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Archive for the category “hydrogen”

Solar Panels That Create Hydrogen Out of Thin Air

The university of Leuven in Belgium has developed a solar panel that can use the electricity it generated to convert atmospheric water vapor into hydrogen gas. Current production rate 0.25 m3 per panel per day (on average over a full year), where 15% of the sunlight is converted in hydrogen. The researchers claim that 20 panels can provide a family of electricity and heat all year around (1825 m3 hydrogen).

The claims are to be verified in a test home in Oud-Heverlee, near Leuven, where 20 “hydrogen panels” will be installed in combination with a 4 m3 hydrogen storage.

[] – KU Leuven scientists crack the code for affordable, eco-friendly hydrogen gas
[] – Solar panel produces hydrogen gas at KU Leuven
[] – Belgian Scientists Announce New Solar Panel That Makes Hydrogen
[] – University Leuven, Solar Fuels
[] – Solar Fuel Efficiency Records

[] – Lots of Dutch language videos here

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Regeneration of Spent NaBH4 From Renewable Electricity

7 steps in the traditional Brown-Schlesinger process for industrial production of NaBH4. (Borax = Na2B4O5(OH)4 · 8 H2O)

Taiwanese research from 2015 regarding the recycling of spent NaBH4, i.e. after this reaction has occurred and the hydrogen has been released:

NaBH4 + 2H2O → [catalyst] NaBO2 + 4H2 + 217kJ

The question is: how do we get NaBH4 back in the most energy-efficient manner and close the fuel cycle?. The traditional answer is: via the Brown-Schlesinger process. The electrolysis of molten NaCl in order to obtain metallic Na (Sodium) is an important step in that process. An alternative approach is presented here, namely producing metallic sodium through electrolysis of seawater.

Candidate metal borohydrides for hydrogen storage: LiBH4, NaBH4, KBH4, LiH, NaH, and MgH2. Of these NaBH4 is the prime candidate because of its higher hydrogen content (i.e., 10.8 wt%).

Traditional industrial method of producing NaBH4 according to the Brown-Schlesinger process (see picture above):

Step 1. Hydrogen produced from steam reforming of methane.
Step 2. Metallic sodium obtained through the electrolysis of sodium chloride.
Step 3. Boric acid converted from borax.
Step 4. Trimethyl borate synthesized from esterification of boric acid in methanol.
Step 5. Sodium hydride produced from metallic sodium reacting with hydrogen.
Step 6. Synthesis of NaBH4 via the reaction of trimethyl borate with sodium hydride.
Step 7. Methanol recycled from the hydrolysis of sodium methoxide.

The original fuel cycle, based on sodium borohydride (NaBH4) and ammonia borane (NH3BH3).

The revision in the concept combining the regeneration of the spent borohydrides and the used catalysts with the green electricity is reflected in(1) that metallic sodium could be produced from NaCl of high purity obtained from the conversion of the byproduct in the synthesis of NH3BH3 to devoid the complicated purification procedures if produced from seawater; and (2) that the recycling and the regeneration processes of the spent NaBH4 and NH3BH3 as well as the used catalysts could be simultaneously carried out and combined with the proposed life cycle of borohydrides.

[] – The Concept about the Regeneration of Spent Borohydrides and Used Catalysts from Green Electricity

Note that this research was published before H2-Fuel came out in the open about their method of extracting as much hydrogen as possible from NaBH4, namely via ultra-pure water and limited amounts of HCL.

[deepresource] – Production of NaBH4
[deepresource] – NaBH4 – The Vice-Admiral Has a Message for Dutch Parliament
[deepresource] – H2Fuel – Hydrogen Powder NaBH4

Production of NaBH4

[Source] Sodium Borohydride (NaBH4), the Holy Hydrogen Grail? The solution to our renewable energy storage problems?

As reported earlier, here is what is at stake: at [2:20] activator fluid is let lose on the small amount of NaBH4 powder and immediately large amounts of hydrogen are released from the powder that push away the water in the long glass tube. The amount of hydrogen produced can be accurately controlled by the amount of activator fluid added to the powder.

The purpose of this post is to gain some insight into how Sodium Borohydride (NaBH4) is acquired c.q. produced.

[] – Sodium borohydride

For commercial NaBH4 production, the Brown-Schlesinger process and the Bayer process are the most popular methods. In the Brown-Schlesinger process Sodium borohydride is industrially prepared following the original method of Schlesinger: sodium hydride (produced by reacting Na and H2) is treated with trimethyl borate at 250–270 °C:

B(OCH3)3 + 4 NaH → NaBH4 + 3 NaOCH3

Millions of kilograms are produced annually, far exceeding the production levels of any other hydride reducing agent. Sodium borohydride can also be produced by the action of NaH on powdered borosilicate glass.

