Assessment of Alternative Hydrogen Pathways: Natural Gas and Biomass

Makihira, A., Barreto, L., & Riahi, K. ORCID: (2003). Assessment of Alternative Hydrogen Pathways: Natural Gas and Biomass. IIASA Interim Report. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: IR-03-037

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Achieving large-scale changes to develop a sustained hydrogen economy requires a large amount of planning and cooperation at national and international levels alike. ECS developed a long-term hydrogen-based scenario (B1-H2) of the global energy system to examine the future perspectives of fuel cells (Barreto et al., 2002). That earlier study, done with the collaboration and support of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), illustrated the key role of hydrogen towards a clean and sustainable energy future. In an affluent, low-population-growth, equity and sustainability-oriented world, hydrogen technologies experience substantial but plausible performance and costs improvements and diffuse extensively. Fuel cells and other hydrogen-using technologies play a major role in a transformation towards a more flexible, less vulnerable, distributed energy system that meets energy needs in a cleaner, more efficient and cost-effective way. This profound structural transformation of the global energy system brings substantial improvements in energy intensity and an accelerated decarbonizaton of the energy mix, resulting in relatively low climate impacts.

In order to understand the future potential of hydrogen, in this report we compare the two main hydrogen production alternatives from natural gas and biomass as identified in the above-mentioned (B1-H2) scenario in more detail. The first alternative, steam reforming of natural gas, is a well-established technology and the most common and current method to produce hydrogen (Ogden, 1999a). The second technology, biomass gasification, is still in its infancy. A small number of demonstration facilities are in place. Many issues still have to be addressed before the technology can be expected to reach an adequate technical performance and hence become economically competitive (Milne et al., 2002). Nevertheless, biomass-based systems are a very promising option for ensuring the sustainability of a future hydrogen-supply system.

The report includes a comparative analysis of both systems and their potential for carbon mitigation via CO2 capture and sequestration. Estimates of the hydrogen costs for alternative production chains are presented, and the competitiveness of the systems under alternative CO2 taxes are analyzed. Both technologies appear as economically attractive and environmentally compatible options for shaping a sustainable hydrogen economy and contributing to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in the long term.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Interim Report)
Research Programs: Energy (ENE)
Transitions to New Technologies (TNT)
Environmentally Compatible Energy Strategies (ECS)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:15
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:18

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