Review and meta-analysis of recent life cycle assessments of hydrogen production

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Abstract

The world is facing an urgent global climate challenge, and hydrogen (H2) is increasingly valued as a carbon-free energy carrier that can play a prominent role in decarbonising economies. However, the environmental impact of the different methods for hydrogen production are sometimes overlooked. This work provides a comprehensive overview of the environmental impacts and costs of a diverse range of methods for producing hydrogen. Ninety-nine life cycle assessments (LCAs) of hydrogen production published between 2015 and 2022 are categorised by geography, production method, energy source, goal and scope, and compared by data sources and methodology. A meta-analysis of methodological choices is used to identify a subset of mutually comparable studies whose results are then compared, initially by global warming potential (GWP), then low-GWP scenarios are compared by other indicators. The results show that the lowest GWP is achieved by methods that are currently more expensive (∼US $4–9/kg H2) compared to the dominant methods of producing hydrogen from fossil fuels (∼US $1–2/kg H2). The research finds that data are currently limited for comparing environmental indicators other than GWP, such as terrestrial acidification or freshwater eutrophication. Recommendations are made for future LCAs of hydrogen production.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100116
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalCleaner Environmental Systems
Volume9
Early online date10 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Julian Wilkinson is supported by a scholarship from the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems, AAPS (EP/S023364/1). Prof Mays is funded through the EPSRC Supergen Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research Hub (EP/P024807/1) and as EPSRC Co-ordinator for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels, UK-HyRES (EP/W035529/1). Prof McManus is funded through the EPSRC Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre, IDRIC (EP/V027050/1) and EPSRC Supergen Bioenergy Hub (EP/S000771/1).The authors thank the reviewers for their useful and supportive comments.

Data availability
Data will be made available on request

Keywords

  • Hydrogen production
  • Hydrogen economy
  • Life cycle assessment
  • LCA
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering

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