(Source: Cockrell School of Engineering Website)

Hydrogen has a chance to become the next big alternative fuel source, with the ability to sustainably power everything from cars to data centers. And Texas, already the energy capital of the United States, is set to become the hub for hydrogen production.

Leaders across industry, government, academia and more came together in a virtual event on Jan. 12, hosted by the Cockrell School of Engineering and the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, to highlight Texas' challenges and opportunities to become a leader in the emerging hydrogen economy. The seeds of this new industry have already been planted, and, if its potential is realized, hydrogen could join wind and solar as major clean energy generators.

"Hydrogen provides a great opportunity in addressing our energy challenges, and it could be especially important for Texas," said Varun Rai, director of the Energy Institute. "But the path is not going to be simple or obvious, and we all need to be working together very closely."

A UT-developed hydrogen refueling station for testing hydrogen energy in vehicles.

hydrogen refueling station

As Rai notes, a hydrogen-powered future has several major hurdles to overcome. Solving these problems will take collaboration from major energy companies, government action to support hydrogen use and continued innovation from research universities like UT on the cutting-edge of developing new ways to create and deploy hydrogen.

The Hydrogen Roundtable event delved into the important questions facing the hydrogen economy. The community aiming to solve these problems is growing, with more than 200 people attending the virtual event and speakers that included representatives from Congress, the U.S. Department of Energy, Shell, Toyota, ExxonMobil, the Gas Technology Institute, Frontier Energy, Dow and more, as well as energy researchers from UT Austin.

State of the Hydrogen Market

Hydrogen's most common use today is in the industrial sector, for oil refining and in ammonia, methanol and steel production. It's also used heavily as feedstock to facilitate the production of chemicals from raw materials.

There are already signs that hydrogen is becoming a more common element in other industries around the globe. In 2019, Japan announced a goal of having 800,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road by 2030. China is among the world leaders in hydrogen-powered trucks today and continues to invest heavily in the market.

By 2050, hydrogen could make up 17% of the global energy mix, Daryl Wilson, executive director of the Canada-based Hydrogen Council, said at the event. And the Hydrogen Council projects hydrogen could become a $2.5 trillion market by 2050, supporting 30 million jobs around the globe.

"Hydrogen will take its place as a major contributor in the energy economy over the next few decades," Wilson said.

CSEE Major Research Program - Hydrogen Storage and Distribution