One of the huge benefits of hydrogen is its versatility – it can be produced from a variety of conventional and alternative feedstocks.
Today, hydrogen is mainly produced by steam reforming fossil fuels such as natural gas. Excess hydrogen is also recovered as a by-product from various industrial processes. Even though hydrogen generated from fossil fuels has the advantage of zero-tailpipe emissions, the production chain still leaves a carbon footprint. Well-to-wheel emissions of a hydrogen fuel-cell car are nonetheless 30% lower than those of a conventional diesel-powered car.
Through processes such as carbon capture and storage (CSS), this can be reduced further. However, carbon emissions can be lowered to almost zero if renewable energies are used to source the hydrogen.
Our long-term aim is to significantly increase the sustainable share in the hydrogen mix using renewable energy sources such as wind, water and biomass. At present, electrolysis of water using wind, water or solar power and gasification/reforming of biomass are viable alternatives that offer a zero-emission hydrogen energy cycle.
For instance, we are researching various biogenic raw materials that are readily available, do not compromise food supplies and can generate hydrogen in a commercially viable way. Following extensive studies and laboratory tests, work is now underway on a demo plant at our Leuna site in Germany. In this facility, glycerol (a by-product of biodiesel production) is pyroreformed to create a hydrogen-rich synthesis gas.