Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biomass-based hydrogen production involves utilizing biomass, such as wood chips, agricultural residues, and municipal solid waste, as a feedstock to produce hydrogen. This approach offers a renewable and potentially carbon-neutral pathway to green hydrogen production, contributing to a sustainable energy future and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Impact on climate action

Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production in Green Hydrogen advances climate action by offering a renewable, low-carbon fuel alternative. By utilizing biomass feedstocks, this innovation produces hydrogen with reduced emissions, facilitating the transition to a clean energy economy while mitigating climate change impacts and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.


  • Biomass Gasification: This thermochemical process involves heating biomass in a controlled environment with a limited amount of oxygen, converting it into syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
  • Steam Reforming: Syngas can be further processed through steam reforming, where it reacts with steam at high temperatures to increase the hydrogen yield.
  • Water-Gas Shift Reaction: This chemical reaction converts carbon monoxide in the syngas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, further increasing the hydrogen content.
  • Hydrogen Purification: The hydrogen produced needs to be purified to remove impurities and meet the required specifications for different applications.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Integrating CCS technologies with biomass gasification can capture the carbon dioxide emissions, resulting in carbon-neutral or even negative-carbon hydrogen production.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Gasifier Designs: Researchers and startups are developing advanced gasifier designs that offer higher efficiency, improved feedstock flexibility, and higher syngas quality, leading to more efficient and cost-effective hydrogen production.
  • Catalytic Gasification and Reforming: Using catalysts in the gasification and reforming processes can improve hydrogen yields and reduce the need for high temperatures, enhancing efficiency and reducing costs.
  • Biomass-Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (BIGCC) Systems: BIGCC systems combine biomass gasification with a combined cycle power plant to generate electricity and hydrogen simultaneously, offering high efficiency and reduced emissions.
  • Sustainable Biomass Sourcing: Ensuring the sustainability of biomass feedstocks is crucial for biomass-based hydrogen production to be truly renewable and carbon-neutral. This involves sourcing biomass from sustainably managed forests and agricultural residues, and avoiding deforestation or land-use change.
  • Biohydrogen Production: Emerging technologies, such as dark fermentation and photobiological processes, are being explored to produce hydrogen directly from biomass using microorganisms.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Syngas Optimization Techniques
  • Integrated Carbon Capture Solutions
  • Novel Gasifier Configurations
  • Biomass Feedstock Diversification
  • Efficiency Enhancements in Steam Reforming
  • Advanced Catalyst Development
  • Decentralized Hydrogen Production Systems
  • Sustainable Biomass Sourcing Practices
  • Biomass Gasification Integration with Renewables
  • Next-Generation Gas Cleaning Technologies
  • Microbial Hydrogen Production Methods
  • Modular Biomass-to-Hydrogen Systems
  • Synergy between Biomass and Waste Management
  • Renewable Hydrogen Supply Chains
  • Plasma Gasification Innovations
  • Hybrid Biomass Conversion Processes
  • Scaling Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production
  • Enhanced Hydrogen Purification Techniques

