Comparing Hydrogen Production Pathways

Comparing Hydrogen Production Pathways



John Tossey Merkle


Presentation: 9:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom



Hydrogen is used in several industrial processes, with the current global demand of approximately 90 megatons annually (90MtH2/yr). This demand comes almost entirely from the industrial sector, to act as a feedstock for oil refining and the production of ammonia, methanol, and steel. Hydrogen production currently relies on fossil-fuel technologies, with almost all demand met using the steam methane reforming (SMR) process. However, SMR is carbon dioxide (CO2) emission-intensive; therefore, to meet a net-zero emission goal to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, it is necessary to decarbonize hydrogen production. Other methods used to produce hydrogen include coal gasification, water electrolysis, and methane pyrolysis. As with SMR, coal gasification is CO2 emission-intensive. However, the water electrolysis process has no direct CO2 emissions. Therefore total emissions associated with producing hydrogen via water electrolysis come from the energy source. In principle, the methane pyrolysis process is CO2 emission-free; however, natural gas production always involves some leakage, so methane pyrolysis will not eliminate CO2 emissions. In addition, carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) has also been implemented in some instances of the SMR and coal gasification processes, which has resulted in a non-trivial amount of emissions being averted. The present work compares the costs and benefits of these approaches to hydrogen production, including CO2 and natural gas emissions, financial costs, and potential byproducts.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Capstone Project

Primary Advisor

Robert J. Brecha

Primary Advisor's Department

Hanley Sustainability Institute


Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Affordable and Clean Energy; Responsible Consumption and Production

Comparing Hydrogen Production Pathways