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DLR-led NEMESIS 2+ project develops compact direct steam reformer for diesel/biodiesel to H2

The European NEMESIS 2+ consortium has and successfully tested a pre-commercial on-site system for the production of hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel. The prototype system—the size of a shipping container—can be integrated into existing infrastructure with relative ease.

The prototype, built by the Dutch project partner HyGear, produces 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen from 20 liters of biodiesel per hour—this roughly corresponds to the fuel tank of a B-Class F-cell vehicle. The efficiency of the process, from start to finish, is approximately 70%. (Original project goals were 50 Nm3/h, or 4.5 kg/h with an efficiency >80%.) The EU NEMESIS 2+ project, which ran until June 2015, was coordinated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

A techno-economic evaluation, which was also carried out during the EU project, determined maximal production costs of €5.80 per kilogram of hydrogen (US$6.53). This figure is already close to the economic efficiency of the prototype.

The NEMESIS2+ hydrogen generation system consists of a desulfurization module for liquid feedstock (diesel/biodiesel) followed by a reformer module, where catalytic conversion is accomplished by steam reforming with subsequent water-gas-shift reaction.
A pressure swing adsorption unit (PSA) is used for hydrogen purification. The system is equipped with a dual-fuel burner which enables running the burner on off-gas from the PSA as well as on liquid feedstock. The purified hydrogen can be compressed and stored in a tank before it is fed to the dispenser for refueling cars.

Using liquid feedstock in combination with steam reforming technology allows for operating the system at high pressures of 12 bars resulting in significantly reduced system size and hydrogen production costs. Source: NEMESIS 2+. Click to enlarge.

In addition to DLR, the project partners included two research facilities, the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece), and Instituto Superior Técnico (Portugal); three industry partners, Johnson Matthey (United Kingdom), Abengoa Hidrógeno and Abengoa Bioenergía San Roque (Spain), as well as HyGear.

One promising application [for the system] is the production of hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel directly on site at conventional filling stations, which would make it much more convenient to fill up fuel cell vehicles, as well as further support the breakthrough of this technology. The technology developed during the NEMESIS 2+ project could act as a bridge for creating the necessary hydrogen infrastructure, which would enable fuel cell vehicles to be filled up across the country.

—Stefan Martin, from the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics in Stuttgart

Rather than delivering hydrogen within compressed gas cylinders on trucks to filling stations, the NEMESIS 2+ system would use the existing infrastructure for storing and transporting diesel and biodiesel. Compared to pressurized hydrogen, liquid fuels are characterized by their higher volumetric energy density, which makes them easier to transport and store.


Top: Prototype system. Bottom: Interior of the system. Source: DLR. Click to enlarge.

The primary form of hydrogen production on an industrial scale has been by natural gas steam reforming. During this process, the hydrocarbons in the gas are converted at high temperature into a hydrogen-rich mixture of gases. The hydrogen is then separated out during an additional process step.

Using steam reforming to produce hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel is more laborious due to the deactivation of the employed catalysts by the deposition of carbon and sulfur impurities on their surface, causing a reduction in the amount of hydrogen produced, Martin explains. With the help of laboratory experiments and simulations, DLR researchers re-examined the entire process systematically, and were able to identify the optimal operating conditions.

This knowledge now allows us to produce high-quality hydrogen with a purity of 99.999 percent, and for the first time, we are able to produce hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel through a process that is stable over a long period.

—Stefan Martin


  • Stefan Martin, Gerard Kraaij, Torsten Ascher, Penelope Baltzopoulou, George Karagiannakis, David Wails, Antje Wörner (2014) “Direct steam reforming of diesel and diesel-biodiesel blends for distributed hydrogen generation” International Journal Of Hydrogen Energy doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2014.10.062



Bio synthetic methanol, gasoline, kerosene or diesel can be reformed on the FVC/EV for more independent and sustainable transport.


So you take raw stock, add energy to refine it to diesel fuel then use this refined diesel fuel to reform it to hydrogen, add energy to compress it, then use it in a fuel cell that's about 40 to 60% efficient to create electricity to run an EV which you call a hydrogen car.

How about dropping all this complication by quick charging a battery electric car directly from a buffer battery that's charged from solar panels.

produces 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen from 20 liters of biodiesel per hour

My old Passat TDI reliably averaged 38 MPG, but assume 35 for the moment.  20 liters is 5.28 gallons, which would drive it about 185 miles.  IIRC the FCEVs are currently getting about 60 miles per kg, so about 265 miles from 4.4 kg.  This is a slight improvement, but certainly at great expense.  Note that we are given nothing about the cost of this hydrogen.

In the mean time, the Tesla supercharger network continues to be built out.  At 0.38 kWh/mi and perhaps 15¢/kWh delivered, cost of energy is just 5.7¢/mile.  This is less than diesel would cost for my old Passat even at current low prices.  The fuel-cell car is already dead; the EV has eliminated the business case for it.


Nothing wrong with Extended range BEVs except the current extra weight and very high cost of 120+ kWh quick charge batteries required for cold weather operations.

Something like 3-3-? to 5-5-? batteries, probably available between 2025 to 2035, are required to make extended range BEVs a viable option (for cold weather areas).

Meanwhile, current 500+ Km range FCEVs from Toyota and Hyundai (and more to come) can offer the required performances (in cold weather areas) at equivalent or lower initial cost but higher O & M cost than equivalent extended range BEVs.

Making and storing H2 from clean REs is getting more and more efficient and will soon match the cost of fossil and bio fuels and electricity from NPPs.

In principle, storing H2 is easier and cheaper than storing electrons?


going from a high-density liquid fuel to H2 is assbackward

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