Decarbonisation Technology - November 2023 Issue

Industry outlook Natural gas has a 24% share of global primary energy consumption in 2022, growing at around 5.3% per annum (BP, 2023). Production in 2021 was 4,037 billion cubic metres (BCM), of which 1,022 BCM are traded globally. Given that conventional natural gas is a fossil fuel, it is not sustainable in the long-term, but it is an important transition fuel, with lower GHG emissions than coal (providing energy companies deliver their commitments to minimise methane emissions from natural gas operations) (OGCI, 2022). Biogas, or renewable natural gas (RNG), produced via anaerobic digestion from renewable biomass, is a source of renewable energy that can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. Methane separated from biogas is called bio-methane. Since methane is a potent GHG gas, reducing methane emissions from municipal waste treatment sites or from agricultural manure and biomass is an important climate mitigation goal. Hence, bio-methane can be considered a sustainable feedstock for methane pyrolysis. Catalysed pyrolysis uses only non-toxic metals; therefore, the disposal of spent catalyst is not a concern. Moreover, the ongoing innovation and research concerning the thermodynamics and kinetics of the pyrolysis reaction may open up new vistas with higher activity catalysts. Co-product carbon may be used in the manufacture of a variety of

products – carbon black, fibres and nanotubes – as well as a soil improver and for pollution control applications and environmental remediation. Methane pyrolysis and SMR with carbon capture are both promising processes for the production of renewable hydrogen production. They should be seen as complementary to rather than competitive with hydrogen from water electrolysis, with a ‘carbon-intensity’ metric used to drive sustainability for all three processes. Comparison of clean hydrogen production technologies Electrolyser capacity accounted for only 0.1% of global hydrogen capacity but is growing rapidly, reaching 510 MW by the end of 2021, with announced projects under construction leading to an estimated 170-365 GW by 2030 (IEA, 2023). However, the current pace of green hydrogen capacity expansion is not on track to meet the net zero goal by 2050. In 2023, the bulk of hydrogen production continues to be from unabated SMR within the oil refining, gas and chemical (fertiliser, methanol and petrochemical) industries. Hydrogen is seen as key to the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries, including steel and cement (see Figure 3 ). While all technologies available for the production of green hydrogen are optimised through research and innovation, it is expected that by 2025,

Electric grid infrastructure

Gas power plant

Hydrogen storage caverns

Regional pipeline or truck

Methane pyrolysis

Industrial demand centre Reneries, fertiliser makers, steel makers

Long-haul pipework network


Clean energy

Hydrogen fueling stations

Long distance shipping


Figure 3 Clean hydrogen economy

Courtesy: Monolith and S&P Global Market Intelligence


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