Hydrogen production from biomass

Posted in: bioenergy

In this article, we explore the UK's and EU's commitment to promoting hydrogen production. We take a closer look at technologies to produce hydrogen from biomass sources and discuss the relevance of such technologies within the current UK policy framework.
Hydrogen is set to play a crucial part in the plans to decarbonise future global energy production and distribution across many sectors; for example, hydrogen could support the integration of variable renewables in the electricity system and reduced the emissions from hard-to-abate sectors such as iron and steel. Although hydrogen is abundant in the universe, free hydrogen is not readily found on Earth. The most abundant forms of hydrogen on the planet are water and hydrocarbons, especially methane. To obtain free hydrogen these molecules must be split, which requires energy. Conventional technologies for the production of hydrogen include steam methane reforming (SMR), a process by which methane is heated at high temperature and pressure with steam in the presence of a catalyst to produce a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Conventional production leads to what is known as grey hydrogen, due to a very carbon intensive that can result in emissions of up to 27kg CO2-eq/kg H2. Therefore, alternative lower emitting options are being explored.

Despite the current limited production around the world (less than 1% of current global production), low carbon hydrogen is seen as a silver bullet for the decarbonisation of future energy production and distribution. Some forms of low carbon-hydrogen are: green hydrogen, produced using renewable energy (i.e., solar and wind) and renewable feedstock (i.e., water); or blue hydrogen, produced through the above-mentioned SMR of natural gas but fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

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This article was written by Andrea Munoz Garcia, Senior Consultant.

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