Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biomass-based hydrogen production involves using biomass, such as wood chips, agricultural residues, and municipal solid waste, to produce hydrogen. This approach offers a renewable and potentially carbon-neutral pathway to green hydrogen production

Impact on climate action

Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production in Biomass for Heating & Power promotes climate action by offering a renewable hydrogen source. By converting biomass into hydrogen through gasification or pyrolysis, this innovation provides a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels, reducing emissions and advancing the transition to a sustainable energy system.


  • Biomass Gasification: Biomass is heated 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 to increase the hydrogen yield.
  • Water-Gas Shift Reaction: This chemical reaction converts carbon monoxide in the syngas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
  • 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.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Enhanced Biomass Gasification Technologies
  • Catalyst Development for Improved Hydrogen Yield
  • Advancements in Hydrogen Purification Techniques
  • Next-Generation Gasifier Designs
  • Catalytic Gasification Innovations
  • Sustainable Biomass Sourcing Strategies
  • Syngas Cleaning and Conditioning Innovations
  • Plasma Gasification for Enhanced Efficiency
  • Scaling Up Biomass Hydrogen Production

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Enerkem:
    • Technology Enhancement: Enerkem is a biofuels and renewable chemicals company that specializes in converting non-recyclable municipal solid waste into biofuels and biochemicals, including hydrogen. Their technology involves gasification and catalytic conversion processes to produce syngas, which can then be further processed into hydrogen and other valuable products.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Enerkem stands out for its innovative approach to biomass conversion and its focus on turning waste materials into sustainable fuels and chemicals. Their technology offers a unique solution for addressing waste management challenges while producing low-carbon hydrogen for various applications, including transportation and industrial processes.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Enerkem serves municipalities, waste management companies, and industrial partners seeking sustainable solutions for waste disposal and renewable energy production. Their biomass-based hydrogen production process can benefit industries looking to reduce carbon emissions and enhance sustainability in their operations.
  • Air Liquide:
    • Technology Enhancement: Air Liquide is a global leader in industrial gases and hydrogen production, with expertise in various hydrogen production technologies, including steam methane reforming (SMR), electrolysis, and biomass gasification. They offer biomass gasification solutions for hydrogen production, utilizing renewable biomass feedstocks to produce syngas, which can then be purified into hydrogen.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Air Liquide stands out for its extensive experience in hydrogen production and its commitment to sustainable energy solutions. Their biomass-based hydrogen production technology complements their broader portfolio of hydrogen solutions, providing customers with flexible and environmentally friendly options for meeting their hydrogen needs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Air Liquide serves a wide range of industries and applications requiring hydrogen for various purposes, including refining, chemicals, metallurgy, and transportation. Their biomass-based hydrogen production solutions cater to customers seeking renewable and low-carbon alternatives to conventional hydrogen production methods.
  • Ørsted:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ørsted is a renewable energy company known for its expertise in offshore wind power. They are also involved in biomass-based hydrogen production through their sustainable biomass sourcing and conversion processes. Their approach involves utilizing biomass feedstocks, such as agricultural residues and forestry residues, to produce renewable hydrogen via gasification and reforming processes.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Ørsted stands out for its integration of biomass-based hydrogen production into its broader renewable energy portfolio. Their expertise in renewable energy generation, combined with biomass utilization, positions them as a key player in the transition to a sustainable hydrogen economy.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Ørsted serves industries and utilities seeking renewable and low-carbon energy solutions, including hydrogen for transportation, industrial processes, and energy storage. Their biomass-based hydrogen production initiatives align with their commitment to decarbonizing the energy sector and promoting sustainable development.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM is a leading institution in research on Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production, focusing on developing efficient and sustainable pathways for producing hydrogen from biomass feedstocks through thermochemical and biochemical processes.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves investigating novel reactor designs, catalyst materials, and process conditions for biomass gasification, pyrolysis, and reforming to generate hydrogen-rich syngas. They also explore advanced separation and purification techniques to obtain high-purity hydrogen suitable for various applications.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in hydrogen refueling stations, industrial processes, and power generation. By leveraging biomass resources for hydrogen production, TUM’s research contributes to decarbonizing the energy sector, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and promoting renewable hydrogen as a clean and versatile energy carrier.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL conducts cutting-edge research on Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production, leveraging its expertise in bioenergy, thermochemical conversion, and hydrogen technologies to develop cost-effective and scalable pathways for biomass-to-hydrogen conversion.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of integrated biorefinery concepts that combine biomass feedstock preprocessing, conversion, and hydrogen production processes. They also explore synergies with renewable electricity sources, carbon capture technologies, and hydrogen storage solutions to enhance system efficiency and sustainability.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in transportation, stationary power generation, and industrial applications. By advancing biomass-based hydrogen production technologies, NREL’s research supports the transition to a low-carbon economy, fosters rural economic development, and enhances energy security through domestic renewable fuel production.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley is engaged in innovative research on Biomass-Based Hydrogen Production, leveraging its multidisciplinary expertise in chemistry, chemical engineering, and environmental science to develop efficient and environmentally sustainable processes for converting biomass into hydrogen.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves exploring novel biomass pretreatment methods, catalyst development, and reactor engineering for biomass gasification, steam reforming, and biological conversion routes to produce hydrogen with high yield and purity. They also investigate techno-economic analysis, life cycle assessment, and policy implications to assess the viability and impact of biomass-based hydrogen technologies.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in distributed energy systems, hydrogen infrastructure development, and renewable hydrogen supply chains. By harnessing biomass resources for hydrogen production, UC Berkeley’s research contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting rural development, and creating new opportunities for sustainable energy production and utilization.

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.