Assessing Sweden's future prospect for domestic hydrogen production based on lifecycle assessment

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Abstract: Humanity faces challenge to satisfy its growing energy demand while simultaneously transitioning into a sustainable society. Reducing carbon emissions from the industrial and transportation sector are met with difficulties. To help decarbonisation efforts EU members like Sweden have recognised the use of hydrogen as a viable solution. In 2021, Sweden laid out its national hydrogen strategy, containing desires to out-phase fossil-based hydrogen production with new sustainably alternatives. The question is whether Sweden has any prospect of domestically producing hydrogen in the future.  The purpose of the thesis is to lay out what hydrogen producing techniques could have a future prospect in Sweden, basing their performance on the amount of carbon emitted and energy consumption in a lifecycle perspective. To fulfil the thesis’ purpose, a literature review, and a comparative lifecycle assessment study that covers cradle-to-gate was conducted.  The literature study indicates that several mature options for producing hydrogen exists today and several upcoming techniques could be available in the future. Techniques recognised as mature today covers several process categories: steam reforming, gasifier, electrolyser, biolysis, and thermochemical hybrid.  Techniques that progressed to the LCA study were thermochemical techniques SMR (steam methane reforming) and CG (coal gasification), and electrolysers ALK (alkaline), PEM (proton exchange membrane), and SOEC (solid-oxide electrolyser cell). The techniques’ performance were tested in four scenarios: one in the present and three in the future. The Present scenario indicates that electrolysers were more benign towards global warming impact category than the thermochemical tehcniques’. The future scenario indicates that depending on the scenarios, electrolysers performed either better or worse regarding global warming impact category compared to SMR and SMR with CCS. Regardless of scenario, the LCA study indicates that a shift in burden from climate change to other impact categories could occur by replacing thermochemical techniques with electrolysers.  In conclusion, with the condition set for this thesis, Sweden has a future prospect for domestic hydrogen production, where more environmental benign techniques like electrolysers are possible. It is up to relevant stakeholders to decide whether possible shift in burden is acceptable. 

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