New project examines hydrogen’s potential as clean fuel of the future

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AN INTERNATIONAL collaboration led by Cranfield University is set to examine the potential for low-carbon hydrogen to be the clean fuel of the future.

The HyPER project (Bulk Hydrogen Production by Sorbent Enhanced Steam Reforming) will construct a 1.5 MWth pilot plant at the University to test an innovative hydrogen production technology that substantially reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

With £7.5 million funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Innovation Programme, the project also involves US-based research and development organisation GTI and Doosan Babcock, a specialist in delivery of low-carbon technologies.

Professor Phil Hart, Director of Energy and Power at Cranfield University, said: “Each year the world consumes 74 million tonnes of hydrogen and demand will increase as countries seek to decarbonise their economies.

“The kind of technology we are exploring could open up this market across the globe and make the production, storage and transportation of low-carbon hydrogen a widespread reality.”

The project centres on a novel hydrogen production technology invented by GTI.

Mike Rutkowski, GTI Senior Vice President, Research and Technology Development, commented on the partnership: “Energy companies have to meet the reliability, cost and safety needs that their customers demand at the same time they are reducing the impact on the environment.

“Hydrogen is a great solution for that.”

Hydrogen is a vital compound that goes into the production of fertilisers and chemicals, as well as an essential reactant for many processes.

The demand for low-carbon hydrogen is expected to increase significantly in the future, as H2 is used to decarbonise the gas grid, industry, power generation and transportation.

Following on from a successful first phase, the pilot plant will be constructed at Cranfield University in 2020 and become operational in 2021.

Dr Peter Clough, Lecturer in Energy Engineering at Cranfield University, added: “The pilot plant will be a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the scale-up of the technology and process and to offer a unique teaching and research facility for students at Cranfield University.”

GTI’s innovative hydrogen production technology inherently captures the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during the hydrogen production process, and shifts the chemical reactions to favour the production of more hydrogen.

The outputs are high purity streams of hydrogen and carbon dioxide which can be then stored, sold or transported to where it is needed.

The process for the direct production of hydrogen from natural gas that will be used in the project is compact yet scalable to very large plants.

It has the potential to produce high purity hydrogen at an up to 30% lower cost than conventional steam methane reforming methods that require CO2 capture as an additional expensive process step.

Conventional technology is also limited in the portion of CO2 emissions that can actually be avoided with reasonable economics.

A key benefit of the new process is that it could be more economical and efficient than other technologies as the product streams are pressurised.

Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, commented on the research: “Hydrogen offers the opportunity of a cleaner, greener fuel for heating our homes and getting us from A to B.

“The innovative project from Cranfield University, GTI and Doosan Babcock is a clear step in that direction – particularly in this year of climate action.”