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Life Cycle Assessment and Economic Analysis of an Innovative Biogas Membrane Reformer for Hydrogen Production


This work investigates the environmental and economic performances of a membrane reactor for hydrogen production from raw biogas. Potential benefits of the innovative technology are compared against reference hydrogen production processes based on steam (or autothermal) reforming, water gas shift reactors and a pressure swing adsorption unit. Both biogas produced by landfill and anaerobic digestion are considered to evaluate the impact of biogas composition. Starting from the thermodynamic results, the environmental analysis is carried out using environmental Life cycle assessment (LCA). Results show that the adoption of the membrane reactor increases the system efficiency by more than 20 percentage points with respect to the reference cases. LCA analysis shows that the innovative BIONICO system performs better than reference systems when biogas becomes a limiting factor for hydrogen production to satisfy market demand, as a higher biogas conversion efficiency can potentially substitute more hydrogen produced by fossil fuels (natural gas). However, when biogas is not a limiting factor for hydrogen production, the innovative system can perform either similar or worse than reference systems, as in this case impacts are largely dominated by grid electric energy demand and component use rather than conversion efficiency. Focusing on the economic results, hydrogen production cost shows lower value with respect to the reference cases (4 €/kgH2 vs 4.2 €/kgH2) at the same hydrogen delivery pressure of 20 bar. Between landfill and anaerobic digestion cases, the latter has the lower costs as a consequence of the higher methane content.

Funding source: The BIONICO project leading to this application has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 671459. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and N.ERGHY.
Related subjects: Production & Supply Chain
Countries: Italy ; Switzerland

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