Global blue hydrogen market to reach $34 billion, predicts IDTechEx

In its new report ‘Blue Hydrogen Production and Markets 2023-2033: Technologies, Forecasts, Players,’ technology company IDTechEx has forecasted that the global blue hydrogen market will grow to reach $34 billion by 2033.

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The company predicted that future blue hydrogen demand will be mainly driven by industrial clusters, encompassing many industries in one area, refining, ammonia, and methanol. In addition, other applications, such as steel production and mobility, will also begin to emerge.

IDTechEx said it expects that the majority of blue hydrogen capacity installations will come from Europe, particularly from countries like the UK that want to decarbonise their large industrial clusters with blue hydrogen and CCUS.

It added that significant growth will also come from North America, mainly due to an increase in the pace of development in the US driven by the Inflation Reduction Act and the development of many large-scale projects.

Blue hydrogen refers to the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels, mostly through natural gas reforming or coal gasification, in which most CO2 emissions are captured and stored or used in products via carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies.

The removal of most CO2 emissions means that the hydrogen produced is classified as low-carbon, and according to IDTechEx, low-carbon hydrogen production is one of the key paths to decarbonising hard-to-abate industries like oil refining, ammonia, steel, and long-haul transportation.

To note, this category also includes green hydrogen, which is produced through electrolysis powered by renewables.

CCUS infrastructure is being developed by companies worldwide to capture and store emissions from various industries by locating infrastructure near industrial clusters, and IDTechEx pointed out that those forces are accelerating blue hydrogen production, which is expected to grow as global decarbonisation efforts intensify.

There are different routes to producing blue hydrogen:

  • Conventional Thermochemical Processes (SMR, ATR, POX)
    • Steam-methane reforming (SMR) creates grey hydrogen and is today’s most developed and widely used hydrogen production process. It is an energy-intensive process emitting considerable amounts of CO2, and various technologies and materials, such as heat-integrated pre-reformers and structured catalysts, have been developed to improve it.
    • Partial oxidation (POX) and auto thermal reforming (ATR) have higher energy efficiencies and easier integration with carbon capture. IDTechEx said it believes that the self-heating ATR process will be the main process option for large-scale greenfield projects due to its many advantages over SMR, while POX may be more useful in converting low-value waste products from refineries to blue hydrogen.
  • Methane Pyrolysis
    • Methane pyrolysis is an emerging process that creates turquoise hydrogen and solid carbon compounds, usually in the form of carbon black. The field is dominated by start-ups and smaller-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). It can be subdivided into several categories.
  • Novel Thermochemical and Biomass-Based Processes
    • IDTechEx said that these processes will not account for a substantial portion of future production, but their assessment is still valuable because it provides insight into the technologies that could further innovate blue hydrogen production.

In its earlier report ‘Green Hydrogen Production: Electrolyzer Markets 2023-2033,’ IDTechEx forecasted the growth of electrolyzer and green hydrogen markets.

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