Hydrogen for bioenergy in the UK

Posted in: bioenergy

This article summarises how hydrogen is produced and outlines its uses for bioenergy. The article also provides a summary of support schemes that are available in the UK and which intend to develop the hydrogen market.

The global hydrogen market is expected to reach $124.5 billion by the end of 2021 and to rise further to $184 billion by 2028. Currently, about 45 million tonnes of pure hydrogen are produced worldwide. Of this, less 1% of global pure hydrogen is made from renewable sources. The IEA’s report on the Future of Hydrogen found that hydrogen is benefiting from unprecedented political and industrial support, which should now be accompanied by technological scale-up and a reduction in associated costs to allow hydrogen to be more widely available globally. It is therefore reasonable to think that the global market share of renewable hydrogen will significantly increase in the years and decades to come.

Hydrogen has a varied range of commercial uses, from electricity generation, to rocket fuel and the production of fertiliser. Hydrogen (H2) can be produced via multiple pathways and technologies, and from different sources, each of which results in the production of hydrogen with varying degrees of environmental impacts.

Conventional hydrogen, which is currently the most widely used form of hydrogen, is produced from fossil resources, more specifically, it is obtained from natural gas. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane (CH4) (along with small amounts of ethane, butane, pentane and propane), which can be converted to hydrogen via steam-methane reforming. This process relies on heat, as methane reacts with steam under specific pressure conditions to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide and small amounts of carbon dioxide. Further hydrogen can then be produced via a subsequent process referred to as water-gas shift reaction. The gas obtained from both of these can then be purified via pressure-swing adsorption, which removes impurities, leaving pure hydrogen as a final product.

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This article was written by Thea Allary, Research Analyst at NNFCC.

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