Global consumption of merchant and captive hydrogen is forecast to increase 3.5 percent annually through 2018 to 290 billion cubic meters, driven by strong growth in petroleum hydrotreating and hydrocracking refining operations. These advances will be particularly robust in developing countries as per capita vehicle ownership rates rise, and as countries adopt and enforce more stringent emissions regulations to combat increasingly difficult air pollution problems. Merchant supply from industrial gas companies will expand rapidly as hydrogen consumption in upgraded petroleum refineries exceeds the refineries' available captive resources.
Over the past two decades, the adoption by many developed countries of motor vehicle emissions regulations has led to the need for low-sulfur and ultra-lowsulfur gasoline and diesel fuels, greatly increasing the consumption of hydrogen in refinery hydrotreating operations. This trend will continue to drive demand going forward as developing countries begin to combat persistently difficult air quality issues by implementing and/or enforcing more stringent fuel sulfur regulations. While tightening motor vehicle fuel sulfur regulations will be one factor driving refinery hydrogen demand in developing countries, growth will also be aided by rising per capita vehicle ownership rates and higher demand for fuels. Additionally, the shift in the world's crude oil supply toward heavier crudes and rising demand for distillate fuels globally will support the increased use of hydrogen in refinery hydrocracking processes to break down heavier petroleum fractions into more valuable products.
Outside of refining, hydrogen is used in the production of many important chemicals; as well as in the metals, electronics, and thin-film solar industries; edible oil processing; and a variety of other applications. Although the chemical industry is the largest of these, more rapid growth is expected in several smaller markets. Additionally, the adoption of hydrogen energy technologies continues to proceed worldwide, and fuel cells will see greater mainstream adoption. Despite technical and other challenges, the emergence of a hydrogen market for fuel cell powered vehicles remains a possibility.
Although the United States will remain the world's largest hydrogen consuming country, the greatest share of growth through 2018 is expected to occur in China. With air pollution in urban areas an increasingly pressing issue, China is expected to aggressively target motor vehicle emissions by enacting and enforcing tighter fuel sulfur regulations. This will drive hydrogen demand growth as the country's refining industry increases its ability to produce low-sulfur fuels. Other emerging markets such as India and Russia will also seek to export ultralow- sulfur fuels, and will see among the fastest gains in hydrogen demand. In most developed countries, demand for hydrogen will grow only modestly, if at all. The refining and chemical industries of Western Europe and Japan face stagnant domestic markets as well as strong competition from other areas. The US and Canada, however, will benefit from relatively plentiful raw material supply and the advanced state of their refining industries, allowing for healthier growth in hydrogen demand.
This Freedonia industry study, World Hydrogen, presents historical demand data for 2003, 2008 and 2013, plus forecasts for 2018 and 2023 by market, world region, and for 17 countries. The study also considers market environment factors, examines hydrogen energy technologies, evaluates company market share and profiles key global industry players.
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