Assessing benefits from hydrogen technologies, by means of an integrated multicriteria evaluation approach

Sergio Ulgiati, Silvia Bargigli, Corrado Giannantoni, Angelo Moreno

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Most evaluations of hydrogen technologies, aimed at supporting both interested companies and decision-makers in their own strategie choices, were very often restricted to a limited set of efficiency and viability indicators. In short, only energy payback time and economic return on investment have been sufficiently explored. Little attention was paid to overall LCA and sustainability issues. Finally, the evaluations are very often performed more in terms of possible damages to be internalized than in terms of external benefits to be remunerated. The methodology here presented, on the contrary, is mainly based on the evaluation of the Benefits pertaining to the four distinct "Subjects" (and Sectors) which are usually involved in the global productive process: Benefits to the Firm (deriving from the Production process), Benefits to the Society (deriving from the new Product), Benefits to the Environment as a Source (sustainable withdrawal of resources), Benefits to the Environment as a Sink (sustainable release of process waste and emissions). As a ease study, the strategic positioning of Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFCs) is analyzed and, at the same time, compared with other technologies by means of a selected set of Indicators addressing the different types of benefit. These Indicators were derived from a multicriteria analysis, substantially based on Energetic, Exergetic, Environmental, and Economic evaluations. Results from the global evaluation of MCFCs point out that, independently on the Sector, MCFCs show performance parameters affected by their use of nonrenewable energy as well as large indirect appropriation of material resources for their construction. Although MCFCs are a technology at a stage of relative infancy, these results call for improved design if they are to become competitive and acceptability increased. Compared to Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants, MCFCs have improvement potentialities that NGCC have not. In fact, unlike NGCC, they may run on (a) "nonrenewable" hydrogen from centralized natural gas steam reforming and "nonrenewable" syngas from coal gasification; (b) "renewable" natural gas (from biomass and urban waste treatment, for instance), and (c) "renewable" hydrogen generated via water electrolysis from available renewable electric sources (wind, hydro, solar) or from exceeding fossil generated electricity. The final result of the approach is a synoptic picture of the system investigated, generated by plotting aggregate indices (weighted averages of selected Indicators) on a suitably-defined phase space, the so-called Four Sector Diagram. The latter represents graphically the economic, thermodynamic, environmental and social parameters characterizing the system, the process and the product. This integrated set of data is supplied to actors and stakeholders in a well-structured way, to ease the comparison among the most important factors that require proper consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Event1st European Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Conference 2005, EFC2005 - , Italy
Duration: 1 Jan 2005 → …


Conference1st European Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Conference 2005, EFC2005
Period1/1/05 → …


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

Cite this

Ulgiati, S., Bargigli, S., Giannantoni, C., & Moreno, A. (2005). Assessing benefits from hydrogen technologies, by means of an integrated multicriteria evaluation approach. Paper presented at 1st European Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Conference 2005, EFC2005, Italy.