- ‘Biohydrogen’ Emerges in the Age of Circular Economy ∙∙∙ SK Ecoplant Carries Out National Initiative to Make Hydrogen from Sewage Debris.
SK Ecoplant, Korea Institute of Production Technology, and Yonsei Generation Industry-Hak-yeon jointly launch the ‘Future Hydrogen Source Technology Development Project’ – Utilization of microorganisms such as ‘Clostridium Beauty Ricum’ and direct production of hydrogen from organic waste resources – Significantly reduce hydrogen production stage compared to the existing biogas reforming method∙∙∙∙Expected to improve the production rate by more than 20 times SK Ecoplant, Korea’s No. 1 environmental company will embark on the development of technology to directly produce biohydrogen from organic waste resources such as sewage debris (sludge) and food waste.
It is expected not only to promote the realization of a circular economy through the utilization of discarded organic waste resources, but also to secure the source technology related to biohydrogen, which is highlighted as the energy of the future.
SK Ecoplant, together with the Korea Institute of Production Technology (research team of Dr. Park Chung-hoon) and Yonsei University (research team of Professor Kim Sang-hyun), announced on 27 March that it will carry out the “Future Hydrogen Source Technology Development Project,” a national initiative announced by the Korea Research Foundation under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Information and Communication. The study, which is jointly carried out by SK Ecoplant, industry, and academia, is to produce hydrogen directly from organic waste resources with a high content of organic matter such as sewage debris and food waste through microbial reactions.
Previously, there was a technology to extract hydrogen using these organic waste resources, but this required the first production of methane gas and then the process of reforming again, rather than producing hydrogen directly from the organic waste resource. A high temperature of more than 1000 degrees of thermal energy was also required for the renovation.
The technology being developed by the SK Ecoplant joint research team is to produce hydrogen directly through the fermentation process in which hydrogen-producing microorganisms (such as Clostridium beautyricum) eat and decompose organic matter in the absence of light. Compared to the traditional method of extracting methane gas from organic waste resources and then reforming it back to hydrogen, the production stage is greatly reduced, which can shorten the time required for hydrogen production by more than 20 times. By omitting the remediation process that requires a high temperature of more than 1000 degrees, the use of fossil fuels and the like to create a high-temperature environment can also be reduced.
The competitiveness of this technology lies in increasing the yield of hydrogen from what it is now. Previously, the hydrogen yield of the method of directly producing biohydrogen was less than 50% compared to the theory. The research team of Professor Kim Sang-hyun of Yonsei University has succeeded in introducing a new process to improve the yield to a level of more than 63% in the current research stage. The SK Ecoplant Joint Research Team plans to maximize the production performance of biohydrogen in the future and to ensure stability to produce hydrogen in a long-term continuous manner. The goal is to increase the yield of hydrogen production to 75% to ensure affordability and to raise the level of technology to a track where commercialization is possible.
Dr. Park Chung-hoon’s research team at the Korea Institute of Production Technology focuses his research on selecting and improving highly efficient hydrogen-producing strains from existing microorganisms. We will also work on improving microorganisms with customized genomes that produce hydrogen most efficiently by waste phase.
SK Ecoplant will select organic waste resources to be used in hydrogen production in this 5-year study and will be responsible for market and patent research. In addition, through the operation of pilot tests, the company will secure patents and new technologies of the original technology for biohydrogen production and propose ways to commercialize them. It is expected that SK Ecoplant will implement Waste to Energy, such as sewage debris from the water treatment plant, as well as the realization of the so-called “Waste Zero”, which will zero the sewage debris in the long run.
SK Ecoplant is continuously promoting the upgrading of its technology-based environmental business. Rather than simply disposing of waste, the company has a vision to upgrade its environmental business as the cornerstone of the era of circular economy. In fact, SK Ecoplant is making multi-faceted technological innovation efforts such as applying AI incinerator solutions, developing new technologies for energy-saving water treatment, and producing incinerator recycled construction aggregates.
Park Kyung-il, president of SK Ecoplant, said, “SK Ecoplant’s waste business is focused on realizing a circular economy through the energyization and resourcefulness of waste rather than treatment,” and “We will continue to do our best to improve the overall environmental business through active technological innovation efforts and the activation of research and development.”
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