We are delighted to present an insightful Q&A session with Matt Moran, a pioneering leader in hydrogen innovation. With over 40 years of experience in power systems and hydrogen technology, Matt Moran, Managing Member at Moran Innovation LLC, has been instrumental in advancing liquid, slush, and gaseous hydrogen systems since the 1980s. Formerly with NASA for 31 years, his expertise spans energy and materials, driving breakthroughs in sustainable solutions.

#WHF: What is the current status and trajectory of the global hydrogen industry, including its key trends, major players, technological advancements, and market dynamics, as of 2023?

Mr Matt: Hydrogen supply and usage is increasing exponentially worldwide. Business models and competitive strategies are evolving quickly in many industry sectors where hydrogen is ‘new’ resulting in rapidly changing market dynamics. Incumbent companies include the legacy hydrogen providers, equipment suppliers, and traditional users.

The new entrants include an enormous influx of companies across broad industry sectors, as well as established companies modifying their business strategy to include hydrogen. To help keep up with all this, I post a free weekly global news summary on noteworthy activities, players, and market data related to liquid hydrogen at www.lh2era.com.

A few key trends and advancements to keep an eye on include:

  • Scaling of hydrogen production methods, particularly water electrolysis; steam methane reforming with CCUS; and geological hydrogen extraction.
  • New microeconomic business models (e.g., dedicated microgrids for hydrogen generation, storage, and offtake) and macroeconomic regional strategies (e.g., import/export agreements based on renewables resources and energy demand).
  • Systems engineering and integration that mitigates hydrogen losses, maximises operational efficiencies, and optimises energy usage (electrical and thermal) tailored to specific new use cases.
  • Liquid hydrogen systems with new lightweight materials for mobile applications; and improved cryo-refrigeration for no-loss storage and fueling.

WHF: What role do you believe hydrogen can play as a sustainable fuel source in the ongoing global efforts to address environmental challenges, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transition towards a more environmentally responsible energy landscape?

Mr Matt: Hydrogen is a carbonless energy carrier, energy storage method, and universal fuel. This flexibility is unparalleled among the options available to address the shift to a more sustainable global energy paradigm. And when used in a fuel cell, the only byproduct is potable water, a truly unique characteristic of hydrogen.

All together, these features of hydrogen allow it to address combined functions at the nexus of energy, food, and water. An example that I’ve worked on is an isolated microgrid that provides electricity, hydrogen fuel, and water for drinking and agriculture using only renewable energy and recycled feedstocks.

Hydrogen can also be used in an internal combustion engine, turbine, furnace, or other application where legacy fossil fuels are currently burned. This capability enables decarbonization of many commercial and industrial processes that would be difficult or impossible to electrify. It also eliminates soot, smoke, and all carbon emissions that cause untold damage to our air, water, and public health.

It’s also important to consider the entire lifecycle impacts of any approach to addressing greenhouse gas reduction. In the case of hydrogen, there are no issues with strategic materials, limited supply chains, or materials recycling. And the lifetime of hydrogen systems is measured in decades with routine maintenance and limited replacement requirements.

However, the source of energy input required to produce hydrogen must also be taken into account. Similar to batteries, if the electrical input energy is provided by a coal-fired power plant then neither is truly a zero-emission solution. For this reason, the use of renewable energy sources is one of the primary methods of interest for hydrogen production via water electrolysis.

#WHF: You have a rich history of pioneering liquid, slush, and gaseous hydrogen systems dating back to the mid-1980s. Could you provide a detailed explanation of the nature of hydrogen and its diverse applications across various industries?

Mr Matt: Most of my experiences with hydrogen systems up until a few years ago had been predominantly in aerospace and defence. In this industry sector, large scale liquid hydrogen production, distribution, storage, fueling, and launch vehicle consumption has been in continuous use since the 1960’s. Even earlier in the 1950’s, liquid hydrogen jet aircraft flight tests were successfully conducted, as well as ground testing of the first liquid hydrogen fueled jet engine with an afterburner.

Various rocket stages and other launch systems that have used (and continue to use) liquid hydrogen include: Centaur, Apollo’s Saturn upper stages, Space Shuttle, Europe’s Ariane rockets, recent versions of China’s Long March rockets, Japan’s H-II, and the new Artemis SLS rocket. I had the good fortune to work with some of the Apollo era hydrogen experts early in my career and have continued working on liquid hydrogen systems since then.

The knowledge and lessons learned in the aerospace and defence sector over many decades with hydrogen provide valuable insight for its transition into new sectors. The needs, goals, and objectives of the new use cases will drive the associated hydrogen systems in somewhat different directions, but the physics and underlying technologies are the same. I’ve seen this play out over the past several years with various aviation, transportation, energy, marine, and industrial customers.

WHF: Could you please share more information about the Liquid Hydrogen Training program being developed by Moran Innovation, specifically its objectives and how it caters to organisations in sectors like aviation, energy, and transportation?

Mr Matt: One of my top personal goals is transferring knowledge about liquid hydrogen to the next generation who will be creating a better future with it. I started several activities over the past year with that goal in mind including a monthly webinar series, courses, workshops, videos, online reports, a GitHub repository, and other resources. Most of it is free and accessible on the “Training” page.

WHF: How do you think the World Hydrogen Forum contributes to the advancement and promotion of hydrogen-related initiatives and technologies on a global scale?

Mr Matt: I think venues like the World Hydrogen Forum are tremendously valuable for making connections, sharing experiences, creating new collaborations, and accelerating the transition to hydrogen. There is so much activity around hydrogen right now that it’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. Having an event that brings some of the key people in this space together helps close that awareness gap and identify opportunities to leverage resources and complementary competencies.