Prospective life cycle assessment of hydrogen production by waste photoreforming


Identifying sustainable energy vectors is perhaps one of the most critical issues that needs addressing to achieve a climate-neutral society by 2050. In this context, the hydrogen economy has been proposed as a solution to mitigate our current fossil-based energy system while the concept of the circular economy aims to boost the efficient use of resources. Photoreforming offers a promising opportunity for recycling and transforming widely available biomass-derived wastes (e.g., crude glycerol from biodiesel) into clean hydrogen fuel. This processing technology may be a versatile method that can be performed not only under UV light but also under visible light. However, this approach is currently at the lab-scale and some inherent challenges must be overcome, not least the relatively modest hydrogen production rates for the lamps? substantial energy consumption. This study aims to assess the main environmental impacts, identifying the hotspots and possible trade-off in which this technology could operate feasibly. We introduce an assessment of the windows of opportunity using seven categories of environmental impact with either artificial light or sunlight as the source of photocatalytic conversion. We compared the environmental indicators from this study with those of the benchmark water electrolysis and steam?methane reforming (SMR) technologies, which are currently operating at a commercial scale. The results obtained in this study situate biowaste photoreforming within the portfolio of sustainable H2 production technologies of interest for future development in terms of target H2 production rates and lifetimes of sustainable operation.Financial support from projects RTI2018-099407-B-I00 and RTI2018-099407-B-I00 funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033/FEDER and by “ERDF A way of making Europe” by the “European Union” is gratefully acknowledged. We would like also to thank MICIN for providing Marta Rumayor with a Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral contract IJCI-2017-32621

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