Many efforts have been made to produce an alternative to natural gas. One leading idea is that of renewable hydrogen. Hydrogen is the prototype of the environmentally cleanest fuel of interest for power generation using fuel cells. At present, hydrogen is produced almost entirely from fossil fuels such as natural gas, naphtha and inexpensive coal. However these processes are not environment friendly as carbon emissions are always associated with them. Biomass as a product of photosynthesis is a renewable source that can be used for sustainable production of hydrogen. However, direct production of hydrogen from biomass by gassification/water gas shift technology is unfavorable economically, except for very low cost feed stocks and very large plants. The approach proposes an alternative strategy with potentially better economics resulting from the combined production of hydrogen with valuable co-products. The proposed strategy can be applied to any lignocellulosic biomass either from agriculture or from forest operations.
The process involves the thermo-chemical conversion of biomass to hydrogen by catalytic steam reforming of specific fractions derived from fast pyrolysis and aqueous/steam process of biomass. Bio-oil (as a whole or it\u2019s selected fractions) can be converted to hydrogen via catalytic steam reforming followed by a water gas shift conversion step. Fast pyrolysis, a technology near commercial scale, could be carried out in a regional network of plants that would supply bio-oil to a central reforming facility. The preferred option is to separate bio- oil into a lignin-derived fraction, which could be used for producing phenolic resins or fuel additives and a carbohydrate derived material that would be steam reformed to produce hydrogen. The co-product strategy can also be applied to residual fractions derived from pulping operations and from ethanol production. Hydrogen can be generated from these fractions that are currently available in most pulp mills and that will available in future.
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