Hydrogen production is a large and growing industry. Globally, some 50 million metric tons of hydrogen, equal to about 170 million tons of oil equivalent, were produced in 2004. The growth rate is around 10% per year. Within the United States, 2004 production was about 11 million metric tons (MMT), an average power flow of 48 gigawatts. (For comparison, the average electric production in 2003 was some 442 gigawatts.) As of 2005, the economic value of all hydrogen produced worldwide is about $135 billion per year.


There are two primary uses for hydrogen today. About half is used to produce ammonia (NH3) via the Haber process, which is then used directly or indirectly as fertilizer. Because both the world population and the intensive agriculture used to support it are growing, ammonia demand is growing. The other half of current hydrogen production is used to convert heavy petroleum sources into lighter fractions suitable for use as fuels. This latter process is known as hydrocracking.


Currently, global hydrogen production is 48% from natural gas, 30% from oil, and 18% from coal; water electrolysis accounts for only 4%.


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