How is hydrogen produced?

28 Jul 2023

As we all know, hydrogen is an energy carrier and, consequently, does not occur in nature as an isolated element. It is precisely because of this characteristic that it needs to be produced in combination with other elements that, through processes and manufacturing, enable it to be used.

The use of hydrogen has many advantages, especially in view of industrial decarbonisation and sectors that want to help speed up the energy transition.

In fact, this energy carrier is already being used in several areas and by several companies in their own plants.

But how is it produced?

Let us look at it together.

What are the main production methods

Hydrogen can be produced in different ways, and to understand the role it can play within the decarbonisation of modern society, one must distinguish production processes according to the energy source used.

One of the great advantages is its flexibility. Indeed, it can be produced using various types of raw materials, energy resources and production processes:

  • from hydrocarbons, i.e. fossil energy sources such as oil, coal and natural gas
  • from renewable sources: solar, wind, hydro

This diversity of potential sources of supply is the most important reason why hydrogen is an energy carrier that may prove crucial for the future of the planet.

In concrete terms, hydrogen is obtained through production processes that use different methodologies and are characterised by very different environmental impacts.

Hydrogen production from fossil fuels

Hydrogen production technologies from fossil fuels are already widely used and cause the emission of huge amounts of CO2 .

This is why, in view of the decarbonisation project initiated by the European Union, they should be progressively reduced to a standstill. Let us look at them together:

    Want to know more? Read also about strategies to make Italy a hydrogen hub

    Steam reforming

    Natural gas reforming, also called steam methane reforming or SMR, is the most widely used process for extracting hydrogen. It owes its name to the reaction obtained through heat treatment. First, methane is broken down into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, then with the presence of a catalyst in a methane steam reforming unit, a reaction occurs in which water and gas exchange and produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen. This process generates carbon dioxide and is therefore unfortunately not environmentally sustainable.

    Non-catalytic partial oxidation of hydrocarbons

    The non-catalytic partial oxidation of hydrocarbons is the high temperature transformation of heavy hydrocarbons. Through a controlled reaction between fuel and oxygen, carbon dioxide, oxygen and high heat are obtained.

    Again, this is environmentally unfriendly because it generates carbon dioxide emissions.

    Coal gasification

    Coal gasification is a thermochemical process by which solid fuel materials are converted into gaseous compounds.

    Generally speaking, this process consists of the partial oxidation of coal (consisting of carbon, heavy hydrocarbons, ash and other elements), which has previously been reduced to powder and transformed into gaseous fuel, consisting mainly of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and light hydrocarbons. The heat required for the partial oxidation is provided by mixing the water vapour with some oxygen so that the exothermic reaction also takes place.

    There are three different methods, depending on the gasifier that is used:

    • entrained flow, entrained bed
    • fluidised bed
    • moving bed

    Hydrogen production from renewable sources

    If produced by renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power), hydrogen can be generated without significant carbon dioxide emissions.

    Water electrolysis

    Among the various processes that make it possible to obtain hydrogen from water by splitting it into its components (hydrogen and oxygen) is electrolysis.

    Specifically, this is a chemical transformation process using electrical energy, and the energy required to break water down into its two elements is essentially that ‘stored’ in the hydrogen itself.

    In a nutshell, this process allows water molecules to be broken down through an electrolyser capable of separating oxygen from hydrogen.

    Currently, hydrogen produced by electrolysis is the only fuel that does not generate any pollutants.


    Harnessing energy from biomass makes it possible to eliminate waste produced by human activities, producing electricity and thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels such as oil.

    There are two main ways in which biomass can be converted for energy use:

    • gasification
    • pyrolysis

    Hydrogen Simplifhy Solutions

    As the effects of climate change worsen, it is necessary to use more sustainable production methods, which is why at Simplifhy we propose various solutions and technologies based on the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier and alternative fuel.

    At Simplifhy we propose different solutions for hydrogen production:

    • H2-BASIC for optional hydrogen production and storage
    • H2-POWER for the storage and reuse of renewable energy
    • H2-FULL, a complete modular solution
    • H2-OXY, a modular cabinet that can extract oxygen
    • HYPER-GEN for generating electricity from renewable sources

    Our strength lies in proposing customised solutions, designed to meet the specific needs of each customer.

    Discover all our applications and solutions based on hydrogen technology.

    In Simplifhy we offer strategies and systems for the decarbonisation of industry, through deployment of Hydrogen-based technologies as an alternative fuel.

    Our plants are tailoredaccording to the necessities of each specific project.

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