Abstract of paper prepared for
World Resources Institute by Lindsay Leveen

Abstract:  Water usage, Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Land Impacts Associated with Hydrogen Production  - A study by SLS Partners Inc. on behalf of the World Resources Institute

This brief study determined the following:

The fresh water requirements to produce hydrogen by:
(i)                  Steam Methane Reforming (SMR)
(ii)                Coal gasification (CG)
(iii)               Electrolysis using power generated by a combined cycle natural gas fired power station
(iv)              Electrolysis using power generated by a coal fired supercritical steam power station, and
(v)                Electrolysis using renewable electricity such as photo voltaic cells (PV), or wind turbines.

The quantity of Carbon Dioxide emissions (CO2), assuming no sequestration, to produce hydrogen by:
(i)                  Steam Methane Reforming (SMR)
(ii)                Electrolysis using power generated by a combined cycle natural gas fired power station
(iii)               Electrolysis using power generated by a coal fired supercritical steam power station, and
(iv)              Electrolysis using renewable electricity such as photo voltaic cells (PV), or wind turbines.

The impacts on land including sequestration of associated carbon dioxide emissions from the following sources of hydrogen:
(i)                  Steam Methane Reforming (SMR)
(ii)                Coal gasification (CG)
(iii)               Electrolysis using power generated by a combined cycle natural gas fired power station
(iv)              Electrolysis using power generated by a coal fired supercritical steam power station, and
(v)                Electrolysis using renewable electricity such as photo voltaic cells (PV), or wind turbines.

A hypothetical plant producing 100 tons per day of hydrogen (200,000 pounds per day) has been studied. The results clearly show that the Steam Methane Reformer is the preferred method for hydrogen production and is in fact the most common process used for industrial scale hydrogen manufacture.  Coal Gasification is a distant second preference for industrial scale manufacture of hydrogen requiring more water and land, and emitting more carbon dioxide than steam methane reforming.  Electrolysis should only be considered as a source for hydrogen for very small scale production and only in remote and isolated locations, when the power is sourced from wind or photovoltaic generation systems.

At the recent IPHE Ministerial Meeting in Washington, DC, Jonathan Pershing of the World Resources Institute gave a paper entitled "Environmental Imperatives in a Hydrogen Economy" most of the material in that presentation was sourced from Lindsay Leveen at SLS Partners.

Lindsay Leveen

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