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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A streamlined framework for evaluating the environmemtal impacts of hydrogen energy systems Gan, Jinlu


Hydrogen (H₂) is a promising clean energy carrier for mitigating climate change impacts of energy systems. Hydrogen can be produced from a diverse group of feedstocks through different technology pathways. Reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from hydrogen production is critical for the transition to a low-carbon energy system. A systematic literature review was conducted on hydrogen production from steam reforming, water electrolysis, and biomass gasification. This led to a harmonized hydrogen production inventory dataset including both nominal and distributions of values for the critical parameters for modelling these hydrogen production pathways, which addressed the issue of lacking consistent hydrogen production inventory data in the current literature. Furthermore, to address the lack of a generic optimization framework for the entire hydrogen energy system (i.e., from hydrogen production to end use), a hydrogen superstructure framework was developed for identifying an optimal combination of hydrogen production and distribution technologies for a specific hydrogen application scenario, given a specific objective function of interest (e.g., minimizing the climate change impacts). The framework includes a life cycle assessment (LCA) model that calculates the environmental impacts of each process within the supply chain and a supply chain model that implements linear programming for optimization. This framework can also reveal the processes that contribute significantly to the environmental impacts and illustrate the influence of various factors on the optimal choice and associated impacts. A case study was performed to demonstrate the application of the framework on a hydrogen energy system within different end-use scenarios of light-duty fuel cell vehicles in British Columbia, Canada, for 2030. The case study indicates that meeting the GHG emission target of below 4.37 kg CO2 eq/kg H₂ is feasible with accessible resources. Sensitivity analysis was conducted to investigate the influence of (1) hydrogen supply-demand on GHG emissions, and (2) hydrogen transport distances on storage decisions. Results show that doubling hydrogen demand may render the climate target unachievable, indicating the need for strategic planning in hydrogen deployment.

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