Different from it, the Bayer process is based on the reaction among borax (Na2B4O7), Na, H2, and silicon oxide (SiO2) at 700 °C to synthesize NaBH4:

Na2B4O7 + 16 Na + 8 H2 + 7 SiO2 → 4 NaBH4 + 7 Na2SiO3

There is currently an effort to modify the Bayer Process by employing the less expensive reducing metal magnesium (Mg) in place of sodium. Reactions such as:

8 MgH2 + Na2B4O7 + Na2CO3 → 4 NaBH4 + 8 MgO + CO2


2 MgH2 + NaBO2 → NaBH4 + 2 MgO

are promising modifications to the Bayer Process, but have not been developed far enough to exhibit both high yield and fast reaction rates.

[] – The Concept about the Regeneration of Spent Borohydrides and Used Catalysts from Green Electricity (2015, pdf)

Currently, the Brown-Schlesinger process is still regarded as the most common and mature method for the commercial production of sodium borohydride (NaBH4). However, the metallic sodium, currently produced from the electrolysis of molten NaCl that is mass-produced by evaporation of seawater or brine, is probably the most costly raw material… we have made improvements and modified our previously proposed life cycle of sodium borohydride (NaBH4) and ammonia borane (NH3BH3), in order to further reduce costs in the conventional Brown-Schlesinger process.

[] – Review of Chemical Processes for the Synthesis of NaBH4
[] – A Recycling Hydrogen Supply System of NaBH4 Based on a Facile Regeneration Process (2018, pdf)
[] – The Preparation of Sodium Borohydride by the High Temperature Reaction of Sodium Hydride with Borate Esters (1953)
[] – Review chem. processes for synthesis of NaBH4
[] – Sodium

[] – The Concept about the Regeneration of Spent Borohydrides and Used Catalysts from Green Electricity (2015)

Dutch 20 MW AKZO-Gasunie Hydrogen-Electrolysis Initiative

Gasunie for decades was the Netherlands natural gas producer monopolist. But that gas era is running out, so if Gasunie wants to survive, it needs a new business model, that preferably fits with its expertise, which is energy/gas. Enter hydrogen. The Netherlands has ambitious plans for offshore wind development and all these GW’s need to be buffered. The Dutch government has opted for hydrogen. Gasunie sees this as a chance to enter the water-electrolysis market, has teamed up with Akzo-Nobel and announced last year that it intends to build a 20 MW electrolyser, for starters, to whet its appetite, so to speak. Location factory: Delfzijl.

Currently the largest electrolyser in the Netherlands has a throughput of 1 MW. 20 MW, that would mean 3,000 ton H2/year or 30 million m3. Dutch industry currently uses 800,000 ton hydrogen per year. In the long term 5-10 GW electrolysis could be applied usefully, fed by 7-15 North Sea wind parks of 750 MW each.

[] – Major Electrolysis Factory in Dutch Town Delfzijl
[] – The Netherlands has a Chance to Produce Electrolysers
[] – AkzoNobel en Gasunie onderzoeken 20 mMW elektrolyse-unit voor opwekking groene waterstof
[] – Industrie opent weg naar groene waterstof
[] – Hydrogen 2018 Review
[] – Nederland Waterstofland
[] – Gasunie Stapt in Waterstof
[] – Gasunie
[] – Waterstof: welke mogelijkheden biedt het voor de industrie?

State of Electrolysis in Europe – 2014

Electrolyser suppliers (not exhaustive)

Data from an EU report concerning electrolyser and fuel cell technology in Europe. Today, hydrogen is mostly produced from natural gas and only 4% from electrolysis. In the light of the Paris Climate Accords and renewable energy policy of the EU this could very well change drastically, and soon. The data presented here is already 5 years old. Technology has progressed since.

[] – Development of Water Electrolysis in the European Union (2014)
[] – Electrolysis of water

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Clipper Stad Amsterdam & Hydrogen Powertrain

Floris van Nievelt of the TU Delft, the Netherlands, has written his master thesis about modelling a hydrogen-based power train for an existing passenger sailing vessel, Stad Amsterdam. The hydrogen comes from a sodium borohydride powder storage. The study was performed in cooperation with the inventors of this storage method: h2-fuel.

The thesis contains a coherent overview of hydrogen storage with sodium borohydride. The study is also an indication that this form of hydrogen storage is taken serious by academic institutions. The TU Eindhoven and technological certification institute TNO had already verified the findings of h2-fuel.

