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Steam Methane Reforming vs Green Hydrogen

Steam Methane Reforming vs Green Hydrogen
Image by booger_picker from Pixabay

Steam methane reforming (SMR) and green hydrogen production are two different methods for producing hydrogen, which can be used as an energy carrier or in various industrial processes. Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Steam Methane Reforming (SMR):

SMR is the most common method for producing hydrogen on a large scale. In this process, natural gas (mainly methane) is reacted with high-temperature steam in the presence of a catalyst to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The chemical reaction can be summarized as follows:

CH4 + H2O → CO + 3H2

The produced CO is then converted to CO2 through the water-gas shift reaction:

CO + H2O → CO2 + H2


  • Mature technology with well-established infrastructure.
  • Currently, more cost-effective than green hydrogen production methods.


  • Relies on fossil fuels (natural gas), which are non-renewable and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct, contributing to climate change.
  1. Green Hydrogen:

Green hydrogen is produced through the electrolysis of water using electricity generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, or hydropower. In this process, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrolyzer:

2H2O → 2H2 + O2


  • Environmentally friendly, as it does not produce any greenhouse gas emissions during production.
  • Contributes to the transition towards a more sustainable energy system by utilizing renewable energy sources.
  • Stores excess renewable energy, helping to balance supply and demand in the grid.


  • Currently more expensive than hydrogen produced via SMR, mainly due to the costs of electrolyzers and renewable energy.
  • The production of green hydrogen is reliant on the availability of renewable energy, which can be intermittent and unpredictable.
  • Requires significant investments in infrastructure and scaling up of electrolyzer technology.

In summary, while steam methane reforming is currently more cost-effective and widely used, it relies on fossil fuels and produces greenhouse gas emissions. Green hydrogen, on the other hand, offers an environmentally friendly alternative but requires further development and cost reductions to become competitive with SMR on a large scale.