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Future prospects for production of methanol and hydrogen from biomass

System analysis of advanced conversion concepts
by ASPEN-plus flowsheet modelling

Carlo N. Hamelinck
André P.C. Faaij


 September 2001, Report NWS-E-2001-49

ISBN 90-73958-84-9


Technical and economic prospects of the future production of methanol and hydrogen from biomass have been evaluated.
A technology review, including promising future components, was made, resulting in a set of promising conversion concepts.
Flowsheeting models were made to analyse the technical performance. Results were used for economic evaluations. Overall energy efficiencies are around 55 % HHV for methanol and around 60 % for hydrogen production. Accounting for the lower energy quality of fuel compared to electricity, once-through concepts perform better than the concepts aimed for fuel only production. Hot gas cleaning can contribute to a better performance. 400 MWth input systems produce biofuels at 8 – 12 US$/GJ, this is above the current gasoline production price of 4 – 6 US$/GJ. This cost price is largely dictated by the capital investments. The outcomes for the various system types are rather comparable, although concepts focussing on optimised fuel production with little or no electricity co-production perform somewhat better. Hydrogen concepts using ceramic membranes perform well due to their higher overall efficiency combined with modest investment. Long term (2020) cost reductions reside in cheaper biomass, technological learning, and application of large scales up to 2000 MWth. This could bring the production costs of biofuels in the 5 – 7 US$/GJ range. Biomass-derived methanol and hydrogen are likely to become competitive fuels tomorrow.


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