New IEAGHG Technical Report: 2022-06 Blue Hydrogen Beyond the Plant Gate

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By Abdul'Aziz Aliyu

2 August 2022

The momentum behind the hydrogen economy is unprecedented with government policy announcements to corporate commitments, and consortia and projects synergies. There is currently a global cognizance with regards to how low carbon hydrogen is critical to achieving the climate goals of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.50 Celsius.

In spite of the well-established hydrogen production technologies from organic feedstocks hydrogen production from oil and oil-based products (which could represent an additional and interesting source of production of hydrogen and bring forth potential cost reductions in the blue hydrogen price) has not been fully explored to date. Consequently, IEAGHG commissioned a study entitled ”Blue Hydrogen – Beyond the Plant Gate” with the aim of producing a comparative analysis of blue hydrogen production (that is hydrogen derived from fossil fuels and associated CCS) technologies from oil and oil-based feedstocks as well as the supply chain implication.

To address key knowledge gaps in blue hydrogen production pathways, this study was conducted in parallel with a second study title ‘Low carbon hydrogen from natural gas: Global Roadmap”, which focusses on the technical, economic, and environmental impact of hydrogen production routes from natural gas with associated CCS.

Eight selected hydrogen production technologies, which use oil and/or oil-based products as feedstocks, are reviewed in this study. These technologies with their respective TRLs (technology readiness levels) include catalytic naphtha reforming (9), pyrolysis (4-8)[1], plasma reforming (4), diesel reforming (3-4), HyRes (3-4), steam naphtha reforming (9), partial oxidation (9) and hygienic earth energy (4-6).

Steam naphtha reforming (SNR), partial oxidation (POX) and hygienic earth energy (HEE) were selected for further techno-economic and life-cycle analysis in this study.

The potential for oil-based blue hydrogen production technologies in terms of CO2 transport and storage (T&S) options, feedstock availability, and access to hydrogen markets, were conducted in fifteen countries across five regions as follows:

  • Middle East – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran
  • West Africa – Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Angola
  • North Africa – Algeria and Libya
  • Latin America – Brazil and Venezuela

This study has demonstrated that there are pathways to competitively produce hydrogen derived from oil and oil-based products when compared to the other mainstream alternatives such as hydrogen derived from natural gas and/or electrolytic hydrogen. The competitive potential of the three studied technologies are as follows:

  • oSNR: This technology has the potential to be deployed close to a refinery which supplies Naphtha. SNR cost is, however, 118% higher than SMR in Netherlands because of the high feedstock cost. Therefore, this technology is competitive when cost of naphtha is lower than natural gas.
  • oPOX: This technology can readily be deployed close to a refinery which can supply a vacuum residue. POX has the advantage of utilising other waste oil products as feedstock, consequently improving its economics.
  • oHEE: If this technology is proven, it has the potential for dedicated hydrogen production from depleted oil reservoirs. Further, HEE has a competitive edge in regions where SNR and/or POX are costly.

A potential competitive pathway for hydrogen derived from oil and oil-based products against other mainstream alternatives could be achieved if the hydrocarbon feedstock is treated as a waste product (vacuum residue) or assuming it has no inherent economic value (retained within a depleted reservoir).

The findings of this study will be of interest to the industry, academia, policy makers and technology developers. To request a copy of the report, please email tom.billcliff@ieaghg.org with the report reference number (2022-06).

[1] The TRL for pyrolysis of oil and oil-based and natural gas feedstocks are currently at 4 and 8 respectively 

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