Biomass gasification is a mature technology pathway that uses a controlled process involving heat, steam, and oxygen to convert biomass to hydrogen and other products, without combustion. Because growing biomass removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the net carbon emissions of this method can be low, especially if coupled with carbon capture, utilization, and storage in the long term.
Gasification plants for biofuels are being built and operated, and can provide best practices and lessons learned for hydrogen production.
What Is Biomass?
Biomass, a renewable organic resource, includes agriculture crop residues (such as corn stover or wheat straw), forest residues, special crops grown specifically for energy use (such as switchgrass or willow trees), organic municipal solid waste, and animal wastes. This renewable resource can be used to produce hydrogen, along with other byproducts, by gasification.
Producing hydrogen via gasification aids in solving two environmental problems: mounting waste stocks (e.g., landfills) and the carbon-intensive hydrogen production process. Estimates state that the world produces over 2 billion tons of municipal solid waste annually, with 12% of that figure being plastics.
On the demand side of the equation, total annual hydrogen demand worldwide is around 330 million tons of oil equivalent. Even if green or blue hydrogen captured 10% of total production, that would be a significant reduction in carbon emissions.
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