Science of the Total Environment
Hydrogen is gaining interest as a strategic element towards a sustainable economy. In this sense, sound decision-making processes in the field of hydrogen energy require thorough analyses integrating economic, environmental and social indicators from a life-cycle perspective. For this purpose, Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) constitutes an appropriate methodology jointly handling indicators related to the three traditional dimensions of the sustainability concept. In this work, the sustainability performance of renewable hydrogen from both wind-powered electrolysis and biomass gasification was benchmarked against that of conventional hydrogen from steam methane reforming under a set of five life-cycle indicators: global warming, acidification, levelised cost, child labour, and health expenditure. The results led to identify the stage of driving-energy/biomass production as the main source of impact. When compared to conventional hydrogen, the life-cycle sustainability performance of renewable hydrogen was found to underperform under social and economic aspects. Nevertheless, the expected enhancement in process efficiency would significantly improve the future performance of renewable hydrogen in each of the three main sustainability dimensions.