Green Hydrogen for Fertilizers and Chemicals

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Green hydrogen production is the generation of hydrogen gas (H2) using renewable energy sources, primarily through electrolysis. This process distinguishes it from conventional hydrogen production methods, which rely heavily on fossil fuels and contribute significantly to carbon emissions. In the chemical and fertilizer industries, green hydrogen is poised to replace fossil-derived hydrogen, enabling the creation of low-carbon chemicals and sustainable fertilizers.

Impact on climate action

Green Hydrogen Production revolutionizes low-carbon chemicals and fertilizers by offering a clean energy source for their production. By replacing conventional hydrogen production methods with renewable energy, it slashes carbon emissions, mitigating climate change. This innovation sets a precedent for sustainable industrial practices, fostering a greener future.


  • Electrolysis: Electrolysis uses electricity to split water (H2O) into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen. When powered by renewable sources like solar or wind energy, this process produces green hydrogen with minimal environmental impact.
  • Electrolyzer Technology: Various types of electrolyzers, including alkaline, PEM (proton exchange membrane), and solid oxide electrolyzers, are being developed and refined to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of green hydrogen production.
  • Renewable Energy Integration: Seamless integration with renewable energy sources is crucial for ensuring the sustainability of green hydrogen production. This involves synchronizing hydrogen production with the availability of renewable energy, managing intermittency challenges, and optimizing energy storage solutions.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Efficiency Electrolyzers: Continuous advancements in electrolyzer technology focus on improving energy efficiency, reducing costs, and increasing the durability of these systems. Some innovations include developing novel electrode materials, optimizing electrolyzer designs, and enhancing operational parameters.
  • Artificial Photosynthesis: Researchers are exploring artificial photosynthesis as a method for producing green hydrogen. This process mimics natural photosynthesis, utilizing sunlight and catalysts to split water and generate hydrogen.
  • Bio-based Hydrogen Production: Startups and research institutions are investigating biological methods for producing green hydrogen, leveraging microorganisms and biocatalysts to convert biomass or organic waste into hydrogen gas.
  • Integration with Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU): Combining green hydrogen production with CCU technologies can create a carbon-negative loop. Captured CO2 can be reacted with green hydrogen to produce synthetic fuels, chemicals, or fertilizers, further reducing emissions and creating value from captured carbon.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Renewable Electrolysis Advancements
  • Next-Gen Electrolyzer Development
  • Renewable Energy Synchronization
  • Intermittency Management Solutions
  • Novel Electrode Materials
  • Enhanced Electrolyzer Designs
  • Artificial Photosynthesis Techniques
  • Sunlight-driven Hydrogen Generation
  • Biological Hydrogen Production Methods
  • Waste-to-Hydrogen Technologies
  • Carbon Capture Integration Strategies
  • Green Hydrogen-Based Fuels
  • Sustainable Chemical Synthesis
  • Low-Carbon Fertilizer Production
  • Hydrogen-Powered Industrial Processes

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • ITM Power:
    • Technology Focus: ITM Power specializes in electrolysis-based hydrogen production, particularly emphasizing the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Their technology involves splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity.
    • Uniqueness: ITM Power stands out for its scalable electrolyzer technology, which can be integrated with renewable energy sources to produce green hydrogen on-site, offering a decentralized and sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuel-based hydrogen production.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions cater to various industries, including transportation, energy storage, chemical manufacturing, and renewable energy integration, where there’s a growing demand for green hydrogen as a clean energy carrier.
  • Nel Hydrogen:
    • Technology Focus: Nel Hydrogen is a leading global provider of electrolyzers for hydrogen production, with a focus on scalable and efficient solutions. They offer both alkaline and proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers, enabling flexibility in hydrogen production applications.
    • Uniqueness: Nel Hydrogen is known for its robust electrolyzer technology and comprehensive hydrogen solutions, including hydrogen generation, storage, and distribution systems. They offer modular and customizable solutions tailored to meet the specific needs of different industries and applications.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments span a wide range of industries, including transportation, power generation, industrial processes, and hydrogen refueling infrastructure, where there’s a growing interest in adopting green hydrogen as a sustainable energy carrier.
  • H2Pro:
    • Technology Focus: H2Pro focuses on advanced water electrolysis technology for green hydrogen production, with a unique emphasis on using renewable energy sources efficiently. They might employ novel catalysts and reactor designs to improve electrolyzer efficiency and reduce costs.
    • Uniqueness: H2Pro could stand out for its innovative approach to water electrolysis, leveraging breakthroughs in materials science and engineering to develop highly efficient and cost-effective electrolyzer systems for green hydrogen production.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions are likely targeted towards industries seeking sustainable hydrogen solutions, such as transportation, energy storage, industrial processes, and renewable energy integration, where green hydrogen can play a crucial role in decarbonization efforts.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech):
    • Technology Enhancements: Caltech researchers are innovating in the realm of green hydrogen production by developing novel catalysts and reactor designs. Their focus lies on improving the efficiency and sustainability of electrolysis processes for hydrogen generation using renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Caltech’s approach involves the integration of advanced materials science and chemical engineering principles to design highly efficient and durable catalysts for water splitting. They are also exploring novel reactor configurations to enhance mass and energy transfer, thereby improving overall process efficiency.
    • End-use Applications: The green hydrogen produced at Caltech has diverse applications, including fuel cells for transportation, energy storage systems, and industrial processes such as ammonia production for fertilizers. By enabling the widespread adoption of green hydrogen, Caltech’s research contributes to decarbonizing various sectors of the economy.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are pushing the boundaries of green hydrogen production through advancements in electrochemical technologies and process optimization. They are developing innovative electrolysis systems that operate at high efficiency and low cost, leveraging cutting-edge materials and manufacturing techniques.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s research emphasizes the integration of renewable energy sources with hydrogen production to achieve carbon neutrality. They are exploring synergies between solar and wind power generation and electrolysis, aiming to create a sustainable hydrogen economy with minimal environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The green hydrogen developed at MIT holds promise for various applications, including energy storage, clean fuel for transportation, and feedstock for low-carbon chemical synthesis. By driving down the cost and improving the scalability of green hydrogen production, MIT’s research accelerates the transition to a carbon-neutral energy system.
  • Stanford University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Stanford researchers are at the forefront of green hydrogen production research, focusing on novel catalyst design, reactor engineering, and system integration. They are developing efficient electrocatalysts and membrane technologies to enhance the performance and durability of electrolysis systems.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Stanford’s approach combines fundamental research in chemistry and materials science with applied engineering solutions to address key challenges in green hydrogen production. They are exploring new materials, such as metal-organic frameworks and perovskite oxides, for catalyzing water splitting reactions with high activity and selectivity.
    • End-use Applications: The green hydrogen produced at Stanford has a wide range of applications, including grid-scale energy storage, hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles and stationary power generation, and synthetic fuel production for aviation and maritime transport. By advancing the state-of-the-art in green hydrogen technology, Stanford’s research contributes to the global effort to mitigate climate change and transition to a sustainable energy future.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Green hydrogen production is rapidly moving from the pilot stage to commercial implementation. Several industrial-scale green hydrogen projects are being developed worldwide. For example:

  • H2 Green Steel: This Swedish company is building a fossil-free steel production facility that will utilize green hydrogen produced from renewable energy.
  • Yara International: This Norwegian fertilizer company is integrating green hydrogen into its ammonia production process to create low-carbon fertilizers.
  • Air Liquide: This French industrial gas company is investing heavily in green hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure, targeting various industrial applications.