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How is hydrogen produced?

Hydrogen is the most common element, making up over 90% of the universe. Here on earth, it is usually combined with other elements like oxygen (to make water) or carbon (in plants, for example). You can't see it, smell it or taste it, but it is an incredibly useful energy source that is all around us. This is why we call hydrogen a "universal" fuel.

Because it is normally combined with other elements, we must separate the hydrogen to produce it for use as a fuel. This is done by different methods, using heat, electrolysis, or simple chemical reactions. The actual method used depends on the source the hydrogen is being separated from. But what makes hydrogen so special is that it can be produced from a variety of different sources, such as water, plants, natural gas and even algae.

Although hydrogen fueled buses, forklifts and cell phone towers might be new, hydrogen's not. About 9 billion kilograms of hydrogen is produced each year in the United States. It's either used where it's made, trucked around the country, or distributed through pipelines in some areas. Hydrogen has been used for decades by the agriculture and oil production industries. Even the food you eat can contain hydrogen - ever heard the term "hydrogenated”? Take a look at a jar of peanut butter or the wrapper of a Starburst: they are both made with hydrogen!

For now, most of the hydrogen produced today is made in large refineries from natural gas, to make fertilizer and to make cleaner gasoline. The overall goal is to move away from fossil fuels and produce hydrogen from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources.

Source: National Hydrogen Association

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