An Introduction to Steam-Methane Reformation

At OneH2, our principal method of producing hydrogen is by steam-methane reformation or a variant of this known as autothermal reformation. While this process has existed for many years, increased interest in and demand for hydrogen fuel has brought SMR into the center of conversations about the future of the energy sector.

As developers of SMR equipment to generate hydrogen fuel, we want to share the foundational concepts behind this process with those interested in hydrogen fuel solutions. In this post, we will take an introductory look at the process behind steam-methane reformation (SMR) and the benefits it provides. While SMR processes do have carbon emissions, it is the lowest cost of producing hydrogen at scale.

SMR requires three inputs: water, electricity, and methane. During the SMR process, methane reacts with high-pressure steam to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a small amount of carbon dioxide. This reaction takes place under low pressure and high temperature, utilizing a catalyst in an SMR unit. The most used catalysts for this reaction are nickel-based, as they are more cost-effective than some platinum-based alternatives.

In the next step, impurities are removed from the syngas (Combination of hydrogen gas with impurities) during the gas purification process. This is typically achieved via a pressure-swing adsorption (PSA) process. PSA is a very efficient gas-separation process turning impure hydrogen to SAE J2719 fuel cell grade hydrogen. The process places hydrogen in a vessel under a specific range of  pressure, resulting in the deposit or adsorption of impurities onto a solid material bed in the vessel. The purified hydrogen gas then passes through the vessel and is captured to be utilized as fuel. 

A key challenge of SMR is reducing the carbon emissions generated in the hydrogen production process. While hydrogen produced via SMR has zero emissions at the point of use, the generation process produces some carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Research into carbon capture abilities for this process is being conducted throughout the industry. The benefits of SMR as a hydrogen production method include decreased cost, high output of hydrogen, and availability of feedstock. 

By offering SMR-based hydrogen generation equipment, we help businesses begin their transition to hydrogen fuel. We believe increasing access to hydrogen fuel requires a simple, cost-viable solution that can be implemented easily with minimal disruption to a business’s operations. That’s why we developed a scalable, modular hydrogen fuel solution that prioritizes commercial viability, safety, and reliability. 

“Our equipment provides a pathway for businesses to adopt hydrogen fuel systems at a pace that supports their long-term operational and sustainability goals. Instead of asking companies to adopt the high-cost, lowest-emissions option, we provide a cost-accessible solution that allows them to continue improving their emissions rates over time.” – Nishanth Gorukanti, General Manager of Operations and Maintenance at OneH2.

To learn more about our hydrogen production methods, click here