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SDTC awards C$1.5M to support Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification for hydrogen production; targeting reduced GHG footprint for oil sands synthetic crude

16 February 2013

Flowchart of the MSG process. Source: Western Hydrogen. Click to enlarge.

A consortium led by Canada-based Western Hydrogen Ltd. will receive a $C1.5-million investment from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to support the development and commercialization of a new hydrogen manufacturing technology called Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification (MSG), originally developed at the US Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

Hydrogen is necessary in the upgrading of oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude, but it is a costly and carbon-intensive part of the process, given current hydrogen production technologies. MSG converts natural gas into hydrogen with a 23% reduction in GHG emissions compared to steam methane reforming.

GHG scenarios for hydrogen production in Alberta. Source: Western Hydrogen. Click to enlarge.

The MSG technology also delivers hydrogen at a high-pressure stream of greater than 1,000 pounds per square inch—which minimizes post treatment—and is ready for use in industrial processes. Similarly, carbon dioxide is also released at high pressure in liquid phase, allowing for easier carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

MSG also requires fewer equipment components than in typical hydrogen production, resulting in a smaller overall footprint. In general, efficiencies in both the process reactions and required equipment means greater energy efficiency.

Depending on operating conditions, the MSG process is capable of producing hydrogen, synthetic natural gas or synthesis gas at high pressure from any carbon-containing material and water. In the MSG process, a special reactor takes in carbon, water, alkaline salts and electricity, and outputs H2, CH4, CO2, H2S and inorganic components.

The process is conducted at 1500 – 2000 psi (10.3 - 13.8 MPa) and 800 – 900 °C. The primary process reactions are:

2 Na2CO3 + 3 C + 4 H2O → Na + 5 CO2 + 4 H2

2 Na + 2H2O → H2 + 2 NaOH

2 NaOH + C + H2O → Na2CO3 + 2 H2

Reactions are both exothermic and endothermic, with the net energy balance being slightly endothermic.

Typical output in testing in the lab has been

  • H2: 65% volume
  • CH4: 5% volume
  • CO2: 25% volume
  • CO: 5% volume
  • H2S: trace

The SDTC funding builds on a previous SDTC project. The other members of the consortium are INL and Aux Sable Canada Ltd. (ASC). The SDTC award was one of 23 new investments for clean technology projects, totaling C$61.8 million.

Background. The Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification process has been under development at INL since 2006. Original funding was provided from internal Idaho National Laboratory funds. Once feasibility was shown, commercial funding was sought and obtained from Western Hydrogen Limited. In turn, Western Hydrogen Limited received an exclusive license to the technology.

Subsequently, Western Hydrogen Limited applied for and received funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada. The total investment in the technology to date is more than $6 million.

February 16, 2013 in Canada, Fuels, Hydrogen Production, Oil, Oil sands | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)


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The output is around 2,000psi apparently:

'The Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification process occurs in a single high-pressure reactor — where a carbon-based feedstock and water react with a molten salt bed. The Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification process can produce either "hydrogen and carbon dioxide", "synthesis gas" (CO + H2) or "methane" depending on the reactor operating conditions. All of these gases will be produced at high pressure (~2000 psig)'

Not being an industrial chemist, I don't know if that would help reduce the energy cost needed to get the ~12,000 psi needed in a hydrogen station.

Its pretty clear though that we are not going to 'run out' of fossil fuel sources, although the CO2 output may be higher than we would wish.

How can ultra clean Tar Sands operations get any cleaner?

Harvey, I am not sure is you are being sarcastic or not, but a lot of alternatives exist which substantially reduce the resource usage such as water, and consequently pollution.
Using microwave to heat is one that I am keen on.
I can list some of the technologies and supply links if anyone is interested.

The technology we are currently discussing though deals with the other end of the chain, after the oil is extracted, and adding hydrogen is necessary to one degree or another to most oils, but more so for the heavy ones such as the tar sands.

Your first assumption is correct.

Should use renewable-energy H2 instead, like using hydro-electric H2, to be less CO2-intensive process.

Ain't gonna happen.
They have massive natural gas resources conveniently located, or they can use the oil itself via this MSG technology to hydrogenate it.
I'd like to see them using small nuclear reactors, which could provide very low CO2 energy to do the heating, but the 'greens' as usual are succeeding in keeping CO2 emissions high to eliminate the vanishingly small risks of nuclear.

The title tells us that the SDTC are funding research for the benefit of the oil sands industry. Depleting fossil resources is not sustainable in my book so quibble with improper use of language: it's not "sustainable" but "less unsustainable". (And if you had such innovation in Europe you'd have LUDITE)

You could always use wood as your C source

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