In this work, the performance of an innovative plant for efficient hydrogen production using solar energy for the process heat duty requirements has been evaluated via a detailed 2D model. The steam-reforming reactor consists of a bundle of coaxial double tubes assembled in a shell. The annular section of each tube is the reaction zone in which Ni-based catalyst pellets are packed, whereas the inner tube is a dense Pd-based selective membrane that is able to remove hydrogen from the reaction zone. By coupling reaction and hydrogen separation, equilibrium constrains inside the reactor are circumvented and high methane conversions at relatively low temperatures are achieved. The heat needed for the steam-reforming reaction at this low operating temperature can be supplied by using a molten salt stream, heated up to 550°C by a parabolic mirror solar plant, as heating fluid. The effects on membrane reactor performance of some operating conditions, as gas mixture residence time, reaction pressure and steam-to-carbon ratio, are assessed together with the enhancement of methane conversion with respect to the traditional process, evaluated in the range 40.5-130.9% at the same operating conditions. Moreover, owing to the use of a solar source for chemical process heat duty requirements, the greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction is estimated to be in the range 33-67%. © 2009 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.