This paper presents a thermo-economic assessment of three different hydrogen production processes using fossil fuels as feedstock. First, the paper provides process-step level energy and cost analysis for the solar reforming of natural gas. The same analysis is given for the solar cracking of natural gas. The results are compared with the thermo-economic process-step analysis of the steam reforming process. Based on the benchmark results, the paper discusses these three processes with respect to their economic viability. The data for the analysis is collected from literature, various vendors, and personal communications with people from industry and universities. The results are presented for unit hydrogen production by each technique and compared with the market price for hydrogen. An energy balance around each process-step is made to reveal the energy intensity of each process. Although the results show that the steam reforming of methane is still the most economical pathway for hydrogen production, it is only valid when the sequestration, storage, and transportation of hazardous emissions are not taken into account. Finally, this paper provides some ideas for the improvement of the most environmentally friendly hydrogen production technique; the solar cracking of natural gas.

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