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KIT and Wintershall Dea collaborating to develop industrial-scale methane pyrolysis for CO2-free production of hydrogen

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and colleagues earlier developed an efficient process for methane pyrolysis. Methane pyrolysis separates methane (CH4) into gaseous hydrogen and solid carbon that is a valuable material for various industry branches and can also be stored safely. Now, KIT is partnering with industry partner Wintershall Dea to further develop this process for use on an industrial scale.

Direct thermal cracking of methane and other hydrocarbons is a way to produce hydrogen from natural gas without direct CO2 emissions.

—Professor Thomas Wetzel of KIT’s Institute of Thermal Process Engineering

Wetzel’s team, in cooperation with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. in Potsdam, developed a process for the continuous decomposition of methane in a bubble column reactor filled with liquid metal to produce hydrogen and solid carbon.

2019_141_Wasserstoff aus Erdgas ohne CO2 Emissionen

Now, in a joint project scheduled initially to run for three years, KIT and Wintershall Dea plan to lay the foundations for future industrial use of methane pyrolysis within the next three years.

There are huge quantities of natural gas worldwide and it can be used in a climate-neutral way. We now want to study how this can be achieved efficiently and use the results for processing large quantities of gas later on. We are looking forward to this collaboration and are confident that we can make a major contribution to sustainable energy supply in the future.

—Prof Wetzel

In 2018, the research of KIT and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. relating to methane pyrolysis was granted the Innovation Award by the German Gas Industry and additionally won the audience award of the ERDGAS 2018 Zukunftswerkstatt, an event staged by the Zukunft ERDGAS industry initiative.

With the merger of Wintershall Holding GmbH and DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG, two successful companies with a long tradition have formed Europe’s leading independent natural gas and oil company: Wintershall Dea. The company with German roots and headquarters in Kassel and Hamburg explores for and produces gas and oil in 13 countries worldwide. With activities in Europe, Russia, Latin America, and the MENA region (Middle East & North Africa), Wintershall Dea has a global upstream portfolio and, with its participation in natural gas transport, is also active in the midstream business.


  • T. Geißler, A. Abánades, A. Heinzel, K. Mehravaran, G. Müller, R.K. Rathnam, C. Rubbia, D. Salmieri, L. Stoppel, S. Stückrad, A. Weisenburger, H. Wenninger, Th. Wetzel (2016) “Hydrogen production via methane pyrolysis in a liquid metal bubble column reactor with a packed bed,” Chemical Engineering Journal, Volume 299, Pages 192-200 doi: 10.1016/j.cej.2016.04.066



Wasteful.  There's a huge amount of energy thrown away in the carbon.  Reacting the methane with water would make twice as much hydrogen (plus CO2).  The CO2 can be injected into basalt formations where it will mineralize in a few years.


The meme that hydrogen production is a ploy by the oil industry, which will perpetuate the release of GHG gases is falsified by either method.

Why bother with huge batteries which embody very large amounts of energy when a really fast fuel ZEV alternative is available?

South Korea is building out 300 hydrogen stations by 2022, which in an area of around the same size as Massachuset means that it wlll be available pretty much everywhere.

Fuel cell cars by both Hyundai and Toyota are being ramped ten times by the same kind of time frame.

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"Blue Hydrogen" appears to be a good future prospect. The Allam cycle used by 8 Rivers (aka NetPower) plans to build a $1B Blue Hydrogen plant in New Zealand to produce hydrogen for fertilizer and electricity. The process is 87% efficient and captures all of the CO2. However, they plan to sequester some of the CO2 in Urea fertilizer which is not a good idea. Using either the KIT method, or the Stuart Licht of GWU "C2CNT Process" carbon nanotube wools production, or as E-P says locked in minerals as nature has done, would be the best approach.
There are many uses for hydrogen that could greatly reduce CO2 emissions. Automobiles would require a very large infrastructure unlike many of the industrial uses. Even Nikola Motors that still plans to use H2 fuel cells, now ("if we believe the hype") would use batteries for shorter range trucks, allowing the new battery to double the range of the FCEV truck and that would greatly reduce their H2 infrastructure.

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The KIT method is actually a competitor to the Allam Cycle which does use the energy in the carbon again as E-P suggests. So we will have to see which "Blue" H2 works.


Why don't the Germans restart their reactors and stop burning lignite.
You'd save a lot more co2 that way.


And if you are going to use renewables, then cost competitive energy transfer from remote locations for either wind or sun is needed.

Check out the DOE's 2018 analysis of tranport costs per MWh for electricity, gaseous fuels and liquid, page 7 here:


As can be seen, electricity is in a league of its own, as of course are storage costs using batteries etc.

Heavy imput of renewables in the grid necessarily means using hydrogen or other chemicals for transmission and storage.


@Dave, The high cost of HVDC transmission is presumably due to electrical loses in the transmission. However, you have to balance this against the loses in creating and using the H2, which are much higher than the HVDC transmission loses.
Try this document, it is only 74 pages - yours is > 1000 pages - phew.



The high cost of transport by electricity cannot possibly be due to losses, which only run at ~6% or so (EIA)


They get carbon for battery anodes and other applications.
Wasteful needs to account for all possible uses.

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