Wednesday, 16 April 2014
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Researchers develop 'greener' hydrogen production method

A Dutch research team has found a way to produce hydrogen from natural gas at lower temperatures than existing methods and without releasing carbon dioxide (CO2).

The new technique uses a Rhodium catalyst to reduce the temperature of conventional steam reformation from around 850ºC to between 400ºC and 500ºC, while a Hydrotalcite sorbent (a material used to absorb liquids or gases) captures the CO2.

Eindhoven University of Technology PhD student Mohamed Halabi collaborated with the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) to demonstrate the feasibility of the process.

‘The enormous reduction of the reactor size, material loading, catalyst/sorbent ratio and energy requirements are beneficial key factors for the success of the concept over the conventional technologies,’ said Halabi.

‘Small-size hydrogen generation plants for residential or industrial application operating at a relatively low pressure, of less than 4.5 bar, seem to be feasible.’

Producing hydrogen using relatively little energy and without releasing large amounts of CO2 could be hugely beneficial in efforts to combat climate change because it burns to release high amounts of energy with only water as a by-product.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Sounds great! Where can I find more information, or papers on this experiment/technology?

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  • I found more information at this link: http://www.tue.nl/en/university/departments/chemical-engineering-and-chemistry/news/new-green-technology-for-hydrogen-production/

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  • So - let me get this right - we will end up either with megatons of carbon-bearing hydrotalcite (which had a carbon footprint to produce, deliver and cart away) to store or bury OR the hydrotalcite absorption is reversible and the CO2 is released in another location and at another time.

    i.e. NO gain...

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  • @ Andrew Taylor. The latter seems to be the case. However it would be incorrect simply to assume there is no gain.

    Having read Dr Halabi’s thesis (http://repository.tue.nl/709035), it appears this process allows the sorbent to be regenerated, desorbing the CO2. What would then be done with the CO2 is beyond the scope of this research. The carbon footprint of an overall process is not presented.

    Clearly there would be energy, carbon and economic costs to this process to offset its gains, and the net cost might (or might not) be less than the cost of, say, trying to sequester CO2 after it has been released into the atmosphere.

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  • So they use rhodium to reform natural gas to hydrogen and CO2? nothing new there as the use of Rhodium to do this has already been employed in solid oxide fuel cells for some time as part of an insitu reformer - the issue of this has always to replace it with nickel which has a thermal expansion coefficient incompatible with most SOFC designs, as rhodium is pretty expensive (if it's not common, it tends to be costly). the difference here (if there is one) is the use of a CO2 sorbent, which I expect will be solid, which will run up against storage/transportation/regeneration problems.

    The statement

    "The enormous reduction of the reactor size, material loading, catalyst/sorbent ratio and energy requirements are beneficial key factors for the success of the concept over the conventional technologies,"

    This suggests that improvements have actually been acheived, but actually only says that they are key factors.

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  • How about selling the CO2 laden sorbant to greenhouses that desorb the CO2 to grow more food? After all, CO2 is the free fertilizer that is critical to all plants. Increasing CO2 means more food and with higher nutritional levels.

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