[] – Maritime application of sodium borohydride as an energy carrier
[] – Hydrogen as the key to a sustainable shipping sector
[] – H2Fuel company site
[deepresource] – NaBH4 – The Vice-Admiral Has a Message for Dutch Parliament

The Emerging Dutch Hydrogen Economy

The Dutch government is convinced: hydrogen is going to be a major storage option for the Dutch economy.

The principle Dutch promoter of the hydrogen economy, entrepreneur and prof. Ad van Wijk, has written a short primer on the advantages of the hydrogen economy for the Netherlands. Van Wijk picks up from where Jeremy Rifkind left off in 2003. After the hydrogen economy fell into oblivion for years, van Wijk can pick up again because conditions have changed dramatically since. Soon, several European countries like Denmark, Germany and Scotland need to make decisions about the way they are going to store their at times abundant renewable electricity.

[] – hydrogen the key to the energy transition

This graph shows why seasonal storage of energy is inevitable if we move to a renewable energy base.

Dutch energy consumption patterns. Due to the presence of the largest harbor in Europe Rotterdam, the transport sector is relatively large.

Excellent prospects for Africa and Arabia to earn an income after the end of the oil age. Superb solar conditions, with irradiation 2-3 times as high as in Europe, could destine these countries to become major hydrogen producers.

Cost projections renewable electricity.

Siemens SILYZER PEM Water Electrolysis Systems

One of the largest advantages to PEM electrolysis is its ability to operate at high current densities. This can result in reduced operational costs, especially for systems coupled with very dynamic energy sources such as wind and solar, where sudden spikes in energy input would otherwise result in uncaptured energy. The polymer electrolyte allows the PEM electrolyzer to operate with a very thin membrane (~100-200 μm) while still allowing high pressures, resulting in low ohmic losses, primarily caused by the conduction of protons across the membrane (0.1 S/cm) and a compressed hydrogen output.

The polymer electrolyte membrane, due to its solid structure, exhibits a low gas crossover rate resulting in very high product gas purity. Maintaining a high gas purity is important for storage safety and for the direct usage in a fuel cell. The safety limits for H2 in O2 are at standard conditions 4 mol-% H2 in O2

[] – PEM Electrolysis
[] – Hydrogen Solutions
[] – Siemens Silyzer 300 (English/Deutsch)
[] – Integrating Renewable Energy and Hydrogen (pres. slides)

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Large-Scale Hydrogen Project in the Works in Belgium

[source] Haven Zeebrugge

The companies Engie, Colruyt/Eoly, Hydrogenics, Fluxys and Elia, as well as Zeebrugge harbor, Gent university and the hydrogen club Waterstofnet are joining forces in the Greenports study. Goal is to create a blueprint for large-scale hydrogen production in an harbor environment, read: convert offshore wind electricity in hydrogen. Focal point is the harbor of Zeebrugge.

[] – Greenports grootschalige waterstofproductie in havenomgeving
[] – Grootschalige waterstofproductie in een havenomgeving
[] – Power-to-gas Belgium
[] – Greenport site

Belgian offshore wind projects:

Project name MW Turbines
Belwind 171 56
Northwind 216 72
Nobelwind 165 50
Rentel 309 42

[] – Wind power in Belgium


H2Fuel Videos

[] – Company site

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ITM Power Upbeat of Hydrogen Storage Market

Shell opening its first hydrogen fueling station based on ITM hardware.

[] – ITM Power

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2018 Hyundai NEXO Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car

[] – The Top Gear car review: Hyundai Nexo
[] – Hyundai Nexo

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Largest Hydrogen Electrolyser Plant in the World (135/167 MW)

135 MW historic hydro-power electrolysis-based hydrogen production in Glomfjord, Norway 1953-1991

167 MW historic hydro-power electrolysis-based hydrogen production in Rjukan, Norway 1919-1988, possibly the oldest facility of its kind world-wide

The historic hydrogen production facilities were much larger than existing ones, but that could change really fast. They were located in Norway because of the abundance of cheap hydro-power, combined with the scientific interest in heavy water for the nuclear industry and other more down-to-earth applications of industrial hydrogen. The main challenge is to improve efficiency from currently 80% into 9x%, reduce cost and increase output. All the signs are that the hydrogen economy could have a new lease on life.

