Hydrogen as a raw material finds its main use and application on the Polish market in the chemical industry. Its potential applications for the production of energy in fuel cell systems or as a fuel for automobiles are widely analyzed and commented upon ever more frequently. At present, hydrogen is produced worldwide mainly from natural gas, using the SMR technology or via the electrolysis of water. Countries with high levels of coal resources are exceptional in that respect, as there the production of hydrogen is increasingly based on gasification processes. China is such an example. There some 68% of hydrogen is generated from coal. The paper discusses the economic efficiency of hydrogen production technologies employing lignite gasification, comparing it with steam reforming of natural gas technology (SMR). In present Polish conditions, this technology seems to be the most probable alternative for natural gas substitution.
For the purpose of evaluating the economic efficiency, a model has been developed, in which a sensitivity analysis has been carried out. An example of the technological process of energy-chemical processing of lignite has been presented, based on the gasification process rooted in disperse systems, characteristics of the fuel has been discussed, as well as carbon dioxide emission issues. Subsequently, the assumed methodology of economic assessment has been described in detail, together with its key assumptions. Successively, based on the method of discounted cash flows, the unit of hydrogen generation has been determined, which was followed by a detailed sensitivity analysis, taking the main risk factors connected with lignite/coal and natural gas price relations, as well as the price of carbon credits (allowances for emission of CO2) into account.