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Hydrogen is the simplest element on Earth and also the most plentiful gas in the universe. Each atom of hydrogen has only one proton. Despite its simplicity and abundance, hydrogen does not occur naturally on Earth. It is always found in combination with other elements. Water, for example, is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is also found in many organic compounds, notably the “hydrocarbons” that make up fuels such as gasolinenatural gas, methanol, and propane.

Getting hydrogen in its pure form is a challenge. Hydrogen can be produced in large, central facilities (50–300 miles from point of use), smaller semi-central (located within 25–100 miles of use) and distributed (near or at point of use). The two most common methods used to produce hydrogen are steam reforming and electrolysis (water splitting)

  • Other:Research is also underway to develop other methods used to produce hydrogen. These methods include using microbes that use light to make hydrogen, converting biomass into liquids and separating the hydrogen, and using solar energy technologies to split hydrogen from water molecules.

  • Steam reforming:a high-temperature process in which steam reacts with a hydrocarbon fuel to produce hydrogen. Many hydrocarbon fuels can be reformed to produce hydrogen, including natural gas, dieselrenewable liquid fuelsgasified coal, or gasified biomass. Today, about 95% of all hydrogen is produced from steam reforming of natural gas.

  • Electrolysis:a process that splits hydrogen from water using an electric current. Electrolysis does not produce any emissions other than hydrogen and oxygen. However, if the electricity used in the process is produced from fossil fuels, then there are pollution and carbon dioxide emissions indirectly associated with electrolysis. However, the electricity used in electrolysis can also come from renewable sources like wind and solar.

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