Water Required to Produce Hydrogen

Water Required to Produce Hydrogen

Here is additional information about Hydrogen and Climate Change.

The special report explained that hydrogen is to be made using electrolysis, but didn’t establish how much water would be required each year for making all the hydrogen the United States would need to replace natural gas.

Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) and alkaline electrolyzers were studied by NREL,  which established the amount of water required to produce hydrogen using these processes. 

On average, it required 2.6 gallons of water to produce 1 kg, i.e., 2.2 pounds, of hydrogen.

Using data from the Special Report, Hydrogen and Climate Change, 1,560,000 acre feet of water are required to generate enough hydrogen to replace all the natural gas consumed in the United States, excluding natural gas used as feedstocks for making plastics, etc.

To put this quantity of water in perspective, we can compare it to Phoenix, Arizona’s water use, which is 1,380,000 acre feet, not including farming.

We can also compare it with the 1,500,000 acre feet of water transported each year by the Central Arizona Project serving 80% of the state’s population.

Photo of Central Arizona Project from CAP Website

The 1,500,000 acre feet of water required for producing hydrogen in the United States each year, overwhelms the availability of water in the Southwest.

Water requirements are a mis-match with solar generated electricity in America’s southwest.

The areas of the United States, where solar power is most economic for generating electricity, generally lack the necessary supplies of water.

Producing hydrogen using electrolysis would need to be done in areas where there is an abundance of fresh water. These areas, east of the Mississippi and in the Northwest,  would seem to favor the use of wind turbines for generating the required green electricity, except where hydro was also available.

Sea water is not yet a viable alternative to fresh water, and desalinization of sea water is too expensive.

When the residents of a city the size of Phoenix, Arizona, use as much water as is required to produce the hydrogen needed to meet the administration’s zero carbon goal, we know there is a problem.

Large quantities of fresh water are required to produce all the green hydrogen needed to replace natural gas in the United States.

See the full updated report, Hydrogen and Climate Change. 

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4 Replies to “Water Required to Produce Hydrogen”

  1. Regarding the need for large quantities of fresh water, global warming will help the release of all that water locked up in glaciers. For most of earth’s history, our planet was ice free.

  2. Come on Donn, always keen to read your opinions but this time you need to get real. I am sure you know that to complete all the steps required to produce a gallon of gasoline takes, on average, three to six gallons of water. The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas is about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline. Do your maths. if you don’t know now you know ….but the problem is that you know. Best Regards

    • Thanks for the data. I wasn’t sure what your original comment intended.
      No question it takes a lot of water to produce gasoline.
      I haven’t done the calculation, but maybe its a trade off … hydrogen for gasoline.
      We also use a lot of fresh water for fracking to get natural gas.
      Again, maybe it’s a trade off …. hydrogen for natural gas.
      In that respect you may be right, and I appreciate your bringing the point forward.
      The points I made in the report were: It takes a lot of water to produce hydrogen, and it will probably have to be done where solar isn’t the method for producing green electricity.
      The use of water was only one part of the conclusions. The primary conclusion is that it’s not safe to transport pure hydrogen using the natural gas transportation system, i.e, pipe network.

      There is an assumption in the statistic you cited that needs to be examined before any definitive comparison can be made.
      I know, for example, that 90% of the water used to generate electricity is retuned to the source, so it really isn’t consumed. Environmentalists always fail to mention that the vast amount of water used in generating electricity is returned to the source. How much of the water used to produce gasoline is also returned to its source? That’s a question for which it’s hard to get answers.
      Obviously all the water I included in my report was actually consumed. I didn’t include the use of cooling water.
      I’ll see how to bring more balance to my report since water is used to produce gasoline, and that is a fair point.