Air pollution demands the reduction of harmful greenhouse gas emissions as well as the transition from fossil fuels towards environmentally friendly and renewable forms of energy. Hydrogen has the potential to be a clean and sustainable energy carrier for our society.
Fuel cells utilising hydrogen provide an efficient and clean mechanism for energy conversion. However, hydrogen is currently produced in large centralised plants using fossil fuels, and thus, cannot be considered a clean source of energy.
Large-scale plants also suffer from poor down-scalability for decentralised systems, meaning that hydrogen must be transported with trucks or via pipelines over long distances. These approaches either consume huge amounts of energy or require great financial investments, rendering hydrogen production costly, and hampering its widespread use as a clean energy source.
To address this, the EU-funded RGH2 OSOD system project proposed to develop a compact on-site on-demand (OSOD) hydrogen generator based on a ground-breaking one-step process technology. “Our vision is to establish hydrogen as a major source for clean energy within Europe through the introduction of a new technology for hydrogen production and storage,″ explains project coordinator Mr Uwe Strohmeyer.
Novel technology for clean hydrogen production
RGH2 OSOD system combines a hydrogen generator and storage device in a single unit, allowing for the local delivery of hydrogen. The device utilises hydrocarbons such as biogas, biomass or natural gas, which are heated and mixed with steam to generate hydrogen at extremely high purity, requiring no additional purification procedures.
Hydrogen is stored safely in a non-gaseous material, and on request, it is delivered as fuel in a hydrogen filling station or used to produce heat and power. Importantly, the OSOD system is scalable and can be configured to accommodate any requirements - from small feed rates to large units - to fit individual needs. This means it is suitable for industrial processes as well as for the supply of fuel cell electric vehicles.
An additional but important feature, the system goes into standby mode when demand is low, and production can be resumed when required. Furthermore, OSOD avoids expensive and dangerous transportation of hydrogen from centralised production plants to the consumers.
The future of the technology
“Our priority is to implement systems that produce no air pollution, zero emissions or significantly fewer emissions for a better world,″ states Strohmeyer. Following business plan and market consolidation, researchers are ready to construct the OSOD system prototype plant. In parallel, they will continue to optimise the operation parameters and increase the utilisation of renewable feedstock while evaluating the performance and efficiency of the system.
A sustainable energy infrastructure based on renewable hydrogen is fully supported by a network of communication with potential customers, suppliers and research partners. The successful introduction of fuel cells in stationary and mobile applications is expected to boost the market for clean energy sources such as hydrogen. “We are confident that there is a solid business opportunity for the OSOD system in various industrial fields already,″ Strohmeyer acknowledges. Most importantly, it will help diminish the anthropogenic influence on climate change and reverse the effects of manmade global warming.