Hydrogen could become an important energy source in future if suitable low-cost processes for producing it from renewable raw materials are developed. Today gaseous hydrogen is part of many industrial processes, for instance in oil refineries, and it is usually extracted from fossil raw materials (raw petrol or natural gas). Hydrogen made from biomass reduces refineries’ CO2 emissions from fossil materials considerably and thereby makes refinery processes significantly more environmentally friendly without affecting fuel quality.
Within the BioH2 4Refineries project the partners OMV, Repotec, Bioenergy2020+ and Vienna University of Technology are currently developing a process which makes the production of high-purity hydrogen from biomass possible on an industrial scale. The new technology is based on the biomass DUAL FLUID gasification technology described above. Apart from wood chips, short-cycle energy crops can also be used as biogenic raw material. With a broad range of raw materials it is expected that the approach will become economically viable.
As regards the production process developed, a model has been devised at the Vienna University of Technology for calculating the energy balance and mass balance for the new hydrogen production facility. The first results demonstrate the capacity of the new process: from a biomass input with a calorific value of 50 MW it is possible to generate 30 MW of ultra-pure hydrogen for refinery applications. Additional heat from the process can be used on site to generate process steam.
The hydrogen produced from biomass complies with modern refineries’ strict requirements. So far environmentally friendly fuels have been produced by mixing biofuel with conventionally produced fuel to improve the CO2 balance. With the new process it is possible to integrate biogenic raw material into fuel production without affecting the quality of the fuel produced adversely.
Research work done so far has laid the groundwork for further steps in implemention. With construction of a demonstration facility in progress, further promising results can be expected.