Skip to main content

Hydrogen Production

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 can be used to produce hydrogen from biomass and from fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and petroleum. Power generated from sunlight, wind and nuclear sources can be used to produce hydrogen electrolytically. Sunlight alone can also drive photolytic production of hydrogen from water, using advanced photoelectrochemical and photobiological processes.

This DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program activity is focused on advancing cost-effective, efficient production of hydrogen from renewable, fossil and nuclear energy resources.

Hydrogen from Natural Gas

The Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and Fossil Energy (FE) are working to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen via steam methane reforming. EERE is focused on distributed hydrogen production from natural gas and bio-derived liquid feedstocks and FE is focused on sub-centralized and centralized hydrogen production. Although hydrogen from natural gas is certainly a viable near-term option, it is not viewed by DOE as a long-term solution because it does not help solve the green house gas (GHG) or energy security issues.

Photo of the Tampa Electric Clean Coal Plant. Clean coal processes can produce hydrogen and electricity.

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, in associated programs, as an option for managing and stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired plants.

Hydrogen from Nuclear Power

Research sponsored by the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is focused on developing the commercial-scale production of hydrogen using heat from a nuclear energy system. Key research areas include high-temperature thermochemical cycles, high-temperature electrolysis, and reactor/process interface issues.

Photo of wind turbines and electrolyzer. Wind can provide the power needed to run an electrolyzer, producing clean, renewable hydrogen.

Hydrogen from Renewable Resources

Research sponsored by EERE is focused on developing advanced technologies for producing hydrogen from domestic renewable energy resources that minimize environmental impacts. Key research areas include electrolysis, thermochemical conversion of biomass, photolytic and fermentative micro-organism systems, photoelectrochemical systems, and high-temperature chemical cycle water splitting.

Basic Research

In Office of Science's basic research program, a major emphasis will be placed on fundamental understanding of photoinduced water splitting that uses the energy of sunlight to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen by semiconductors or photocatalytic assemblies. To enable more efficient, lower-cost fossil-based hydrogen production, fundamental research in catalysis, membranes, and gas separation will be emphasized.