• £7.5 million for pilot hydrogen production plant at Cranfield University
  • The plant will test new technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Hydrogen could be key to decarbonising global economies

An international collaboration led by Cranfield University is set to examine the potential for low-carbon hydrogen to be the clean fuel of the future. The HyPER project (Bulk Hydrogen Production by Sorbent Enhanced Steam Reforming) will construct a state-of-the-art 1.5 MWth pilot plant at Cranfield University to test an innovative hydrogen production technology that substantially reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

With £7.5 million funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Energy Innovation Programme, 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.

Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Hydrogen offers the opportunity of a cleaner, greener fuel for heating our homes and getting us from A to B. The innovative project from Cranfield University, GTI and Doosan Babcock is a clear step in that direction – particularly in this year of climate action.”

Hydrogen could become a widespread resource

Hydrogen (H2) 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.

Professor Phil Hart, Director of Energy and Power at Cranfield University, said: “Each year the world consumes 74 million tonnes of hydrogen and demand will increase as countries seek to decarbonise their economies. The kind of technology we are exploring could open up this market across the globe and make the production, storage and transportation of low-carbon hydrogen a widespread reality.”

“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,” adds Mike Rutkowski, GTI Senior Vice President, Research and Technology Development.

New pilot plant will be constructed at Cranfield University

Following on from a successful first phase, the pilot plant will be constructed at Cranfield University in 2020 and become operational in 2021. Dr Peter Clough, Lecturer in Energy Engineering at Cranfield University, says, “The pilot plant will be a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the scale-up of the technology and process, and to offer a unique teaching and research facility for students at Cranfield University.”

“Doosan Babcock is excited to be the engineering partner progressing the HyPER technology to pilot demonstration in the UK. We look forward to realising the potential of the technology to meet the demand for low-carbon energy at lower cost,” comments Stuart Mitchell, Director of Technology Innovation at Doosan Babcock.

“The Phase one work showed that the technology has great market potential and makes economic sense.  Moving the technology forward will minimise greenhouse gas emissions, and we anticipate great benefits for consumers, industry, and the hydrogen sector,” adds Mike Rutkowski, GTI Senior Vice President, Research and Technology Development. “GTI is developing the technologies for a safe, reliable, affordable pathway to a low-carbon energy future.”

New process could be 30% lower cost and more efficient

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 it is 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 at an up to 30% lower 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. A key benefit of the new process is that it could be more economical and efficient than other technologies as the product streams are pressurised.

Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University Professor Sir Peter Gregson, said: “This is a very exciting project and has huge implications for many industries. It is excellent to see Cranfield University spearheading international research into a global issue.”

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.