There is increasing international interest in developing low carbon technologies to provide hydrogen renewably. Hydrogen can be produced through dark anaerobic fermentation using carbohydrate-rich substrates, and methane can be produced in a methanogenic second stage. The suitability of a range of crops for hydrogen and methane production in the UK is examined, using selection criteria including yield, harvest window and composition of the crops. The annual potential for hydrogen and methane production is calculated using the selected crops, taking into account the energy required to grow and harvest the biomass and run the process. The fermentable energy crops fodder beet, forage maize, sugar beet and rye grass were identified as the most suitable substrates for this farm-scale process. A conservative estimate of the amount of agricultural land in the UK excluding permanent grassland not already used for food production or energy crops (currently unused "set-aside" land) has been made (294,960 ha). If this was used to grow a rotation of the selected crops, 9.6 TW h net energy could be produced per year. This equates to electrical power for 2.2 million homes in the UK annually and a reduction of CO2 emissions by over 2.3 million tones per annum in the UK.
- sustainable hydrogen production
- energy crop