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Enerkem:
    • Technology Enhancement: Enerkem specializes in advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals production from non-recyclable waste materials, including biomass. Their technology platform converts biomass feedstocks, such as municipal solid waste and agricultural residues, into synthesis gas (syngas), which can be further processed to produce hydrogen. Enerkem’s approach offers a sustainable and carbon-neutral pathway for hydrogen production by utilizing organic waste streams as feedstock.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Enerkem stands out for its innovative waste-to-biofuels technology and its focus on producing renewable hydrogen from biomass feedstocks. Their integrated approach to biomass conversion enables the valorization of waste materials while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. Enerkem’s technology contributes to circular economy principles by closing the loop on organic waste management.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Enerkem serves municipalities, waste management companies, and industrial partners seeking sustainable waste management and renewable energy solutions. Their biomass-based hydrogen production technology can be integrated into existing waste-to-energy facilities, biofuel plants, and hydrogen production facilities, offering a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional hydrogen production methods.
  2. Ways2H:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ways2H specializes in decentralized hydrogen production from biomass and waste feedstocks using gasification and steam reforming processes. Their technology platform converts various biomass sources, including municipal solid waste, sewage sludge, and agricultural residues, into hydrogen-rich syngas. Ways2H’s approach offers a scalable and efficient solution for producing renewable hydrogen while addressing waste management challenges.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Ways2H stands out for its focus on small-scale, modular hydrogen production systems tailored for decentralized applications. Their technology enables the conversion of diverse biomass feedstocks into hydrogen, providing a flexible and sustainable alternative to centralized hydrogen production facilities. Ways2H’s solutions support local energy production and contribute to the transition to a circular economy.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Ways2H targets municipalities, industrial facilities, and remote communities seeking onsite hydrogen production solutions. Their biomass-based hydrogen production systems can be deployed in various settings, including waste treatment plants, agricultural operations, and off-grid locations, providing clean and reliable energy for transportation, heating, and power generation.
  3. Verbio:
    • Technology Enhancement: Verbio is a leading producer of renewable natural gas (RNG) and biomethane derived from biomass feedstocks, including agricultural residues, organic waste, and energy crops. Their biogas upgrading technology enables the conversion of biogas into high-purity hydrogen suitable for use in fuel cell applications. Verbio’s approach offers a sustainable and carbon-neutral pathway for hydrogen production while leveraging existing biogas infrastructure.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Verbio stands out for its expertise in biomethane production and its innovative approach to hydrogen production from biogas. Their biogas upgrading technology enables efficient hydrogen purification, ensuring high-quality hydrogen output for various applications, including fuel cell vehicles and industrial processes. Verbio’s solutions contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable energy integration.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Verbio serves biogas producers, waste management companies, and transportation fleets seeking renewable hydrogen solutions. Their biomethane-based hydrogen production technology can be integrated into existing biogas plants and RNG facilities, offering a seamless transition to hydrogen production while maximizing the value of organic waste streams.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM is at the forefront of research on Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production, focusing on developing novel thermochemical and biochemical conversion processes for producing hydrogen from biomass feedstocks, such as agricultural residues, forestry waste, and organic waste streams.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of integrated biorefinery concepts, catalysts, and reactor technologies for biomass gasification, steam reforming, and pyrolysis to produce hydrogen-rich syngas. They also explore biomass pretreatment, fermentation, and microbial conversion pathways to enhance hydrogen yields, purity, and process efficiency.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in renewable hydrogen production, industrial decarbonization, and energy storage. By valorizing biomass resources for hydrogen production, TUM’s research supports the transition to a sustainable and circular bioeconomy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel dependency.
  2. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL conducts pioneering research on Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production, leveraging its expertise in biomass characterization, process modeling, and techno-economic analysis to advance biomass-to-hydrogen conversion technologies and demonstrate their feasibility at scale.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves developing innovative biomass conversion pathways, catalysts, and reactor systems for thermochemical, electrochemical, and photochemical hydrogen production routes. They also evaluate the environmental impact, resource availability, and economic viability of biomass-derived hydrogen compared to conventional fossil fuel-based hydrogen production methods.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in renewable hydrogen supply chains, hydrogen fueling stations, and energy-intensive industries. By exploring biomass as a sustainable feedstock for hydrogen production, NREL’s research contributes to decarbonizing transportation, heating, and industrial processes, fostering a more sustainable and resilient energy infrastructure.
  3. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley is engaged in innovative research on Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production, focusing on developing scalable and cost-effective pathways for generating hydrogen from biomass-derived feedstocks through thermochemical, biochemical, and hybrid conversion processes.
    • Uniqueness: Their research spans biomass gasification, bio-oil reforming, and biocatalytic hydrogen production methods, aiming to optimize process efficiency, hydrogen yield, and carbon footprint reduction. They also investigate co-product utilization, carbon capture and utilization (CCU), and lifecycle analysis to assess the sustainability and environmental benefits of biomass-to-hydrogen systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in renewable hydrogen infrastructure, distributed energy systems, and rural development. By harnessing biomass resources for hydrogen production, UC Berkeley’s research supports regional economic growth, agricultural sustainability, and climate change mitigation goals, enabling the transition to a low-carbon and circular hydrogen economy.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Biomass-based hydrogen production is still in its early stages of commercialization, but several demonstration and pilot projects are underway. For example, Enerkem is operating a commercial-scale plant in Canada that produces hydrogen from municipal solid waste.