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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
14 April, 2021 - 20:28 By Tony Quested

£7.4m underpins low carbon hydrogen plant at Cranfield University

A new 1.5 MWth pilot plant is being built at Cranfield University to test an innovative hydrogen production technology that substantially reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

The HyPER project (Bulk Hydrogen Production by Sorbent Enhanced Steam Reforming) is an international collaboration led by Cranfield University with £7.4 million funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s £505m Energy Innovation Programme.

It is set to examine the potential for low-carbon hydrogen to be the clean fuel of the future. The project also involves US-based research and development organisation GTI and Doosan Babcock, a specialist in delivery of low-carbon technologies. The project centres on a novel hydrogen production technology invented by GTI.

Dr Peter Clough, Lecturer in Energy Engineering at Cranfield University, said: “The first pieces of equipment are already on order and construction is beginning so we’re looking forward to the plant being operational in autumn this year.

“It will be a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the scale-up of the technology and process and offer a unique teaching and research facility for students.

“In the year of the COP26 climate conference it’s significant that the kind of technology we are exploring could have an important impact globally. It will minimise greenhouse gas emissions and make the production, storage and transportation of low-carbon hydrogen a reality. We anticipate great benefits for consumers, industry and the hydrogen sector.”

The pilot plant is designed to demonstrate key components of the process and enable future scale-up and lead to commercially operating facilities. The pilot plant will be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation.

Mike Rutkowski, GTI senior VP for Research and Technology Development, felt the move was a global gamechanger. He said: “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 and this technology offers great market potential and makes economic sense. GTI is developing the technologies for a safe, reliable, affordable pathway to a low-carbon energy future.”

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.

GTI’s innovative hydrogen production technology inherently captures the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) 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 they are 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, typically 25 per cent lower in 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. The key benefits of this technology are its significant reduction in capital cost, compact size, and higher efficiency without generating excess steam.

With the HyPER project beginning its construction phase, the University and project team are looking forward to the process insights from the research data generated. Bulk quantities of low-carbon hydrogen will be vitally important for the UK and globally to meet 2050 decarbonisation targets.

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