Hydrogen, inherently colorless and devoid of scent, becomes a pivotal agent in combating climate change only when its origin is renewable sources, thus earning the designation ‘green hydrogen.’ The promise of hydrogen as an environmentally friendly fuel hinges significantly on its mode of production. A recent leap forward by scientists has seen the successful thermochemical transformation of woody biomass into green hydrogen, coupled with the effective capture of CO2.
Currently, the majority of hydrogen production relies heavily on fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and coal, leading to the emission of approximately 900 million tonnes of CO2. With its reputation as a clean energy medium, hydrogen has sparked immense global interest as a potential replacement for fossil fuels, aiming to diminish greenhouse gas emissions. However, the current production of green hydrogen from renewable sources constitutes a mere fraction (less than 0.1%) of global hydrogen production, primarily through water electrolysis, which is advantageous only when powered by renewable electricity. Thus, the diversification of renewable sources for hydrogen production is highly sought after.
The question arises: Can firewood, a traditional source of fire, be transformed into a source of hydrogen? A groundbreaking discovery now makes this a reality. In an insightful review by Shusheng Pang, a distinguished researcher at the University of Canterbury, significant advancements have been highlighted in the realm of hydrogen production from woody biomass, achieved through the application of thermochemical conversion techniques. This sophisticated process commences with an advanced form of biomass steam gasification, leading to the creation of a hydrogen-rich gaseous concoction that includes H2, CO, CO2, and CH4. Following this, CO2 is meticulously separated from the amalgam for potential reuse. The resultant gas then undergoes a series of intricate processing steps, facilitating the transformation of CH4 and CO into H2 and CO2, a reaction primarily driven by steam. The culmination of this process sees the isolation of H2, which is then stored efficiently using an organic liquid carrier, a technique known as hydrogenation.
This innovative approach opens new avenues for increasing H2 yield through the infusion of steam in biomass gasification and subsequent gas processing operations. However, further research and development are imperative for the practical application of these hydrogen production technologies from woody biomass. Future research endeavors will concentrate on demonstrating this technology on a larger scale, analyzing both capital and operational expenses, and validating the overall environmental benefits of this approach. The ongoing research in hydrogen technology holds immense significance for us all, as we eagerly anticipate further groundbreaking developments in this field.