Economic and Technical Evaluation of Hydrogen Production from Sour Gas Petroleum Reservoirs

Volker Pavalec

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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Hydrogen sulfide from petroleum reservoirs presents major difficulties for oil companies. This harmful and toxic substance to human life and the environment poses a major risk for oil and gas operations worldwide and causes substantial costs in order to render harmless. Nowadays, most H2S is converted to elemental sulfur to meet regulatory requirements – not to achieve economic profitability. This study investigates the economic and technical feasibility of converting this sour gas to hydrogen, a potential invaluable resource for the future. Today, most of the hydrogen is produced by reforming processes with a substantial amount of carbon dioxide generation. During this work, a literature review was conducted in order to review current research progress and to choose a potential economic and technical feasible process. Afterwards, a direct-thermal decomposition process of hydrogen sulfide was modelled via the use of state-of-the-art process modelling software with subsequent validation of the model on experimental data from research, upscaling to field data and further process optimization. This process model then served as baseline for an economic analysis with the application of a process-costing approach, based on 9 business case scenarios, each with different sales & cost perspectives in mind. Depending on the cost scenario, production costs were estimated ranging from 4.1 [$/tH2] to 37.9 [$/tH2], with utility cost being the main factor during cost distribution. Economic analysis has shown that in only two out of all 9 scenarios a positive economic potential, ranging from 5.5 [$/tH2] to – 34.7 [$/tH2], making this a very unfavourable investment at the imposed assumptions. On top of that, hydrogen handling and production is a risky business and a risk analysis, based on data from the U.S. Dpt. Of Energy and NASA, was conducted to identify and rank risks in accordance to international risk-management methods. This analysis has shown, that 80% of hydrogen-related incidents are caused by either equipment failure, design flaws or flaws in operating procedures. These flaws could be mitigated by fit-for-purpose design, specialized training of personnel and updating technical and operational procedures according to latest standards.
Translated title of the contributionÖkonomische und technische Analyse von Wasserstoffproduktion aus schwefelwasserstoffhaltigen Erdöllagerstätten
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Montanuniversität
  • Mittermeir, Georg, Co-Supervisor (external)
  • Sirghii, Viorica, Co-Supervisor (internal)
  • Hofstätter, Herbert, Supervisor (internal)
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

embargoed until null


  • Hydrogen
  • Sour gas
  • Petroleum Production
  • Economics
  • Process Engineering

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