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Winery Demonstrating Production of Renewable Hydrogen Via Microbial Electrolysis System

The first demonstration of a renewable method for hydrogen production from wastewater using a microbial electrolysis system is underway at the Napa Wine Company in Oakville, California. (Earlier post.)

This is a demonstration to prove we can continuously generate renewable hydrogen and to study the engineering factors affecting the system performance. The hydrogen produced will be vented except for a small amount that will be used in a hydrogen fuel cell.

—Dr. Bruce Logan, Penn State

Eventually, Napa Wine Company would like to use the hydrogen to run vehicles and power systems.

The wastewater comes from cleaning equipment, grape disposal, wine making and other processes. The company already has on-site wastewater treatment and recycling and the partially treated water from the microbial electrolysis system will join other water for further treatment and use in irrigation.

The demonstration microbial electrolysis plant is a continuous flow system that will process about 1,000 liters of wastewater a day. Microbial electrolysis cells consist of two electrodes—one carbon anode and one stainless steel cathode—immersed in liquid. The wastewater enters the cell where naturally occurring bacteria convert the organic material into electrical current. If the voltage produced by the bacteria is slightly increased, hydrogen gas is produced electrochemically on the stainless steel cathode.

The demonstration plant is made up of 24 modules. Each module has six pairs of electrodes.

The project is supported by Air Products & Chemicals, Inc., The Water Environmental Research Foundation Paul L. Busch Award and other donors. Brown & Caldwell, an environmental engineering consulting firm, was contracted to build the demonstration plant. The Napa Wine Company is donating its facilities and wastewater for the demonstration.



"The demonstration microbial electrolysis plant is a continuous flow system that will process about 1,000 liters of wastewater a day." yields how much H2 at what equipment cost?


Kelly - if they told you that then you'd have a target of how to make something better - heaven forbid. Needless to say, companies should be more diligent and open about both the economic and ecological costs of their doing business, whether it's a "green" process or not.


Quick someone shut this down by legislating or taxing it to death.

Heaven forbid it could enable FCVs.


I assume kelly that it does something worth more then it costs or else they wouldnt bother buying it kelly.

Most likely they already use hydrogen and this will make it cheaply.

Henry Gibson

Since "green" energy is promoted by subsidies and grants and unfunded legal mandates it is difficult or impossible to analyse the net gain and the cost. The hidden costs in work income to society cannot be assesed. Mention the magic word hydrogen and the money and attention will flow. Everybody knows that hydrogen fuel cells don't produce anything but clean pure water. Which is, by the way, the most predominant green house gas and the one which affects the climate the most. Perhaps the pumping of water wells should be forbidden to lower H20 evaporation.

What everybody does not know is that the cost of hydrogen from any source makes the operation of fuel cells expensive. The capital cost of the fuel cell is also usually very high. The only reason fuel cells are used almost anywhere is government subsidies. So far the CO2 releases for making and transporting hydrogen are mostly ignored.

All plant material contains carbon; what is being done with this carbon?

The electric input destroys most of the value. Electrolysis of water is usually very energy inefficient and it is better to use the electricity to run motors.

The materials that are being tested have been shown in India to produce methane in very fast microbe reactors. It is just as "clean" and more efficient to use this methane for fuel.

Bio-filters can be invented that will remove every insoluable and soluable organic material from any waste stream. Activated carbon can also help. These materials are fermented into methane.

Whilst there may be a net energy gain from the production of ethanol from corn, there is not a net CO2 capture gain. It can easily be shown that using fossil fuels to make up for the ethanol energy gain and allowing trees to grow where corn was grown will result in lower overall CO2 release. It would cause lower air CO2 if the entire corn plant were put into a peat bog where it would never ferment. The same may be true of these winery wastes. ..HG..

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