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What is it?

Natural gas is mixed with steam (and/or carbon dioxide) in the presence of a catalyst at high temperatures and moderate pressure to produce syngas.

Why is it important?

This process is well understood and established at industrial scale. Most hydrogen today is produced via this method.


  • Inputs: Steam reforming - Water, heat, natural gas. Carbon dioxide reforming - CO2, heat, natural gas
  • By-products: CO2 (resulting from purification step to increase hydrogen production)
  • Operating temperature: ~750°C
  • Energy efficiency: 74-85%


  • Steam reforming - High selectivity to hydrogen in syngas product - higher H2/CO ratio for H2 production than autothermal reforming or partial oxidation
  • Less clean-up required than pyrolysis options
  • Carbon dioxide reforming - makes use of CO2 as a reagent


  • High carbon dioxide emissions (requires CSS or further handling)
  • Steam reforming - High water usage per kilogram of hydrogen produced
  • Carbon dioxide reforming – greater energy demand, lower quantities of hydrogen produced per unit of natural gas

RD&D priorities

  • Developing and demonstrating CCUS technology to minimise CO2 emissions
  • Developing new reactor membranes
  • Improve appliance and plant design for greater flexibility in ramping up and ramping down
  • Integrate renewable energy sources. For example, concentrated solar power can act as a thermal energy source for the process
  • Establish environmentally suitable treatment of waste by-products
  • Develop cheap and effective hydrogen separation systems to obtain appropriately pure hydrogen for specific applications
  • Improve reactor design to accommodate highly exothermic or endothermic reactions (e.g. staged introduction of reagents, better designed heat transfer surfaces, process intensification, advanced materials, reaction monitoring/control, pre-treatment of waste streams)
  • Develop catalysts more tolerant of impurities and wide temperature ranges

Known active organisations

  • The University of Newcastle
  • The University of New South Wales
  • The University of Queensland
  • The University of Sydney

Other opportunities like this

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