RWTH: Generating green hydrogen from biogas

Hydrogen is considered a key raw material for a long-term, sustainable energy transition. However, only so-called green hydrogen, i.e. CO2-free hydrogen that is produced on the basis of renewable energies, is sustainable. As part of the project “BioH2Ref – decentralized hydrogen processing of biogas by steam reforming”, the Institute for Industrial Furnace Construction and Heat Engineering at the RWTH Aachen University, BtX energy GmbH and the entrepreneur Werner Schleupen are researching how biogas (from liquid manure and residues) can be used on an agricultural farm to produce green hydrogen can be produced. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection is funding the consortium project with around 1.3 million euros, and work has now begun.

As part of the project, a pilot plant with direct decentralized steam reforming will then be set up, operated and tested at the Lefkeshof in Krefeld in August 2022. Thanks to the innovative technology, greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture can be avoided by reducing methane emissions. With the hydrogen produced, a contribution can then be made, for example, to zero-emission transport or zero-emission industry.

Production is independent of the weather and can be started wherever there is agriculture. Local structures are strengthened by regional value chains and material cycles, and initial calculations show that the systems can be operated economically. All of this makes the technology an exciting source of energy, for example for driving buses in city traffic. From January 2023, around 100 kilograms of green hydrogen are to be produced within 24 hours. This could be used to power five public transport buses a day in a city like Aachen. If the scientists at the Institute for Industrial Furnace Construction and Heat Technology headed by Professor Herbert Pfeifer add up the possible production capacity of all plants in Germany, the nationwide truck traffic could be fed with it. A strategy of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, envisages that 11,000 fuel cell trucks, 1000 fuel cell refuse collection vehicles and 3800 fuel cell buses in regular service will be powered by hydrogen in 2030 and that 200 hydrogen filling stations will be built across the state.

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