Sunday 4 September 2022


This commodity may be new to the African economies, and hence, we would like to know the *uses of hydrogen* in modern economies.

The 10 common uses of hydrogen are:

1. hydrogen fuel cells are used to generate electricity and heat. It has very high energy content by weight - a very special energy characteristic!

2. fertilizer production

(ammonia manufacture,  consuming about two-thirds of the world's hydrogen production)

3. methanol production

4. petroleum refining

5. rocket fuel

6. filling balloons

7. production of hydrochloric acid

8. welding and reduction of metallic ores

9. fuel for transportation

10. hydrogenation of oils and fats

Let us put aside the uses of hydrogen's isotopes, including tritium (3H) which is produced in nuclear reactors and may be used to produce hydrogen bombs.


Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe. It is found in the Sun, in most Stars. The planet Jupiter is made up of mostly hydrogen.

Besides it's vast abundance, hydrogen makes up only about 0.14% of Earth's crust by weight, and on the Earth it occurs in large quantities in the atmosphere, is a component of water (hydrogen combined with oxygen) in oceans, lakes, rivers, icesheets, glaciers, etc

*Production of Hydrogen*

The basic concept used in its production  is that of its separation from other elements in compounds (or molecules) containing it.

Thus, the 4 main sources of hydrogen are:

1. Natural Gas

(method: steam- methane reforming)

2. Water 

(method: hydrolysis, splitting water using electricity)

3. Coal

4. Oil


In 2020, the demand for hydrogen was 87 million metric tonnes and projections indicate that it (demand) will reach 500-680 million metric tonnes by 2050.

Its (hydrogen) market was valued at US$ 130 billion in 2020 to 2021, and may grow up to 9.2% annually till 2030.

*Today, CHINA is the largest producer of hydrogen, at approx 25 million metric tonnes, more than a quarter of the world's production!

China produces hydrogen from:

*Coal: 60%

*Natural Gas: 25%

*Feedstocks in refineries and other chemical facilities

China is also the biggest consumer of hydrogen in the world, at more than 24 million metric tonnes annually.

Will Africa have a stake in global hydrogen market?

Will Africa use its natural resources, e.g. water, coal, oil and natural gas to produce hydrogen for the global market?

*Contribution by:*

*Sospeter Muhongo*

Officer, Ordre Palmes Academìques

*Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of London, (est. 1807)

*Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of America (est. 1888)

*Honorary Reserach Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences (est. 1956)

*Editor-in Chief Emeritus of the Journal of African Earth Sciences, published by Elsevier.


Friday, 2.9.2022

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