The Development of Lifecycle Data for Hydrogen Fuel Production and Delivery

The Development of Lifecycle Data for Hydrogen Fuel Production and Delivery

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  • Alternative Title:
    The Development of Lifecycle Data for Hydrogen Fuel Production and Delivery : A Research Report from the National Center ; for Sustainable Transportation ;
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  • Abstract:
    An evaluation of renewable hydrogen production technologies anticipated to be available in the short, mid- and long-term timeframes was conducted. Renewable conversion pathways often rely on a combination of renewable and fossil energy sources, with the primary conversion step relying on a completely renewable source and the auxiliary steps using a more readily available energy mix such as grid electricity. The conversion technologies can be broadly classified into four categories based on the primary conversion mechanism: thermal processes, electrolytic processes, photolytic processes, and biochemical processes. Based on anticipated technology readiness, water electrolysis and biogas reforming pathways will be available in the near term whereas biomass gasification and bio-derived liquids reforming pathways are expected to be available in the mid-term. Photolytic and dark fermentation approaches are still in the research stage and must go through significant development and demonstration. Life Cycle Analysis using the CA-GREET Tier 2 model was conducted for select centralized and distributed hydrogen production pathways. Fossil natural gas reforming, the dominant industrial hydrogen production technology, is used as the baseline against which renewable hydrogen production technologies are compared. Electrolysis using renewable power from a solar PV facility results in the lowest GHG emissions among centralized production pathways. The grid electricity-based hydrogen production uses the highest amount of total and fossil energy and results in significantly higher GHG emissions compared to the baseline. An economic analysis of select pathways was also conducted using the H2A model. Fossil natural gas reforming offers the most cost-effective production option through central & distributed production. Electrolysis using renewable electricity (solar PV) results in the highest production costs through a centralized pathway whereas centralized biomass gasification offers the most cost-effective production method using a renewable feedstock. Based on the life cycle GHG emissions and cost performance, centralized biomass gasification pathway offers the most cost-effective option to reduce GHG emissions. A review of studies focused on blending hydrogen into natural gas pipelines was conducted. The review focused on issues that impact the viability of blending. Those issues include effects on public safety, potential gas leakage from pipelines, durability of the pipeline networks, and effects on end-use equipment such as stoves or boilers. The studies indicate that hydrogen blends up to 15% by volume appear viable without increasing risk. There is significant variable in pipeline operating conditions such as pressure, temperature, pipeline materials, and natural gas composition. This variation requires case specific analysis to determine the ideal blend percentage. Hydrogen can damage pipelines by degrading materials. Integrity management programs must be modified to properly monitor and maintain the pipelines one hydrogen is introduced. During the early stages of fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) market penetration, hydrogen demand may be low to modest due to low sales. Off-road vehicle fuel cell markets could potentially increase the hydrogen demand easing the path to commercialization for hydrogen producers. An analysis of the potential for hydrogen demand in off-road transportation markets was performed. Potential markets include material handlers (forklifts), airport ground support equipment, and transport refrigeration units. Telecommunications (backup power) was also considered as a potential hydrogen market. Each market was analyzed to understand the fleet stock, to determine the status of fuel cell applications, and to estimate market penetration for fuel cell equipment over a 10-year timeline. The fleet stock was projected out through 2026 based on macroeconomic projections of the California gross state product. The yearly energy usage for equipment in these markets was estimated based on reports and discussions with fuel cell companies producing equipment. The potential for hydrogen demand (kg/year) was then calculated for each market. The potential off-road transportation hydrogen demand is dominated by the forklift market. The present stock of forklifts is significantly higher than the total stock of other off-road vehicle markets considered. In addition, forklifts use more energy per year than other markets, and fuel cell forklifts have been recently commercialized. It's estimated that roughly 7,700 fuel cell forklifts are operating in the US. While the telecommunications market for fuel cells is growing, the actual hydrogen usage is insignificant. The grid reliability is so high that backup power units are rarely required to supply power for telecommunications equipment. Both fuel cell transport refrigeration units (TRUs) and airport ground support equipment are in the demonstration phase. It's unclear when fuel cells will begin entering these markets. The potential market penetration for forklifts was estimated to be 30% of new sales by 2026 while the market penetration for TRUs and airport ground support equipment is not expected to exceed 5% of sales by that time. The total hydrogen demand from off-road Transportation markets through 2026 was estimated to be over 18 million kg/year. Fuel cell TRUs and airport ground support equipment contribute less than 1 million kg/year to that total. As a comparison, estimates of hydrogen demand from lightduty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are in the range of 30 million kg/year by 2026.
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