HyPER project using sorbent-enhanced steam reforming for low-carbon production of H2 from natural gas
An international collaboration led by Cranfield University will examine the potential for the low-carbon production of hydrogen from natural gas. The HyPER project (Bulk Hydrogen Production by Sorbent Enhanced Steam Reforming) will construct a 1.5 MWth pilot plant at Cranfield University to test the innovative hydrogen production technology that substantially reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
With £7.5 million funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Energy Innovation Program (earlier post), the project also involves US-based research and development organization GTI and Doosan Babcock, a specialist in delivery of low-carbon technologies. The project centers on a novel hydrogen production technology invented by GTI.
Following on from a successful first phase, the pilot plant will be constructed at Cranfield University in 2020 and become operational in 2021.
GTI’s innovative hydrogen production technology inherently captures CO2 during the hydrogen production process and shifts the chemical reactions to favor the production of more hydrogen. The outputs are high-purity streams of hydrogen and carbon dioxide which can be then stored, sold or transported to where it is needed.
The process for the direct production of hydrogen from natural gas that will be used in the project is compact yet scalable to very large plants. It has the potential to produce high-purity hydrogen at an up to 30% lower cost than conventional steam methane reforming methods that require CO2 capture as an additional expensive process step.
Conventional technology is also limited in the portion of CO2 emissions that can actually be avoided with reasonable economics. A key benefit of the new process is that it could be more economical and efficient than other technologies as the product streams are pressurized.
Background on the HyPER process. The Gas Technology Institute (GTI) developed a Compact Hydrogen Generator (CHG) process, based on Sorption Enhanced Reforming (SER) technology, which successfully integrates previously independent process steps, achieves superior energy efficiency by lowering reaction temperatures, and provides pathways to doubling energy productivity with less environmental pollution.
The CHG process utilizes calcium oxide (CaO) as a sorbent for the in-situ removal of by-product carbon dioxide, directly producing a 92+ vol% pure H2 product. This results in lower equipment costs, higher H2 yields and a concentrated CO2 product stream suitable for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) or other applications.
GTI’s prior CHG process development efforts culminated in an operational pilot plant. During the initial pilot testing, GTI demonstrated operation at 90% of rated capacity. GTI found that approximately 70% lower capital cost is achievable compared to SMR-based hydrogen production with CO2 capture, as well as improved operating costs.
The proposed HyPER pilot plant is a 1.5 MWth pilot system of the CHG process, which includes both the reforming and sorbent regeneration systems. The proposed system enables detailed evaluation of the two key remaining risks of the system, which are elevated pressure sorbent enhanced reforming in a bubbling fluidized bed and reliable high-temperature solids handling.
With the exception of process integration, the substitution of multi-cyclones for filters and simulation of the recycle stream, all of the main equipment expected of the full-scale plant is present on the pilot.
The PSA, H2 membrane separator and recycle gas compressors required for recycle at full scale represent commercially available equipment having minimal technical or cost risk and, on that basis, have not been considered for demonstration on the proposed pilot.
The proposed maximum output of 1.5 MWth represents an approximately 20x scale-up on the existing 71 kWth facility in the US, achieved through a combination of increased physical size and operating pressure.
Mays, Jeff. (2017) “One Step Hydrogen Generation Through Sorption Enhanced Reforming.” United States: N. p., doi: 10.2172/1373949.