Abstract

In light of growing concerns regarding greenhouse gas emissions and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, the global situation demands immediate action to transition towards sustainable energy solutions. In this sense, hydrogen could play a fundamental role in the energy transition, offering a potential clean and versatile energy carrier. This paper reviews the recent results of Life Cycle Assessment studies of different hydrogen production pathways, which are trying to define the routes that can guarantee the least environmental burdens. Steam methane reforming was considered as the benchmark for Global Warming Potential, with an average emission of 11 kgCO2eq/kgH2. Hydrogen produced from water electrolysis powered by renewable energy (green H2) or nuclear energy (pink H2) showed the average lowest impacts, with mean values of 2.02 kgCO2eq/kgH2 and 0.41 kgCO2eq/kgH2, respectively. The use of grid electricity to power the electrolyzer (yellow H2) raised the mean carbon footprint up to 17.2 kgCO2eq/kgH2, with a peak of 41.4 kgCO2eq/kgH2 in the case of countries with low renewable energy production. Waste pyrolysis and/or gasification presented average emissions three times higher than steam methane reforming, while the recourse to residual biomass and biowaste significantly lowered greenhouse gas emissions. The acidification potential presents comparable results for all the technologies studied, except for biomass gasification which showed significantly higher and more scattered values. Regarding the abiotic depletion potential (mineral), the main issue is the lack of an established recycling strategy, especially for electrolysis technologies that hamper the inclusion of the End of Life stage in LCA computation. Whenever data were available, hotspots for each hydrogen production process were identified.

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