PerspectiveChemistry

Making chemicals with electricity

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Science  24 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6442, pp. 734-735
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax5179

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Summary

Vast amounts of energy are needed to synthesize the hundreds of millions of tons of chemicals used in everyday life each year. To meet that demand, the chemical industry uses the energy released during fuel combustion, thereby producing a seventh of the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Climate change makes it mandatory to replace fossil fuels in chemical production processes and reduce their climate impact (13). On page 756 of this issue, Wismann et al. (4) focus on reducing the CO2 emissions created during the production of molecular hydrogen (H2), a key building block for ammonia-derived fertilizers, through steam reforming of methane. This industrial process releases 9 kg of CO2 per kg of H2, a quarter of which comes from fuel combustion.