Editorial Feature

Recovering Hydrogen Fuel from Non-Recyclable Waste

Recovering hydrogen from waste generates clean fuel and helps deal with the growing amount of non-recyclable waste polluting our environment.

h2o, hydrogen

Image Credit: Alexander Limbach/Shutterstock.com

Waste-to-Hydrogen: A Single Solution to Multiple Problems

As the global population and living standards continue to expand, so does the consumption of commodities and energy. Globalization’s escalating economic growth has been accompanied by an equal rise in energy consumption, reaching unparalleled levels in history. On the other hand, due to growing commodities, waste generation has been accelerating.

Faced with these problems, there is a growing consensus on the need to develop a new energy model which will simultaneously address these issues and stimulate the economy. One such solution is to generate hydrogen fuel from waste.

Waste-to-hydrogen technology provides low-carbon, clean energy while dealing with non-recyclable waste, a win-win situation for climate protection and the waste management industry.

Several waste-to-hydrogen projects are already running, and more are in development.

Methods to Extract Hydrogen from Non-Recyclable Waste

Cold plasma pyrolysis

Pyrolysis is a heat treatment process that decomposes materials at temperatures between 400 °C and 650 °C without oxygen. Any plastic can be turned into valuable chemicals and energy using cold plasma pyrolysis.

Plastic waste pyrolysis with cold plasma produces methane, ethylene, and hydrogen. Methane and hydrogen can be used as clean fuels as they create negligible amounts of hazardous substances such as unburned hydrocarbons, soot, and carbon dioxide.

Pulverization of plastics

A group of researchers from the UK, Saudi Arabia, and China devised a technique for transforming plastic trash into hydrogen gas and carbon nanotubes.

The plastic is pulverized using microwaves with iron and aluminum oxide as catalysts. Microwaves enable the indirect heating of plastics by the catalysts, which prevents unwanted side reactions, making the procedure more efficient.

Extraction using light

Petrochemical and other industries produce thousands of tons of hydrogen sulfide gas annually as a by-product. Unfortunately, it is an expensive, toxic, and non-recyclable gas.

Researchers from Rice University developed a technology to convert hydrogen sulfide into usable hydrogen using light. They used gold nanoparticles that generate short-lived, high-energy electrons when exposed to photons to catalyze the hydrogen sulfide conversion reaction.

The process is economical and does not require high implementation costs while demonstrating the high efficiency of extracting valuable resources from waste.

Latest Non-Recyclable Waste-to-Hydrogen Projects

The University of Manchester to recover hydrogen fuel from non-recyclable waste

A novel and cost-effective hydrogen separation technology will be developed by the combined efforts of Powerhouse Energy and Dr. Amir Keshmiri’s team from the University of Manchester.

The process involves advanced thermal treatment to recover hydrogen from non-recyclable waste. This innovative technology might be a huge asset for assuring an endless supply of clean, affordable energy for the United Kingdom.

Egypt to build 1 GW waste-to-hydrogen plant

The Suez Canal Economic Zone General Authority has granted preliminary approval to H2-Industries to build a 1 GW hydrogen production center in Port Said East.

H2-Industries plans to produce 300,000 tons of green hydrogen from approximately 4 million tons of non-recyclable-waste products for half the current cost of green hydrogen.

H2-Industries employs liquid organic hydrogen transportation technology to create hydrogen from non-recyclable waste such as food waste, plastic, and sewage sludge using integrated thermolysis plants with pre-assembled scalable modules.

The company claims its facility in Egypt will help stimulate a circular economy model while diversifying the country’s energy mix for sustainability, decarbonization, energy security, and climate change mitigation.

PEEL NRE announces plans to upcycle waste plastic to hydrogen in Scotland

Peel NRE, a division of Peel L&P, intends to construct a hydrogen-from-plastic waste facility in West Dunbartonshire. The £20 million plant will convert non-recyclable plastic into sustainable local hydrogen fuel for local automobiles, buses, and heavy vehicles.

Middle East’s first waste-to-hydrogen plant

A formal agreement has been reached between UK-based Chinook Sciences and BEEAH Energy, a subsidiary of BEEAH Group, to begin the development of the Middle East’s first waste-to-hydrogen plant. The facility’s goal will be to produce high-quality activated carbon and affordable, ecologically friendly hydrogen.

