Published: December 1973
Hydrogen is required for the removal of sulfur compounds from petroleum hydrocarbons. It is also needed in the production of the higher octane motor fuels. Consequently, pressures to reduce environmental pollution by lowering the lead content of motor fuels and the sulfur impurities of most hydrocarbon fuels are generating a large demand for hydrogen. In addition, the by-product hydrogen from petroleum refinery operations such as catalytic cracking is, in the United States, now almost fully utilized. Moreover, natural gas and naphtha, which in the past were readily available raw materials for hydrogen production for the synthesis of ammonia, methanol, and other chemicals, now appear to be entering a period of diminishing availability and rising prices. These factors are contributing to the current widespread interest in new sources of hydrogen.
This report is an evaluation of hydrogen production from existing commercial hydrocarbon sources, excluding by-product hydrogen from petroleum refining or chemical processing. Also considered are the older, less widely employed processes for hydrogen: coal gasification, the steam-iron reaction, and the electrolysis of water. Futuristic proposals for a large scale hydrogen fuel economy have been briefly examined. New developments in methods of hydrogen purification have been reviewed.
Hydrogen was previously dealt with in Process Economics Program Report No 32. That report was concerned primarily with hydrocarbon sources of hydrogen, since natural gas and naphtha were then readily available at low cost.
This present study has endeavored to update the economics and, where appropriate, the technology of the preceding report. Most of the literature and patent references in this report apply to information published since 1967.