27 Jan 2023, Blog, General

A Hydrogen Economy Primer

These days, news feeds seem to be filled with headlines about ‘the hydrogen economy.’ We have a little background in that area, so we thought we’d weigh in with a rundown on what it’s all about.

It’s a rare news day lately when a headline related to the hydrogen economy isn’t front and centre. The idea of a hydrogen economy has garnered a lot of attention in recent months as governments plan to rebuild from the impact of COVID-19 and align themselves with global emissions agreements.

But exactly what is the hydrogen economy and what does this mean for our industry?

What is the hydrogen economy?

The term ‘Hydrogen Economy’ refers to the vision of using hydrogen as a clean, low-carbon energy resource to meet the world’s energy needs.

Why hydrogen?

Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell like SFC Energy’s EFOY Hydrogen 2.5 produces only water, electricity and heat. Governments around the world say hydrogen and fuel cells will play an important role in emissions reduction strategies. Uses could include distributed or combined-heat-and-power, backup power, systems for storing and enabling renewable energy, portable power and auxiliary power for a range of vehicles.

Why is this gaining so much traction now?

There are a couple of reasons:

  1. Post-pandemic economic recovery: In many countries, green infrastructure investments are key to post-pandemic economic stimulus plans. Canada’s government has stated that the energy sector, which will play a significant role in hydrogen production, is critical to supporting the restart and recovery of the economy as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  2. The Paris Agreement: Canada was among 73 countries that signed the Paris Agreement, committing to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Most nations agree that hydrogen will play a central role in helping them to meet emissions goals. This agreement has been in the limelight since January when US President Joe Biden affirmed his country’s commitment.

Where does Hydrogen come from?

Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element on earth, but it doesn’t occur naturally in a pure, usable form. It must be produced from other compounds like e.g. renewable energy, natural gas and water. Although hydrogen always generates carbon-free energy, methods of producing the hydrogen result in a range of emissions. This range is typically listed by colour, and these colours are the ones most commonly used:

Grey hydrogen Most hydrogen nowadays comes from natural gas: it is bonded with carbon and can be separated from it via a process involving water called “steam reforming,” but the excess carbon generates CO2, which is not captured.

Blue hydrogen is also derived from fossil fuels, but includes any number of carbon capture, storage and sequestration technologies to reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%.

Green hydrogen uses electricity from renewable energy sources to break down into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen molecules. This method has traditionally been the least common and most expensive type of hydrogen, but the technology for this process has been improving.

SFC Energy is already contributing to a greener, emission-free world with the production of hydrogen fuel cells.

Find out more about our hydrogen fuel cells


The Hydrogen Strategy for Canada, Seizing the Opportunities for Hydrogen, The Government of Canada, December 2020

Getting Back to Work: Natural Gas Vision and Strategy, The Government of Alberta, October 2020