Sankey-Diagram-based insights into the hydrogen economy of today

Bakenne, Adetokunboh; Nuttall, William and Kazantzis, Nikolaos (2016). Sankey-Diagram-based insights into the hydrogen economy of today. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 41(19) pp. 7744–7753.



Many posit a distinct role for hydrogen within the purview of a future low-carbon, renewables-based transportation system. However, hydrogen is already established as an important energy resource and industrial product displaying versatility of uses and roles in the energy system. In this work, we develop and present an original Sankey-Diagram-based analytical framework aiming at identifying and characterizing key structural aspects of the real hydrogen economy as it exists today (2004–2015). We include global hydrogen demand and supply, assorted energy flows, as well as the costs of production and we consider value flows. We suggest that potentially evolutionary trends can be insightfully elucidated via a systems perspective on the existing global hydrogen economy. Perhaps counterintuitively, we build upon suggestions that the best prospects for the evolutionary emergence of a robust hydrogen economy could arise in a world of cheap and abundant oil rather than in a world of oil scarcity and rising fossil fuel prices. Furthermore, in the long term (2050), if global oil supply continues to be ample and environmental pressures intensify, then there will be a need for new and more aggressive energy policies and enhanced pressure for rapid technological innovation including in the domain of hydrogen. The information presented in this paper, however, reminds us of the situation as it applies today. Approximately 96% of global hydrogen is a product of fossil fuel, while 35% is required by the fossil fuel industry for its own purposes. This indirect connection between hydrogen economy and global fossil fuel industry will continue to shape the future of hydrogen economy for decades to come. Currently, over $107 billion/annum is spent globally by the petrochemical industry in producing hydrogen, suggesting the scale as well as the irreducible aspects and inherent synergies associated with the aforementioned connection. [math mode missing closing $]

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions