Including environmental impacts in the design of H2 storage systems

Our colleagues from Contactica tell us a bit more about LCA in MAST3RBoost

Hydrogen gradient in an illustration in clear blue
Image from Freepik

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology used to study environmental impacts throughout the entire life cycle of a product, process, or activity. The LCA of a product allows the identification of the main environmental impacts (waste, emissions into the atmosphere, consumption of raw materials, and energy) taking into account all the stages of its life cycle, starting from its origin until its end of life (from cradle to grave). Once the main impacts have been identified, it allows the analysis of alternatives in production processes and the implementation of environmental mitigation strategies (ISO 14040, 2006).

MAST3RBoost project has the ambitious goal of providing a safe solution to H2 storage, using low temperature vessels packed with ultra-porous materials that will keep the fuel in place until use. This solution is an enabler of green H2 use and therefore can help reduce the need for fossil fuels and CO2 emissions in the heavy-duty transportation sector. Nevertheless, the process of manufacturing the ultra-porous materials that will adsorb H2, as well as the vessel and storage system require several raw materials, such as precursors for activated carbon, metals for the tank manufacturing, painting and coating chemicals, as well as energy to set up and maintain the storage unit during loading and unloading of H2. This is where the LCA is useful, as it helps to understand the main environmental impacts associated with MAST3RBoost solution from materials manufacturing to the final tank use.

Image from Freepik

In this project, the LCA scope will be cradle to grave: in other words, it will include the ultra-porous materials synthesis, the tank alloy manufacturing using the innovative wire arc method, vessel coating and assembly, as well as tank use through a series of loading and unloading cycles and end of life of all the materials. The working group is already gathering all data into a Life Cycle Inventory (LCI), which is a compilation of material and energy inputs and outputs associated with different stages of the tank life cycle. When this data is available, a life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) will be performed to calculate the impacts in different midpoint categories, such as climate change, use of resources or water use. Then the results will be interpreted to find most relevant impact categories, life cycle stages and processes, and providing recommendations to minimize the most significant impacts.

The two main applications of the LCA task are: i) the possibility of comparing MAST3RBoost solution against other technologies for heavy-duty transport, such as diesel internal combustion engines, hydrogen fuel cells, full electric systems, among others and ii) the inclusion of relevant sustainability indicators in early stages of design of H2 systems. The findings of this analysis will provide the industry with valuable information to support decision making of future technologies and scale-up strategies, so that H2 storage can be performed in a safe and sustainable manner.

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