Last updated on: 1/5/2009 12:55:00 PM PST
How Is Hydrogen Fuel Made?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, stated the following in his Jan. – Feb. 2003 article "The Hydrogen Economy: After Oil, Clean Energy from a Fuel-Cell-Driven Global Hydrogen Web," published by E magazine:

"Chemically bound hydrogen is found everywhere on Earth: in water, fossil fuels and all living things. Yet, it rarely exists free floating in nature. Instead, it has to be extracted from water or from hydrocarbons. Today, nearly half the hydrogen produced in the world is derived from natural gas via a steam reforming process. The natural gas reacts with steam in a catalytic converter. The process strips away the hydrogen atoms, leaving carbon dioxide as the byproduct (and, unfortunately, releasing it to the atmosphere as a global warming gas). Coal can also be reformed through gasification to produce hydrogen, but this is more expensive than using natural gas and also releases CO2, which scientists hope to keep earthbound through a process called 'carbon sequestration.' Hydrogen can also be processed from gasoline or methanol...

There is, however, another way to produce hydrogen without using fossil fuels in the process. Renewable sources of energy--PV, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass--can be harnessed to produce electricity. The electricity, in turn, can be used, in a process called electrolysis, to split water into hydrogen and oxygen."

Jan. - Feb. 2003 - Jeremy Rifkin 

The US Department of Energy stated the following in its Nov. 2002 document "The National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap," available at its website:

"Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of sources, including fossil fuels; renewable sources such as wind, solar, or biomass; nuclear or solar heat-powered thermo chemical reactions; and solar photolysis or biological methods...

Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it does not naturally exist in large quantities or high concentrations on Earth—it must be produced from other compounds such as water, biomass, or fossil fuels. Various methods of production have unique needs in terms of energy sources (e.g., heat, light, electricity) and generate unique by-products or emissions...

Steam methane reforming accounts for 95 percent of the hydrogen produced in the United States. This is a catalytic process that involves reacting natural gas or other light hydrocarbons with steam to produce a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The mixture is then separated to produce high-purity hydrogen...

Partial oxidation of fossil fuels in large gasifiers is another method of thermal hydrogen production. It involves the reaction of a fuel with a limited supply of oxygen to produce a hydrogen mixture, which is then purified. Partial oxidation can be applied to a wide range of hydrocarbon feedstocks, including natural gas, heavy oils, solid biomass, and coal...

Hydrogen can also be produced by using electricity in electrolyzers to extract hydrogen from water."

Nov. 2002 - United States Department of Energy (DOE) 
"The National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap" (2MB)  

George Monbiot, Visiting Professor of Planning at Oxford Brookes University, wrote in his 2007 book Heat: How To Stop The Planet From Burning, that:

"Hydrogen is made from coal mostly by bashing the fuel into powder and passing steam and oxygen through it. It is made from natural gas by heating it and reacting it with steam. It is made through electrolysis – as anyone who didn't manage to escape from their chemistry lessons at school will remember – by passing an electric current through water. The last method is the philosopher's stone. The electricity could be produced from renewable power."

2007 - George Monbiot 

The Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy policy research institute, stated in its factsheet "Where Does Hydrogen Come From," available at www.rmi.org (accessed Dec. 19, 2008):

"[H]ydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe, and is very common on earth. Hydrogen is the simplest of atoms, composed of one proton and one electron. But pure, diatomic hydrogen (H2) —the fuel of choice for fuel cells — does not like to exist naturally. Because hydrogen easily combines with other elements, we are most likely to find it chemically bound in water, biomass, or fossil fuels.

To get hydrogen into a useful form, we must extract it from one of these substances. This process requires energy...

Water electrolysis involves passing an electric current through H2O to separate it into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). Hydrogen gas rises from the negative cathode and oxygen gas collects at the positive anode.

Electrolysis produces extremely pure hydrogen, which is necessary for some types of fuel cells. But a significant amount of electricity is required to produce a usable amount of hydrogen from electrolysis...

Hydrogen can also be extracted or 'reformed' from natural gas. A two-step process at temperatures reaching 1100°C in the presence of a catalyst makes four parts hydrogen from one part methane and two parts water (CH4 + 2 H2O >>> 4 H2 + CO2)...

Hydrogen can be extracted from hydrogen-rich biomass sources like wood chips and agricultural waste. When heated in a controlled atmosphere, biomass converts to synthesis gas, which primarily consists of carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and hydrogen (H2)...

Photoelectrolysis uses sunlight to split water into its components via a semi-conducting material sandwich. It is roughly like immersing a photovoltaic cell in water, whereby the incoming light stimulates the semiconductor to split H2O directly into its constituent gases...

Certain species of green algae produce hydrogen in the presence of sunlight."

Dec. 19, 2008 - Rocky Mountain Institute