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CSIRO team working to commercialize membrane separating H2 from NH3; opening up an export market for Australia renewable H2

Researchers at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have years of experience researching the best ways to separate pure hydrogen from mixed gas streams. Now, the researchers have developed a thin metal membrane that can separate high-purity hydrogen from ammonia used as a hydrogen carrier. Ammonia (NH3) has a number of favorable attributes for such an application, the primary one being its high capacity for hydrogen storage—17.6 wt.%, based on its molecular structure.

CSIRO’s vision is to use the membrane technology to open up a new world market for renewable hydrogen produced via electrolysis in Australia. The renewable hydrogen would first be converted to ammonia (in combination with nitrogen produced in a renewables-driven air separation unit), then be exported piggybacking on the existing transport infrastructure for ammonia, and finally be extracted from the ammonia using the membrane system for use in vehicles and other applications.

CSIRO has launched a two-year project to develop and demonstrate a hydrogen production system—incorporating the CSIRO-developed membrane technology—to deliver at least 5 kg/day of hydrogen, directly from ammonia. The project recently received $1.7 million from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), which will be matched by CSIRO.

The research has also been welcomed by industry and is supported by BOC, Hyundai, Toyota and Renewable Hydrogen Pty Ltd.

In the final stages of development, the device is being further refined, ready for commercial deployment. The membrane reactor technology be implemented in a modular unit that can be used at, or near, a refueling station.


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  • M.D. Dolan, A.C. Beath, S.S. Hla, J.D. Way, H.W. Abu El Hawa (2016) “An experimental and techno-economic assessment of solar reforming for H2 production,” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 41, Issue 33, Pages 14583-14595 doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2016.05.190

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We are getting all the building blocks in place for a complete renewable system.

Here is a possible very low energy source for the nitrogen in the ammonia:

'African farmers who are able to produce their own fertilizer from only air. Bhaskar S. Patil brings this prospect closer with a revolutionary reactor that coverts nitrogen from the atmosphere into NOx, the raw material for fertilizer. His method, in theory, is up to five times as efficient as existing processes, enabling farms to have a small-scale installation without the need for a big investment. He receives his doctorate on 10 May at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).'

And of course just the other day we had this article here about the production of the hydrogen:


As opposed to NH3, the C carbon from whatever origin (nat gas methane coal gas syngas from fossil or recent vegetation vis ethanol from sugar cane , grass clippings or wood and also directly from the atmosphere.
1: Is always separated before use in a fuel cell. Sometimes that occurs at the membrane at temperature from ~ 200oC to 600oC. Given a low temp (efficient) membrane, it is in theory possible to separate the carbon to storage and then (in an ideal world) from a collection point sent to deep underground storage. Carbon capture and storage.
So renewable or biogas offers a carbon for reuse or sequestering opportunity.

Amonia NH3.
Vapourpoint -2.2 oC
@ 20oC the gauge reads 33.5 psi.

Material safety data sheet:
SECTION 2: Hazards identification Classification according to WHS Regulation Physical hazards Flammable gases, Category 2 H221 Gases under pressure : Liquefied gas H280 Health hazards Acute toxicity (inhalation:gas) Category 3 H331 Skin corrosion/irritation, Category 1B H314 Serious eye damage/eye irritation, Category 1 H318 Environmental hazards Hazardous to the aquatic environment — Acute Hazard, Category 1 H400

LPG C3H8. vapour point -45oC. vapor pressure = 0oC
@ + 38oC The vapour pressure is 295psi
Hence LPG tanks are rated as 300psi operating pressure.

While CNG can be stored @ 3,000 psi in 8,500psi burst tanks,

LNG CH4. Needs cryogenic temps below minus -162oC or boiling point. pressures of ~
@ minus 108.5oC 294psi
@ -86oC 588psi
@ -82oC 881psi it goes 'critical' This pressure will arise in every non refrigerated tank no matter the level of insulation I.E. vacuum flask, as it absorbs heat from the air.

The LNG ships can and do use boil off of the cargo to fuel both the refrigeration as well as the engines to keep pressures down.

Liquid hydrogen below -252oC You can see where this is going.

Whereas the N in amonia is ~ 70% of our atmosphere so requires no treatment. (not sure if makes economic sense to capture for reuse as fertilizer etc).


Hi Arnold.

I would much sooner use methanol or formic acid to store energy than ammonia, but the latter would work if needs be.

So it seems to me that this is essentially a proof of concept, and we can now for the first time prepare a proper detailed proposal for shifting to renewables.

This would be needed whether cars use batteries or fuel cells, as the problem of providing the power in winter remains the same, as does the need for back up.

No doubt these various advances provide greater impetus to FCEVs, but it still comes down to how much the vehicles cost for FCEVs versus BEVs.

In my view batteries need a further technical breakthrough to be truly competitive with ICE, perhaps solid state or lithium sulphur, whilst it appears that pretty much present technologies developed further but not reliant on breakthroughs should do most of the job for FCEVs, at least for larger or premium vehicles.

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