Market to watch: hydrogen market

Hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe. Ninety percent of all the universe’s atoms are hydrogen. Many people are familiar with hydrogen as a potential fuel source, thanks to its promotion as a potential alternative fuel, and all of us consume hydrogen every day, in the water we drink and the foods we eat.

Applications of hydrogen

Hydrogen finds use in diverse applications covering many industries, including petroleum industry, energy, fuel cells, food, chemical processing, metal production, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and semiconductor industry. Various applications for mass flow controllers exist:

  • Hydrogenation: the addition of hydrogen (H2) to produce a chemical reaction with organic compounds (hydrocarbons). It is a hugely important and widely used process in the food industry where, for example H2 molecules are added to unsaturated vegetable oils and fats.

  • Fuel Cells:  hydrogen is the most suitable fuel for fuel cells. A fuel cell directly converts chemical energy of hydrogen into electrical energy. A large advantage of the electrochemical conversion is the higher efficiency that can be obtained. Various applications of Mass Flow Controllers exist in the fuel cell (test) market. For more information, you can read our brochure.
    Flow Research presented projections that the fuel cells segment is the industrial segment with the second largest growth percentage (after LED lighting): 6.5%. Market size of MFC sales are estimated at $ 6.7 million in 2011. The largest markets for fuel cells are according to Flow Research North America and Western Europe.

  •  Cooling gas: Hydrogen is used as a high-performance gaseous coolant. Its thermal conductivity is higher than all other gases; it has high specific heat capacity, low density and therefore low viscosity, which is an advantage for rotary machines susceptible to windage losses. Hydrogen-cooled turbogenerators are currently the most common electrical generators in large power plants. In these applications, mass flow meters are often used to monitor the consumption of H2-gas.

Growth projections

Various market research firms presented growth projections of the hydrogen market throughout the world. In 2010, the Freedonia Group predicted world hydrogen demand to grow from 96 billion cubic meters in 2003 to 475 billion cubic meters in 2013. Big growth drivers are petroleum refining enterprises that require more hydrogen to produce low-sulfur fuels. Besides growth is expected in chemical, semiconductor, float glass, metal components and food industries. In 2010, North America was the world’s largest hydrogen consumer, but Freedonia said that trends indicated that the Asia/Pacific region would jump from third to first place in the consumption roster.
A report from Global Industry Analysts Inc. (2012) suggested that the hydrogen production and storage technologies market will grow to $ 1.4 billion by 2019. This market growth is due to numerous factors, including the rising price of oil and the increasing focus that alternative energy is receiving from the global community and governments. Major shortcomings are the production and storage technologies that are currently available.
A report of Taiyou Research (2012) highlighted the emerging fuel cell market and made note of the several challenges still facing widespread commercialization. Hydrogen is widely considered to be the fastest growing industry in developed parts of the world. If fuel cells continue to gain momentum, hydrogen growth is expected to pick up speed in the coming years. One of the pitfalls the report notes is the high costs of fuel cells, which is due to their use of expensive materials. The availability of hydrogen for use in transportation is also somewhat limited, which will make it difficult for hydrogen-powered vehicles to gain a foothold with consumers. However, many projects have been initiated to further develop this.

Conclusion

It can be concluded that various companies think that the hydrogen market will grow in the future. Therefore, we think it’s worthwile to investigate what the possibilities for Bronkhorst products are in the hydrogen market in your country.