[] – The world’s most efficient and reliable electrolyser
[] – Nel Hydrogen about
[] – Large scale hydrogen-production
[deepresource] – 700 MW Renewable Hydrogen Plant to be Built in France
[] – Hydrogen economy
[] – Hydrogen station
[] – Hydrogen production
[] – Hydrogen fuel
[] – Hydrogen, don’t give up!
[] – Sintef
[deepresource] – The Netherlands is Placing its Bets on the Hydrogen Economy
[] – Nel-CEO Løkke im Exklusiv-Interview

Funding for 100 MW Hydrogen Electrolyser Feasibility Study

ITM Power (AIM: ITM), the energy storage and clean fuel company, is pleased to announce funding from Innovate UK for a feasibility study to deploy a 100MW Power-to-Gas (P2G) energy storage project, “Project Centurion” at Runcorn, Cheshire, UK.

This world class project explores the electrolytic production, pipeline transmission, salt cavern storage and gas grid injection of green hydrogen at an industrial scale. The feasibility study will explore the system design and costs and will assess the business case for deployment.

The vision for Project Centurion is to demonstrate a 100MW P2G energy storage system which can produce low carbon hydrogen for heat, decarbonisation of industry, and transport fuel. Once successfully demonstrated, such systems can make a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of the electricity and gas networks, and by coupling these two networks together provide energy storage, allowing the UK energy system to accommodate increasing amounts of renewable energy, reducing curtailment and constraints. As well as contributing to decarbonisation, P2G systems can improve security of energy supply and improve the UK balance of payments by producing indigenous fuel offsetting the need to import fuel.

The transport of hydrogen by pipeline to salt caverns near Lostock, where it can be stored pure or blended with natural gas, will be explored, along with the feasibility of injection into the local gas network. Other potential demands for the hydrogen will be assessed, including industrial and transport use which will support existing studies in the area, particularly Cadent’s HyNet NW… objectives are: to produce a 100MW system design with costs significantly below current targets

These considerations apply to countries like Holland and Denmark as well, as they are both “equiped” with a large shallow part of the North Sea, ideal for the production of raw renewable electricity, that can be converted in hydrogen-fuel with 80-90% efficiency and at a cost of 0.5 cent/kWh.

[] – ITM Power lands feasibility funding for ambitious Cheshire energy storage project
[Google Maps] – Runcorn (near Liverpool)

Hydrogen From Electrolysis Now Cost-Competitive

I suggest that hydrogen will become the dominant route to long-term energy storage, not principally as the gas itself but in the form of methane and liquid fuels. To be clear, I think hydrogen fuel cell cars stand very little chance of competing against battery vehicles. However I do believe that using water electrolysis to make hydrogen, which is then merged with carbon-based molecules (such as CO2) to create synthetic natural gas and substitutes for petrol and aviation fuel is likely to be the central feature of the next phase of world decarbonisation. For the fossil fuel companies trying to find their way out of reliance on oil and gas, synthetic replacements for existing fuels have to be a key focus of their long-term planning. The manufacture of hydrogen, and the creation of renewable fuels that use this hydrogen, is an activity more similar to the core business of oil and gas companies than PV or wind… The government’s forecasts are frankly delusional: wholesale electricity prices are coming down, and down they will stay…

Almost all hydrogen is made today from what is known as ‘steam reforming’, usually of methane (the main constituent of natural gas). A stream of gas is mixed with high temperature steam in the presence of a catalyst. The eventual output of the process is a mixture of CO2 and hydrogen. The valuable hydrogen is collected and the CO2 vented to the atmosphere. If my calculations are correct, the hydrogen produced today through the steam reforming process is resulting in approximately 500 million tonnes of emissions a year, or well over 1% of global GHGs… When manufacture of H2 is switched from using methane to employing surplus electricity, hydrogen will be an important method of balancing the world’s grids. When power is abundant, the electrolysers will be turned on. Their work will stop when electricity gets scarce… Very roughly, a new electrolysis plant today delivers energy efficiency of around 80%… Some manufacturers see electrolyser costs of around £700,000 per megawatt within the next year or so. ITM Power, the Sheffield electrolysis manufacturer, says its costs are already below €1m (about £870,000) for each megawatt of capacity. … Electrolysers require little maintenance or much administrative labour… The capital cost of the electrolyser. I assume a purchase price (including installation) of €700,000 per MW of capacity to take electricity to generate hydrogen… I suggest that the electrolyser will work perhaps 4,000 hours a year, principally when power is cheap because of abundant wind or solar. At a discount rate of 7%, the owner will need to earn €65,000 a year to cover the cost over 20 years… The running cost… I estimate €5 per MWh… I think this is conservative… 800 kWh of hydrogen produced at a cost of £42.42 means a cost of 5.3 pence per kWh of energy.

