The steam–methane-reformation (SMR) reaction has been modified by including sodium hydroxide in the reaction. It is found that the reaction: 2NaOH+CH4+H2O = Na2CO3+4H2 takes place at much lower temperatures (300–600°C) than the SMR reaction (800–1200°C). The reaction rate is enhanced with a nickel catalyst. We have studied the effect of variously ball-milled nickel on the reaction rate and determined the optimum particle size of the catalyst. Best results were achieved by grinding the catalyst for 2 h. Prolonged ball milling caused the nickel platelets to coalesce and grow in size decreasing the reaction rate. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.