Hydrogen serves as an efficient energy storage medium and is used in electrical power generation, heat production and chemical processes. Hydrogen plays a particularly important role in the chemical industry, e.g. in ammonia production and the conversion of carbon monoxide to methanol as a liquid hydrogen storage. In this blog article, learn about hydrogen's contribution to heat generation, how green hydrogen reduces emissions in industry, and how EU funding from the Innovation Fund is driving the development of hydrogen applications.

How do fuel cells generate electricity from hydrogen?

Fuel cells convert hydrogen electrochemically into electricity. In these cells, hydrogen and oxygen react to form water, so the reverse reaction of the electrolyzer is used here. At the anode, hydrogen is converted to protons. At the cathode, oxygen is reduced. There are different types of fuel cells:

  • Alkaline fuel cell: Here, the conversion takes place in an alkaline environment. The reduced oxygen forms hydroxide ions by reacting with water. The membrane separating the electrodes is permeable to hydroxide, resulting in the formation of water on the anode side.
  • Polymer electrolyte fuel cell: This uses a proton permeable membrane. The protons pass through the membrane, forming water on the cathode side.
  • Solid oxide fuel cell: These cells operate at temperatures from 500 to 1000°C. The water forms on the anode side and is discharged via the "fuel gas".
Multiple fuel cells can be combined to form a fuel cell stack that is used in various applications such as vehicles, trains, ships, or as an emergency power source. Fuel cells have already found their way into some applications, but there is still room for further improvement. Efficiency, or energy output, and lifetime need to be further maximized. In addition, fuel cells rely on critical raw materials, such as platinum, and here the consumption of these resources must be minimized or replaced with alternative raw materials.

Hydrogen in heat generation

Hydrogen can also be burned to generate heat that can be used in processes, furnaces and heating systems. Combustion of hydrogen to produce heat is more efficient than prior conversion to electricity. Excess heat can also be used to generate electricity in cogeneration plants.


Figure 1: Hydrogen is burned with the addition of (atmospheric) oxygen and heat is produced.

Establishing hydrogen as a heat source, even as a natural gas-hydrogen mixture, requires the development of suitable firing systems and investments in energy-intensive industrial processes.

The importance of the chemical use of hydrogen

In the chemical industry, H2 is needed for ammonia production. Ammonia is a basic ingredient for the production of fertilizers, pesticides, lubricants and medicines. Hydrogen also plays a role in the production of fuels and methanol by reducing carbon monoxide. In addition, hydrogen is of great importance in many sectors for climate-neutral industrial production processes, for example to replace petroleum as a raw material.

Measures to scale up hydrogen production

In order to establish hydrogen applications, the production of green hydrogen, and associated renewable energy supply, hydrogen infrastructure and hydrogen consumption need to be scaled. This will require automated processes to produce the products in appropriate quantities. Scaling must take into account factors such as the associated space and personnel requirements, the capacities of suppliers and customers, and much more.




How can the Innovation Fund support hydrogen applications?

The Innovation Fund, financed from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, supports projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Funding is provided for the establishment of production facilities for innovative approaches with funding volumes from €2.5 million upwards. In the Large Scale Call 2023, 41 projects were funded with a total of 3.6 billion euros. Of these projects, 20 alone dealt with hydrogen technologies.

More information on possible funding via the Innovation Fund for hydrogen applications can be found in our overview of the Innovation Fund.



We will be happy to advise you on the selection of the right funding program and support you in the application process. EurA AG Aachen and Herten have many years of experience in successfully applying for subsidies and providing technical advice on the subject of hydrogen.


Text: Georg Beckmann

Dr Günter Hohmann

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