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Hydrogen Production via Grey, Blue and Green Routes

Refinery hydrogen production, purification, and recovery is critical to the refining industry as hydrogen demand is increasing because of decreasing crude quality and increasingly stringent fuel standards around the world. About a third of refinery H2 demand is met via byproduct supply from catalytic reforming units. The remainder comes from onsite dedicated H2 production via steam reforming or alternative technologies, recovery from offgas and purge streams, and the purchase of hydrogen from an over-the-fence production facility (merchant supplier).

This study comprises comprehensive reviews of three hydrogen production technology components: (1) steam reforming of a natural gas or other light hydrocarbons is typically designed as a complete H2 plant, including the necessary pretreatment, shift conversion, and purification units; (2) refinery H2 recovery from offgas and purge gas streams to be achieved in a number of different configurations; (3)hydrogen purification downstream of the steam methane reformer (SMR) using PSA or membrane technology.

How it will benefit you

An area of concern with SMRs is that they contribute to a significant portion of a refinery's overall carbon footprint, due mainly to the fact that hydrogen production is energy intensive and most of the carbon fed into the unit ends up as CO2. To help refiners in tackling these challenges, this study reviews latest technology offerings which bolster productivity and energy savings in steam reforming, H2 recovery, and purification to better margins and achieve plant decarbonization. Furthermore, the goal is to identify options such as lowering combustion requirements and removing CO2 from syngas, PSA tailgas, and flue gas. In the future, refiners may turn to dry reforming, blue hydrogen production (steam reforming with carbon capture storage), and to a lesser degree electrolysis to lower CO2 emissions.

What does it include

The current study, completed in 4Q2019, begins with an updated look at the factors impacting hydrogen demand as well as projects currently underway or planned for the future to boost hydrogen production or recovery capacity, the increased reliance on over-the-fence supplies by some refiners, the impact of the increase in hydrogen demand on greenhouse gas emissions, and the use of dry reforming and electrolysis as more environmentally-friendly alternatives to conventional steam reforming.

In addition to a comprehensive list of state-of-the-art technologies, recent innovations feature the new process and hardware offerings from Air Liquide (SMR-X technology for zero export steam coproduction); and TechnipFMC (ultra-low NOX Large Scale Vortex burner and Dual-Chamber Process Gas Boiler). In catalyst innovations, the study discusses Clariant (New ultra-low pressure drop ReforMax 210 LDP Plus and ReforMax 330 LDP Plus steam reforming catalysts); Johnson Matthey ("three in one" feed purification KATALCO 33-1 catalyst, and CATACEL SSR steam reforming catalyst system, and 83-6 medium-temperature shift catalyst and 83-5 isothermal shift catalyst); and ZoneFlow Reactor Technologies (ZR Reactors, which are proprietary catalyst systems), and more. Furthermore, the recent optimization works call for the use of spreadsheets for hydrogen network and Raman Spectroscopy.

To aid refiners' planning, there are survey and review the latest patent applications and research papers regarding refinery hydrogen production, purification, and recovery technology including prereforming; carbon dioxide removal; heat supply, recovery and utilization; reactors with membranes; reactors that perform water gas shift; other reactor designs; hydrogen plants; catalyst carriers; catalyst compositions; catalyst preparation methods; other reforming technologies; hydrogen recovery and purification; and more.

Finally, global installed capacity and recent construction activities are summarized in the study to track the growth of hydrogen production capacity around the world.

Publication details

Publication frequency

Single publication

Publication format

Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file


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