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Category Archives: Hydrogen

Hydrogen from Biomass : State of the Art and Research Challenges


Thomas A. Milne, Carolyn C. Elam and Robert J. Evans
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Golden, CO USA



This report is a review largely of thermochemical research studies for the formation of hydrogen from whole biomass and stable intermediate products from biomass. The purpose of this report is to serve as a baseline of the state of the art and to identify research opportunities that can be conducted within a new Task of the International Energy Agencys (IEA) Programme on the Production and Utilization of Hydrogen. This new Task, Task 16  Hydrogen from Carbon Containing Materials, will begin work in early 2002. Subtask B addresses Biomass to Hydrogen. The Task Leader is Elisabet Fjermestad Hagen, Norsk Hydro ASA, N-0246, Oslo, Norway. Included in this report are references to the thermal gasification of biomass. These were reviewed in cooperation with the IEA Bioenergy Programme, specifically the Gasification Task – Suresh Babu, Task Leader.


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Dr. Joan M. Ogden

A report for the International Energy Agency
Agreement on the Production and Utilization of Hydrogen
Task 16, Hydrogen from Carbon-Containing Materials


This report to the International Energy Agency (IEA) reviews technical options for small-scale production of hydrogen via reforming of natural gas or liquid fuels. The focus is on small
stationary systems that produce pure hydrogen at refueling stations for hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Small reformer-based hydrogen production systems are commercially available from
several vendors. In addition, a variety of small-scale reformer technologies are currently being developed as components of fuel cell systems (for example, natural gas reformers coupled to phosphoric acid or proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PAFC or PEMFC) cogeneration systems, and onboard fuel processors for methanol and gasoline fuel cell vehicles). Although fuel cell reformers are typically designed to produce a reformate gas containing 40%-70% hydrogen, rather than pure hydrogen, in many cases they could be readily adapted to pure hydrogen production with the addition of purification stages.


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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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Technology Characterisation
of the Hydrogen Economy

Mike Hodson and Simon Marvin,
Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF), University of Salford


Summary Information:

Type of study: Tyndall Centre Working Paper. One of three documents from phase
one of the Tyndall Centre project: ‘The Hydrogen Energy Economy: Its Long Term
Role in Greenhouse Gas Reduction’.
Methodology (if specified): Largely unspecified, but draws on secondary literature
and on three sources in particular:
Lakeman and Browning (2001): Global Status of Hydrogen Research carried out by
DERA for the DTI ‘and which includes a state of the art overview of hydrogen energy
Padró and Putsche (1999): Survey of the economics of hydrogen technologies carried
out by NREL for the US Department of Energy ‘and which includes an attempt to produced levelised cost comparisons for the major production and distribution


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An Economic and Environmental Assessment of Hydrogen Production Pathways

Antonia Herzog, Natural Resources Defense Council
Marika Tatsutani, Consultant

Natural Resources Defense Council
issue paper: november 2005



The results of this preliminary assessment highlight a number of significant issues that must be resolved before hydrogen can play a substantial role in addressing the nation’s and the world’s energy security and global warming challenges. Central among these is the fact that the least expensive and most mature hydrogen production pathways available at present are not necessarily environmentally sustainable. For example, one of the cheaper options available today—producing hydrogen from coal—will not be acceptable unless associated global warming, air pollution, and mining impacts are successfully addressed. The deployment of coal gasification technology with carbon capture and storage, in combination with mining practices that minimize land and water impacts, could allow coal to become a sustainable and abundant source of hydrogen over the long term, both in the United States and in other coal-rich countries. However, further aggressive deployment of advanced coal gasification technologies, in combination with carbon capture and storage, is needed to better determine the cost, feasibility, and effectiveness of this potential hydrogen production pathway.

Hydrogen production from natural gas, meanwhile, offers a number of near-term advantages in terms of cost and technological maturity, but it too can prove problematic as a longer-term solution. Because natural gas, like coal, is a fossil fuel, its use as a hydrogen feedstock generates pollutant emissions that contribute to global warming and air quality problems. Data presented in this report (see Figure 1) indicate that per-mile global warming emissions for a fuel cell vehicle running on hydrogen produced using various forms of steam methane reformation are anywhere from 40 percent to 50 percent lower than emissions for a conventional vehicle running on reformulated gasoline. These emissions reductions are not trivial—but it is also the case that comparable global warming benefits could be achieved by simply deploying efficient hybrid-electric and conventional technologies that are already available today. Moreover, high natural gas prices and supply constraints have recently emerged as serious issues that show no signs of being resolved soon, at least in North America.

Thus, natural gas is probably best thought of as a potential transition fuel to cleaner, low-carbon, domestic hydrogen production options, such as renewables or coal with carbon capture and storage. Given the extensive natural gas infrastructure that already exists, use of this feedstock may make sense in the early stages of a possible future shift to hydrogen but even then, natural gas should only be considered in the context of an alternative longerterm hydrogen production strategy, with care taken to address technological lock-in concerns, wherein an inappropriate technology is deployed too early, thereby preventing a better technology from emerging as the longer term solution. Additionally, distributed production from natural gas using small-scale steam methane reformers— because it obviates the need for hydrogen transport—is also an attractive short-term production option, but it is important to keep in mind that this option does not easily allow for eventual carbon capture and storage. Meanwhile, to alleviate supply constraints that might otherwise preclude the use of natural gas as a transition fuel for producing hydrogen, natural gas demand growth should be addressed through improvements in the end-use efficiency of gas equipment; and through the increased use of combined heat and power and other distributed or high-efficiency technologies.

Compared to coal- or natural gas-based production pathways, hydrogen from nuclear energy could offer some advantages in terms of global warming emissions. However, cost estimates of hydrogen production at future…………………….


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