New Cleaner, Cheaper Approach for Producing Hydrogen from Methane

A team of researchers from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ITQ), Valencia’s Polytechnic University (UPV) and the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC) have created ceramic membranes which make it possible to form compressed hydrogen from methane in a cleaner, inexpensive way.

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Findings of the investigation have several uses in the field of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as well as the chemical sector, as this new technique can generate hydrogen from methane gas and electricity in just a single step and with near-zero energy loss.

Hydrogen is an exceptional fuel which, because of its high energetic density and zero greenhouse gas emission, is important in numerous industrial processes. Its combination with oxygen in the atmosphere generates water and energy as its only by-product, making it one of the key candidates to replace fossil fuels as a source of energy for the transport industry.

The development and introduction in the market of hybrid  and electric cars will allow us to reduce the impact of transport in CO2 emissions in coming years, and as a result, the greenhouse effect on the planet. The next natural step, as proven by the investment made by large automotive industry brands, is the implementation of hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, which have greater autonomy and charge faster than electric ones.

José Manuel Serra, Research Professor and Head of the Investigation, CSIC

The research team at the ITQ has built a gas separation membrane reactor which is worked electronically and allows for the endothermic manufacture of hydrogen with a near-zero energy loss.

“Our investigations show that it is possible to generate compressed hydrogen in just one step with high efficiency from electricity and methane gas or biogas and, simultaneously, isolate the CO2 and not release it into the atmosphere. Our method allows for the hydrogen to be produced at high pressure in a distributed manner, which means it could be produced in petrol stations, residential areas, garages or farms. By using electricity from renewable sources, our system allows us to generate hydrogen with a very low carbon footprint. We can also store the leftover renewable energy in the form of compressed hydrogen for a later use when the electrical demand is higher, or as fuel for vehicles,” Serra adds.

The research effort at the ITQ, along with the University of Oslo and American multinational company CoorsTek, will make it so that vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell can be recharged with simplicity and energetic efficiency similar to that of a battery electric vehicle. Due to methane gas being a main energy source with a markedly lower cost than electricity, hydrogen could be a cheaper fuel for vehicles compared to electricity.

Bibliographic reference:

Harald Malerød-Fjeld, Daniel Clark, Irene Yuste-Tirados, Raquel Zanón, David Catalán-Martinez, Dustin Beeaff, Selene H. Morejudo, Per K. Vestre, Truls Norby, Reidar Haugsrud, José M. Serra y Christian Kjølseth. Thermo-electrochemical production of compressed hydrogen from methane with near-zero energy loss.

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