Natural gas reforming and the future of hydrogen production

Posted: June 13, 2024

As we seek new ways of building a cleaner and more sustainable energy landscape, hydrogen production provides rich opportunities for change. Hydrogen is an essential part of our daily lives—it’s used in a range of applications, from fuel cell electric vehicles to industrial processes. While hydrogen can be generated without fossil fuels, most current hydrogen production processes are still reliant on them. These existing processes represent a huge opportunity for industry to optimize processes for increased sustainability and economic viability.

The steam reforming process

Currently, natural gas reforming, including steam reforming and steam methane reforming, is a cornerstone of industrial hydrogen production. This process makes use of the extensive natural gas reforming infrastructure already in place—the US produces 95% of its hydrogen this way, and it’s known as “grey hydrogen”.

The scalability and efficiency of methane steam reforming makes it a preferred choice in large-scale bulk gas production facilities. The process involves high-temperature steam reacting with methane in the presence of a catalyst. The reaction yields hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and some carbon dioxide.

Bridging natural gas with renewable energy for a low-carbon economy

While natural gas remains a primary feedstock for hydrogen production for now, ongoing efforts are focusing on integrating renewable resources into the production process. The industry’s long-term strategies aim to blend hydrogen production with renewable, nuclear, and low-carbon energy sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum dependency.

However, the opportunity to optimize hydrogen production through natural gas reforming methods also remains pivotal in the transition towards a low-carbon economy. Integrating renewable resources into the process underscores the commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, ensuring a greener future for generations to come. While these innovative production methods provide exciting opportunities, there are also huge gains to be made by digitalizing the entire life cycle of hydrogen plants, contributing to greater efficiency and precision in the production process.

To find out more about the future of sustainable hydrogen production, watch our on-demand webinar: Green hydrogen plants for enhanced sustainability and economic viability.

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