The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office’ (FCTO) 2014 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Annual Progress Report (earlier post)—an annual summary of results from projects funded by DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program—described progress in the field of hydrogen production.
The objective of the Hydrogen Production sub-program is to reduce the cost of hydrogen dispensed at the pump to a cost that is competitive on a cents-per-mile basis with competing vehicle technologies. Based on current analysis, this translates to a hydrogen threshold cost of <$4 per kg hydrogen (produced, delivered, and dispensed, but untaxed) by 2020, apportioned to <$2/kg for production only.
For FY 2014, the Hydrogen Production sub-program continued to focus on developing technologies to enable the long-term viability of hydrogen as an energy carrier for a range of applications with a focus on hydrogen from low-carbon and renewable sources. Progress continued in several key areas, including electrolysis, photoelectrochemical (PEC), biological, and solar-thermochemical hydrogen production.
There are multiple DOE offices are engaged in R&D relevant to hydrogen production. FCTO’s focus is developing technologies for distributed and centralized renewable production of hydrogen. Distributed production options under development include reforming of bio-derived renewable liquids and electrolysis of water. Centralized renewable production options include water electrolysis integrated with renewable power generation (e.g., wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal power), biomass gasification, solar-driven high- temperature thermochemical water splitting, direct photoelectrochemical water splitting, and biological processes.
The Office of Fossil Energy (FE) is advancing the technologies needed to produce hydrogen from coal-derived synthesis gas, including co-production of hydrogen and electricity. Separate from the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program, FE is also developing technologies for carbon capture, utilization, and storage, which could eventually enable hydrogen production from coal to be a near-zero-emissions pathway.
The Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program conducts research to expand the fundamental understanding of biological and biomimetic hydrogen production, photoelectrochemical water splitting, catalysis, and membranes for gas separation.
The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is currently collaborating with EERE on a study of nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems. Many of the systems being evaluated by this study use hydrogen production as a form of energy storage or as an input to industrial processes. The previous major hydrogen activity in NE, the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, was discontinued in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 after steam electrolysis was chosen as the hydrogen production pathway most compatible with the next generation nuclear power.