Chinook’s RODECS pyrolysis and gasification technology will process non-recyclable plastic and wood waste to produce 18,000 kg of green hydrogen daily.

Environmentally friendly hydrogen production will be substantially less expensive than fossil fuel production. In addition, the factory will be equipped with a hydrogen filling station that can deliver hydrogen fuel to several trucks and buses daily.

Future of Waste-to-Hydrogen Production

Current renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power will not be sufficient to decarbonize the constantly growing world economy.

The waste-to-hydrogen technology has a significant role in the global transition towards carbon neutrality by replacing carbon-emitting fossil fuels with affordable renewable energy. However, further progress depends on large-scale investment, support, and public awareness of replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon alternatives.

Continue Reading: Introducing the Largest Zero-Carbon Green Hydrogen Storage Hub

References and Further Reading

Aamir, M., & Ibrahim, L. (2022). BEEAH Energy, Chinook Sciences Commence Development of Region’s First Waste-to-Hydrogen Plant. [Online]. Emirates News Agency. Available at: http://wam.ae/en/details/1395303027391 (Accessed on November 24 2022).

Aminu, I., Nahil, M. A., & Williams, P. T. (2020). Hydrogen from Waste Plastics by Two-Stage Pyrolysis/Low-Temperature Plasma Catalytic Processing. Energy & Fuels, 34(9), 11679-11689. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.energyfuels.0c02043

Boyd, J. (2022). New Catalyst can turn Smelly Hydrogen Sulfide into a Cash Cow. [Online]. Rice University. Available at: https://news.rice.edu/news/2022/new-catalyst-can-turn-smelly-hydrogen-sulfide-cash-cow (Accessed on November 24 2022).

H2-Industries. (2022). Green Hydrogen from Waste Now a Reality. [Online]. Available at: https://h2-industries.com/en/green-hydrogen-from-waste-now-a-reality/ (Accessed on November 24 2022).

Jie, X., Li, W., Slocombe, D., Gao, Y., Banerjee, I., Gonzalez-Cortes, S., ... & Edwards, P. (2020). Microwave-Initiated Catalytic Deconstruction of Plastic Waste into Hydrogen and High-Value Carbons. Nature Catalysis, 3(11), 902-912. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-020-00518-5

Kelly, A. (2022). £20M Plastic Waste to Hydrogen Facility in Scotland Approved. [Online]. Resource Media Limited. Available at: https://resource.co/article/20m-plastic-waste-hydrogen-facility-scotland-approved (Accessed on November 24 2022).

Lui, J., Chen, W. H., Tsang, D. C., & You, S. (2020). A Critical Review on the Principles, Applications, and Challenges of Waste-to-Hydrogen Technologies. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 134, 110365. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2020.110365

The University of Manchester. (2022). New Innovation to Recover Hydrogen from Waste Could Help Safeguard UK Energy Security. [Online]. The University of Manchester. Available at: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/new-innovation-to-recover-hydrogen-from-waste-could-help-safeguard-uk-energy-security/ (Accessed on November 24 2022).

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Owais Ali

Written by

Owais Ali

NEBOSH certified Mechanical Engineer with 3 years of experience as a technical writer and editor. Owais is interested in occupational health and safety, computer hardware, industrial and mobile robotics. During his academic career, Owais worked on several research projects regarding mobile robots, notably the Autonomous Fire Fighting Mobile Robot. The designed mobile robot could navigate, detect and extinguish fire autonomously. Arduino Uno was used as the microcontroller to control the flame sensors' input and output of the flame extinguisher. Apart from his professional life, Owais is an avid book reader and a huge computer technology enthusiast and likes to keep himself updated regarding developments in the computer industry.


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  1. Debbie Aliya Debbie Aliya United States says:

    Hello. This is very interesting.
    However, I would like to hear what a group such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, or Audubon, or some other environmental groups have to say about this. All of the information presented is positive. There are NO drawbacks described. Critical thinking entails, among other things, asking for drawbacks and costs when only benefits are presented. Thank you.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoCleantech.com.

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