Waste to Hydrogren: Analysis of viable pathways, costs, and benefits of producing hydrogen from waste in California
Producing hydrogen from waste provides an opportunity to divert waste from landfills while simultaneously transforming the hydrogen market away from fossil fuel production pathways, reducing market uncertainty for hydrogen as a clean energy carrier. This report aims to provide a deeper understanding of waste-to-hydrogen pathways by outlining existing and emerging waste management methods in California, explaining which pathways can produce hydrogen from different waste streams, and analyzing the costs and benefits of municipal solid waste gasification in Los Angeles County. The results of this analysis reiterate the profound differences between emerging thermochemical conversion technologies and the outdated transformation pathway of incineration. The lack of recognition of these differences in the policy landscape calls for two key recommendations. First, using novel satellite technology to more accurately measure and track landfill methane emissions to better quantify the social cost of landfilling and allow more informed comparisons of alternative technologies to this default disposal method. The second recommendation is to change the definition of gasification under state legislature to recognize hydrogen production as a viable output from the gasification process. Alternative technologies like gasification of waste to generate hydrogen have the potential to complement current waste management methods while leveraging a renewable hydrogen market, and this should be reflected more heavily in California state policy.