The full energy cost of avoiding CO2: A clean-energy booking provision for a vigorous energy transition

P. Jean Valayer, Olivier Vidal, Noémie Wouters, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Carbon tax, emission trading schemes and externality disclosures have not provided the incentive to replace fossil-carbon sourced energy as envisioned at the Paris Agreement 2015. Much of the enforcement of these schemes is outside the fossil hydrocarbon producer's control. As an alternate to these schemes, this paper proposes an inventive evaluation and accounting procedure, based on the energy penalty cost of decarbonizing fossil fuels. Such cost can be internalized within the producer's books, and provide the required incentives, including provisions for the deployment of carbon-free fuels. In the inspiring thermodynamics of hydrocarbon to hydrogen conversion in a closed system using hydrogen combustion to decompose the hydrocarbon, we find a penalty of 0.56 J for each Joule available in the original hydrocarbon. Applying energy market price range of 150–500 $/t methane and molecular mass-conversion to CO2 equivalent, results in costs ranging from 60 to more than 200$/t CO2. They are well above current carbon tax or emission trading schemes prices. They quantify the required incentives to cleaner (C-free) production yielding prompt emission reduction in the producers' market. We show how similar penalties accrue from a broad spectrum of industrial hydrogen production processes using hydrocarbons. Among those, methane pyrolysis produces carbon-free energy from fossil fuels, with non-combustion promising applications for its carbon production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117820
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Carbon dioxide emission
  • Emission avoidance cost
  • Emission booking
  • Energy booking
  • Energy currency
  • Fossil clean energy

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