The DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program activities for hydrogen production are focused on early-stage research advancing efficient and cost-effective production of hydrogen from diverse domestic sources, including renewable, fossil, and nuclear energy resources. Hydrogen production is a critical component of the H2@Scale initiative, which explores the potential for integration of hydrogen into our energy and industrial infrastructure.
Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic feedstocks using a variety of process technologies. Hydrogen-containing compounds such as fossil fuels, biomass, or even water can be a source of hydrogen. Thermochemical processes are used to produce hydrogen from fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal or from renewable sources such as biomass. Electricity generated from sunlight, wind, and nuclear sources can be used to electrolytically produce hydrogen from water. Sunlight by itself can also be used to directly produce hydrogen from water using advanced photoelectrochemical, thermochemical, and photobiological processes.
Hydrogen from Natural Gas
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Fossil Energy (FE) are working to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen via steam methane reforming. EERE is focused on innovative technologies for distributed hydrogen production from natural gas and bio-derived feedstocks. FE is focused on sub-centralized and centralized hydrogen production and on investigating carbon sequestration technologies for capture and utilization of carbon dioxide emissions. Although hydrogen from natural gas is commercially viable today, it is viewed by DOE as a bridge technology to enable future energy scenarios where hydrogen is sustainably produced using all the diverse domestic resources.
Hydrogen from Coal
Research sponsored by the Office of Fossil Energy is focused on advancing the technologies needed to produce hydrogen from coal-derived synthesis gas and to build and operate a zero emissions, high-efficiency co-production power plant that will produce hydrogen from coal along with electricity. FE is also investigating carbon sequestration technologies to address carbon dioxide capture and utilization from coal-based processes.
Hydrogen from Nuclear Power
Research sponsored by the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is focused on developing the industrial-scale production of hydrogen using the heat and electricity from nuclear energy systems. Key research areas include high-temperature thermochemical cycles, high-temperature electrolysis, and reactor/process interface issues. Hybrid nuclear-renewable energy systems for providing clean, secure, and abundant domestic power are also under investigation.
Hydrogen from Renewable Resources
Early-stage research sponsored by EERE is focused on developing advanced technologies for producing hydrogen from domestic renewable energy resources with minimal environmental impacts. Ongoing research areas include electrolysis at low and high temperatures, photoelectrochemical and solar thermochemical water splitting, thermochemical conversion of biomass, as well as microbial-based conversion of biomass and waste streams.
The Energy Materials Network advanced water splitting materials consortium, HydroGEN, is specifically focused on accelerating research and development of advanced water splitting technologies for clean and sustainable hydrogen production from domestic renewable energy resources. HydroGEN facilitates collaborative research, offering industry and academic researchers streamlined access to the world-class facilities at DOE's national laboratories. The consortium offers more than 80 unique capabilities with state-of-the-art equipment and expertise relevant to the advanced water-splitting technologies of low- and high-temperature electrolysis as well as photoelectrochemical and solar thermochemical water splitting.
The Office of Science's Office of Basic Energy Sciences focuses on fundamental research of matter and energy, offering scientific insights that can facilitate the advancement of hydrogen production technologies. As an example, research to develop a fundamental understanding of light-matter interactions is being applied to photo-induced water-splitting systems that use the energy of sunlight to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen by semiconductors or photocatalytic assemblies. Fundamental research in catalysis, membranes, and gas separation is also being used to enable more efficient, lower-cost fossil-based hydrogen production.