Researchers devise supply chain model to support hydrogen economy

Over the past decades, in the bid to develop a carbon free energy, the interest in hydrogen as an environmentally clean fuel is increasingly gaining attention. However, to shift the economy from fossil fuels to clean burning fuels such as hydrogen, this will require significant change in current supply chain models.

“Meanwhile, to get it started, flexible scheduling for trucks and pipelines is proposed, which allows them to be used for both storage and transmission,” stated the lead author of a paper titled Transactions on Sustainable Energy published in the IEEE. Importantly, this has significance for green hydrogen generated from intermittent renewables, because it can provide extra flexibility for variation in demand and supply chains.

In fact, hydrogen is widely recognized as a viable fuel to decarbonize several sectors of the economy. This is because it can pack more energy by weight than natural gas or gasoline, and at the same time generates zero emissions when used as a source of energy. However, on the downside, generating hydrogen can cause significant emissions.

According to data of the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, today, 95 percent of the hydrogen that is generated is via steam methane reforming – an energy intensive process wherein methane reacts with water to generate hydrogen and carbon monoxide. In the second part of the process, steam is added to the cooled gas to convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and generate more hydrogen.

Using this process, globally, hydrogen production accounts for about 4 percent CO2 emissions.  This number is anticipated to rise significantly if the use of hydrogen as fuel increases for electric vehicles and industrial processes such as ammonia production and steel refining.