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February 9, 2024

What’s the right clean hydrogen production method for your project?

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Clean hydrogen has a critical role in decarbonizing the economy. By 2050, the alternative fuel could help decrease about 20% of CO2 emissions annually, according to McKinsey. Carbon-intensive sectors, including heavy industry, chemical production, long-distance trucking, off-road vehicles and steel manufacturing, can significantly accelerate decarbonization efforts by adopting clean hydrogen.

With various methods of clean hydrogen production in development, companies must find the right technology for their business goals. Each method’s cost, scale and carbon intensity depend on many factors, including energy efficiency and infrastructure and resource requirements.

To help you find the most suitable clean hydrogen production method for your project, Aurora Hydrogen released a white paper comparing the most common production methods with our unique methane pyrolysis technology. To access the full white paper, click here.

SMR or ATR with CCS: For Projects with Centralized H2 Demand and Access to CO2 Pipelines and Storage

Around 71% of current hydrogen relies on natural gas reforming methods, according to Wood Mackenzie. Steam methane reforming (SMR) and autothermal reforming (ATR) are two types of natural gas reforming that produce dirty “gray” hydrogen. Engineers are integrating carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology with SMR and ATR to produce cleaner hydrogen, but about 20% to 30% of CO2 emissions remain uncaptured, according to Shell.

SMR and ATR with CCS leverage existing infrastructure, making them cost-effective options. However, integrating CCS involves significant time and capital investments. CCS requires CO2 pipelines to geological reservoirs suitable for deep carbon storage. SMR or ATR with CCS could be a good option for your project if it is located near an appropriate geological setting.

Electrolysis: For Projects with Large Amounts of Renewable Power and Purified Water

Electrolysis uses electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. While the process has no direct CO2 product, it is only emissions-free when powered with renewable electricity. The high cost of low-emissions electricity coupled with the significant energy required to break hydrogen bonds makes electrolysis an expensive method. At the same time, the intermittent hydrogen output results in low-capacity factors and requires hydrogen storage in most cases.

The high expenses of electrolysis are the primary drawback for many projects seeking a cost-effective, clean alternative to conventional hydrogen production methods like natural gas reforming. Electrolysis is a suitable option if your project has large amounts of renewable electricity and purified water. The method is also a fit for various-sized projects with intermittent demand for hydrogen.

Methane Pyrolysis: For Projects with Access to Natural Gas Pipelines and Low-Carbon Electricity

Methane pyrolysis is a promising method for sustainable hydrogen production. Unlike SMR or ATR, methane pyrolysis produces a solid carbon byproduct, resulting in less carbon-intensive hydrogen that avoids CO2 emissions. And it’s more cost-effective than electrolysis as it requires less energy. However, the technology is in its early stages and yet to be proven at scale. Projects with existing natural gas infrastructure may find methane pyrolysis suitable for maximizing their current assets.

Aurora’s Methane Pyrolysis Method: For Projects Looking to Maximize Efficiency and Save on Costs

Aurora Hydrogen developed a novel methane pyrolysis method to produce clean hydrogen. Aurora’s plants use an efficient microwave technology process to heat methane without catalysts or plasma, which results in 80% less electricity consumption than electrolysis. By leveraging proven and off-the-shelf technology in their plants and producing hydrogen without precious metals, water, CO2 storage, or pipelines, projects can deploy Aurora’s technology quickly and cost-effectively. Projects looking to take advantage of a low-cost, energy-efficient clean hydrogen method should explore Aurora’s technology.

To see if Aurora is the right production technology for your project, download the full white paper.