The basics of hydrogen as a fuel and energy carrier, included safety information
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, though it is not found naturally on Earth. Hydrogen must be extracted from other sources. In its purest form, hydrogen is a non-toxic colorless and odorless gas.
Hydrogen (when used as a fuel), like electricity, is an energy carrier rather than an energy resource. Both electricity and hydrogen can be produced from all energy resources available (including, natural gas, petroleum products, coal, solar and wind electrolysis, biomass, and others). Hydrogen and electricity can be generated from greenhouse gas-neutral sources, addressing climate change and urban air quality problems. As with electricity, hydrogen can also be produced from sustainable domestic and renewable energy resources, such as wind or solar-powered electrolysis, which enhances our long term energy security.
Millions of metric tons of hydrogen are produced annually in the United States, which is enough to fuel tens of millions of FCVs. The current primary uses for hydrogen, however, are for the petroleum, ammonia for fertilizer, chemical, and food industries. For more information on developing hydrogen infrastructure for FCVs, check out the H2USA website here.
Today, 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States is made by industrial-scale natural gas reformation. This process is called fossil fuel reforming or steam methane reformation (SMR) and uses natural gas and steam to generate carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
Hydrogen has been safely produced and used in the U.S. and around the globe for nearly half a century. As with every fuel, safe handling practices are required but hydrogen is non-toxic and does not pose a threat to human or environmental health if released.
For more information on hydrogen codes, standards, and regulations, see our Codes and Standards Overview.
For more information on Hydrogen Safety, check out our Fact Sheet here.