Life Cycle Analysis of Biomass Derived Hydrogen and Methane as Fuel Vectors, and a Critical Analysis of their Future Development in the UK

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Concerns over environmental impacts and long term availability of liquid fossil fuels means that sourcing alternative, renewable transport fuels has increased in importance. To date, implemented approaches have concentrated on the production of liquid biofuels biodiesel and bioethanol from crops. Even though technology for implementation is readily available in the form of biogas production and upgrading, gaseous fuels have been largely overlooked in the UK. Research completed showed that if produced from indigenous crops using currently viable technology, it is energetically more favourable to produce gaseous fuels rather than biodiesel or bioethanol with gaseous fuels also delivering some emission benefits at end use. To date, the subsidy system supporting biofuel production has not
    functioned well. Research showed that if the subsidies approached the maximum allowable value, and when produced from waste materials, the production of gaseous fuels can be
    economic compared to liquid biofuels. Life cycle assessment has showed that utilising biomethane as a vehicle fuel could be an environmentally appropriate approach if the conventional use for biogas of combusting in a combined heat and power plant cannot
    utilise the majority of the excess heat produced. A two stage process to produce a hydrogen / methane blend was shown to be energetically favourable when utilising wheat feed, although hydrogen production was low. The process was not energetically favourable when food waste was utilised, indicating the importance of optimising process according to feedstock characteristics. Life cycle assessment of electrolytic hydrogen production using a range of energy sources found that electrolysis driven by renewable energy was a valid option for future deployment. However, given current feedstock availability, indigenous biofuel production, regardless of the fuel produced, could only make minor contributions to overall fuel requirements. As such, a range of fuel vectors, or a significantly greater
    commitment of land resources to fuel production, will be required in the future.
    Date of AwardMay 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSandra Esteves (Supervisor), Richard Dinsdale (Supervisor) & Alan Guwy (Supervisor)


    • renewable transport fuels
    • Life Cycle Assessment
    • Biomass energy

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