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Lifecycle Impacts of Natural Gas to Hydrogen Pathways on Urban Air Quality


Journal Article

Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

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Suggested Citation:
Wang, Guihua, Joan M. Ogden, Michael A. Nicholas (2007) Lifecycle Impacts of Natural Gas to Hydrogen Pathways on Urban Air Quality. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 32 (14), 2731 - 2742

In this paper we examine the potential air quality impacts of hydrogen transportation fuel from a lifecycle analysis perspective, including impacts from fuel production, delivery, and vehicle use. We assume that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are introduced in a specific region, Sacramento County, California. We consider two levels of market penetration where 9% or 20% of the light duty fleet are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The following three natural gas to hydrogen supply pathways are assessed in detail and compared in terms of emissions and the resulting changes in ambient air quality: (1) onsite hydrogen production; (2) centralized hydrogen production with gaseous hydrogen pipeline delivery systems; and (3) centralized hydrogen production with liquid hydrogen truck delivery systems. All the pathways examined use steam methane reforming (SMR) of natural gas to produce hydrogen. The source contributions to incremental air pollution are estimated and compared among hydrogen pathways. All of the hydrogen pathways result in extremely low contributions to ambient air concentrations of NOx, CO, particulates, and SOx, typically less than 0.1% of the current ambient pollution for both levels of market penetration. Among the hydrogen supply options, it is found that the central SMR with pipeline delivery systems is the lowest pollution option available provided the plant is located to avoid transport of pollutants into the city via prevailing winds. The onsite hydrogen pathway is comparable to the central hydrogen pathway with pipeline systems in terms of the resulting air pollution. The pathway with liquid hydrogen trucks has a greater impact on air quality relative to the other pathways due to emissions associated with diesel trucks and electricity consumption to liquefy hydrogen. However, all three hydrogen pathways result in negligible air pollution in the region.