Hydrogen Production: Advantages & Disadvantages of Different Methods


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Hydrogen, often hailed as the fuel of the future, is a versatile energy carrier that can be produced from a wide array of sources and processes. Depending on the production method, hydrogen is classified into several types, each characterized by its environmental impact and feedstock. Despite being a colorless gas, hydrogen production methods are categorized in color-based groups (similar to the concept behind “white noise” or “brown noise”). These colors typically reference an aspect of the production process or outcome. Here, we’ll outline some of the more common hydrogen production methods being used and explored to power our future.

Hydrogen Production Through Electrolysis | Green Hydrogen Electrolysis | Blue Hydrogen vs Green Hydrogen | Green and Blue Hydrogen | Green Blue and Brown HydrogenGreen Hydrogen

Green hydrogen is the cleanest method, resulting in zero carbon emissions when produced using renewable energy sources. Green hydrogen is hydrogen electrolysis from water, splitting the molecules to create pure hydrogen.


  • Zero emissions when produced with renewable energy.
  • Promotes the use of renewable energy sources.
  • Can help in balancing the grid by utilizing excess renewable power.


  • High production costs compared to other methods.
  • Requires significant investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Brown Hydrogen

On the other end of the spectrum is brown hydrogen. A broad definition of brown hydrogen is hydrogen produced by any method using fossil fuels. More specifically, brown hydrogen is produced through gasification of lignite (brown coal), and black hydrogen is produced through the gasification of coal. Both of these methods are carbon-intensive and release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere as a byproduct of production.


  • Well-established method and technology
  • In coal-rich regions, there is abundant feedstock


  • Highest carbon emissions of all production methods
  • Negative environmental and health impact due to coal and fossil fuel use

Blue & Grey Hydrogen

Blue hydrogen is a solid middle ground, environmentally-speaking, when it comes to hydrogen production. Blue and grey hydrogen both use natural gas (CH4) to produce pure hydrogen through a steam methane reforming (SMR) process. Blue hydrogen production includes carbon capture and storage (CCS) to offset the carbon emissions, while grey hydrogen does not capture any released carbon. About 95% of hydrogen produced today comes from one of these two methods.


  • Lower carbon emissions than brown or black hydrogen.
  • Blue hydrogen has a lower carbon footprint than grey hydrogen
  • Can leverage existing natural gas infrastructure


  • Grey hydrogen still has a significant carbon footprint
  • Carbon capture is expensive
  • Methane leaks (natural gas) are possible during the process

Hydrogen Production Through Electrolysis | Pink Hydrogen | What Is Pink Hydrogen | Blue Green Pink Grey HydrogenPink Hydrogen

Pink hydrogen is more similar to green hydrogen in that it is also hydrogen electrolysis from water, but pink hydrogen uses nuclear power instead of renewable energy sources. Though nuclear power itself is somewhat polarizing in public perception, pink hydrogen comes with a relatively small carbon footprint. Pink hydrogen is often also called red or purple hydrogen.


  • Low carbon emissions (there is no carbon in water!)
  • Highly efficient and stable supply of hydrogen
  • No fossil fuels are used in the process


  • Nuclear power has strong public detractors
  • Nuclear power creates hazardous waste
  • High initial costs and ongoing costs for nuclear power

White Hydrogen

White hydrogen is naturally occurring hydrogen. There is very little naturally occurring hydrogen on earth, which is why so much time and effort is put into hydrogen production methods! White hydrogen most typically is found underground as a result of fracking.

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  • No production required – it’s naturally occurring


  • Currently, there is no way to harness white hydrogen!

While the world of hydrogen power teeters on the edge of major expansions, how to obtain the hydrogen needed for this clean, sustainable energy source remains a major challenge and topic of conversation. Zero-emission hydrogen production offers the best net outcome, however there are challenges and limitations to hydrogen electrolysis from water.

Switzer is doing our part to make green hydrogen an easier reality by offering up an innovative way to produce many of the components needed for the hydrogen electrolysis process. As technology continues to advance, we’re excited to be part of a more sustainable future!

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