quality. In order to meet the quality requirements, hydrogen stored in cavern storage facilities needs to be purified when it is withdrawn from the storage facility. With existing pipelines being converted to transport hydrogen, their previous use is crucial, as it impacts the hydrogen quality. There are well established procedures available to adapt the hydrogen quality to the consumer's specifications. The DVGW has already proven in comprehensive studies that existing gas pipeline networks are perfectly suited to transport hydrogen in a safe and reliable way.

While these findings provide important indications as to which open questions about hydrogen quality still need to be resolved, the study also underlines the fact that the existing infrastructure with its plants, pipelines and storage facilities provides a powerful basis for the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy.

You can download the study here. For more information, visit or call +44 (0)20 7031 7000.