Hydrogen exists naturally on Earth but not in large quantities and so is produced industrially in several ways. By far the most common method is through steam-methane reforming (SMR) where the steam reacts with the natural gas (methane) at very high temperatures to produce syngas (a hydrogen/carbon monoxide mixture). Hydrogen can also be produced by using fossil fuels such as oil and coal or electrolysis of water, the smallest production method. In electrolysis, an electric current runs through an electrolyser and splits the water into oxygen and hydrogen molecules.
Hydrogen can be used as a fuel for combustion in space programmes or as a propellant for rockets in its liquid form, but it is more commonly used in its gaseous state. Oil refineries use hydrogen to make lower sulphur, cleaner burning transport fuels to reduce air pollution and the metals industries use hydrogen to reduce metal oxides and to prevent oxidation during heat-treating processes.
Hydrogen is used in semiconductor manufacturing to reduce atmospheres. In the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries, hydrogenation processes are used to combine hydrogen molecules with other compounds (for example oils and fats) and so help extend shelf life, modify properties or conduct highly selective transformations.
In the energy transport sector hydrogen is combined in a fuel cell with atmospheric oxygen to produce the electricity to run the vehicle motor. In flat or float glass production, blends of nitrogen and hydrogen are used to purge and capture any oxygen that is present, to prevent oxidation and glass defects.
Air Products offers liquid hydrogen and compressed hydrogen gas in a variety of purities and various modes of supply around the world thanks to our network of storage and transfill facilities.
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