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Low-emission hydrogen production set to more than triple by 2026: IEA report

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As per International Energy Agency's (IEA) Medium-Term Gas Report 2023, low-emission hydrogen production is set to triple over the medium term at the global level, primarily led by project developments in China, Europe and North America. Considering those clean H2 projects in mature phases of development, the output may reach 2 Mt/yr (6 bcmeq) by 2026, the report predicts. 

However, despite this rapid growth projections, the current pace of project development may be insufficient to reach the ambitious targets set in certain regions, it adds. Low-emission hydrogen production remained broadly flat in 2022, with output estimated at 0.7 Mt, amounting to just 0.7 percent of the total hydrogen output. 

The report mentions that a majority of the said low-emission hydrogen was produced from fossil fuels with CCUS. Natural gas with CCUS had accounted for just over half of the global output. Low-emission hydrogen production via water electrolysis, on the other hand, grew by around 35 percent in 2022, although it continued to be small, with output estimated at less than 100,000 t H2. 

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Citing its Hydrogen Projects Database, IEA predicts that projects at various stages of development could increase global low-emission hydrogen production up to 12 Mt (36 bcmeq) by 2026. Water electrolysis would account for around 75 percent of this potential growth. 

However, the report finds that a majority of these projects are either undertaking feasibility studies or at the concept phase. Only about 20 percent of them are in mature phases of development, whose output may push up the H2 production to 2 Mt/yr (6 bcmeq) by 2026, it claims. 

From a regional perspective, low-emission hydrogen production remains dominated by North America, accounting for around two-thirds of global output. In the coming period, production growth will be largely supported by North America, with a share of incremental supply of more than 40 percent over the forecast period, followed by China (20 percent) and Europe (17 percent), according to the report. 

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More importantly, the IEA opines that water electrolysis will be contributing to about 50 percent of incremental low-emission hydrogen supply by 2026. Electrolyzer capacity is projected to reach around 14 GW by 2026, with China alone accounting for 40 percent of total installed capacity, followed by Europe (25 percent), the Middle East (20 percent) and North America (less than 10 percent). 

Further, the electrolytic hydrogen production in the EU would reach 0.25 Mt by 2026, leaving a significant gap to reach the 10 Mt/yr target by 2030, the report notes. Low-emission hydrogen produced from fossil fuels with CCUS is expected to grow at a slower pace, although is projected to account for 50 percent of incremental supply in the forecast period. 

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