Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, although it rarely exists by itself. Before it can be used, it must be separated from the compounds that contain it, typically water.
As shown in the top chart, hydrogen can be produced from either fossil fuels or renewable resources. The vast majority of hydrogen is produced through a process known as steam methane reformation (SMR). While SMR is relatively inexpensive, each ton of hydrogen produced yields 10 or more tons of greenhouse gases (CO, CO2) and other noxious substances. Hydrogen produced through SMR (or other methods that require burning fossil fuels) are referred to as “brown” or “gray” hydrogen.
Hydrogen produced from renewable resources is called “green” hydrogen. Recent estimates show the median cost of hydrogen produced from renewable (solar and wind) resources is around $6.00 per kilogram — not including the capital costs of constructing a production facility. As shown in the bottom chart, the Blackstone Method, using solar energy and hydrogen-compatible ore from the Blackstone Mine, utilizes a closed-circuit production process that creates green hydrogen at a negative cost of ($1.48)/kg. This is possible because one byproduct of ore processing is a polymetallic matte bullion from other minerals in the Blackstone ore: primarily copper, lead, silver, and gold. Matte bullion sales are used to offset the costs of hydrogen production.