[] – Hydrogen made by the electrolysis of water is now cost-competitive and gives us another building block for the low-carbon economy
[deepresource] – Hydrogen Production – High Temperature Electrolysis

Hydrogen, a Skeptic View

When we were kids we marveled over pictures with “identify the 10 differences” capture above it. Now that we are serious people, people with glasses and a deep frown, we instead marvel at discovering the flaws in reasoning. There we go:


Yeah right! The video compares electricity prices from a fully developed but dirty fossil fuel economy/grid with hydrogen prices from an almost non-existing hydrogen infrastructure. The video claims a price of $85 for 5 kg hydrogen or $17/kg. That’s like comparing the price of a liter of tap water with the price of a bottled water from the supermarket.

On world markets, the real price of bulk, industrial, fossil-based liquid hydrogen is far less: 2-3$/kg. Meanwhile hydrogen produced with electrolysis has become cost-competitive:

[] – Hydrogen made by the electrolysis of water is now cost-competitive and gives us another building block for the low-carbon economy

And the future is even better:

[deepresource] – Hydrogen Production – High Temperature Electrolysis

An expert from the hydrogen-production industry (electrolysis) in the link above predicts that in a few years the cost of electrolysis equipment will have come down to 500 euro/kW for 100 MW installations. That means that for 500 euro worth of equipment, you have a production capacity 1 kg hydrogen per hour. Assuming the economic life cycle to be in the order of a few years at least, we are talking about, say 3 x 365 x 24 = 26,280 hours = 26,280 kg of hydrogen. Which simply means that the cost of hydrogen-production will be negligible as compared to the cost of renewable electricity generation and storage and distribution cost of liquid hydrogen.

Future Driving – Hydrogen or Batteries?

[] – It’s too early to write off hydrogen vehicles

Our comment: we are uncomfortable with these huge batteries too. Our educated guess: batteries for light-weight 2-3 wheel vehicles for the shorter distances like commuting/local traffic and hydrogen for larger vehicles like multi-person on-demand transporters, trucks, trains, ships, planes.

Hydrogen Roadmap for the Netherlands

[] – Contouren van een Routekaart Waterstof
[] – Outlines of a Hydrogen Roadmap

Efficiency Water Electrolysis


Many see hydrogen as the prime candidate to solve the storage problems of a 100% renewable energy base. In order for this to happen, a sufficient electrolysis efficiency is required to end up with a “power-to-gas” process that is economical.

[] – Electrolysis of water

self-ionization of water. Pure water has an electrical conductivity about one millionth that of seawater. Many electrolytic cells may also lack the requisite electrocatalysts. The efficiency of electrolysis is increased through the addition of an electrolyte (such as a salt, an acid or a base) and the use of electrocatalysts… Currently the electrolytic process is rarely used in industrial applications since hydrogen can currently be produced more affordably from fossil fuels…

Efficiency of modern hydrogen generators is measured by energy consumed per standard volume of hydrogen (MJ/m3), assuming standard temperature and pressure of the H2. The lower the energy used by a generator, the higher would be its efficiency; a 100%-efficient electrolyser would consume 39.4 kilowatt-hours per kilogram (142 MJ/kg) of hydrogen,[22] 12,749 joules per litre (12.75 MJ/m3). Practical electrolysis (using a rotating electrolyser at 15 bar pressure) may consume 50 kilowatt-hours per kilogram (180 MJ/kg)…

There are two main technologies available on the market, alkaline and proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers. Alkaline electrolysers are cheaper in terms of investment (they generally use nickel catalysts), but less efficient; PEM electrolysers, conversely, are more expensive (they generally use expensive platinum-group metal catalysts) but are more efficient and can operate at higher current densities, and can therefore be possibly cheaper if the hydrogen production is large enough…

Conventional alkaline electrolysis has an efficiency of about 70%. Accounting for the accepted use of the higher heat value (because inefficiency via heat can be redirected back into the system to create the steam required by the catalyst), average working efficiencies for PEM electrolysis are around 80%. This is expected to increase to between 82-86% before 2030. Theoretical efficiency for PEM electrolysers are predicted up to 94%

[deepresource] – Hydrogen Production – High Temperature Electrolysis

According to Simon Bourne of ITM-Power in the 2nd video, the expectation is that by 2025, large-scale PEM-electrolysers, cost will have come down to 500 euro/kW.

[deepresource] – Cost Hydrogen From Renewable Energy

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Penetrating Shipping

Initiatives in Europe and America to bring hydrogen fuel cells to shipping propulsion.

[] – Hydrogen ship
[] – ABB & Ballard advance fuel cell ships
[] – Is there a future for H2-powered ship propulsion?
[] – Signs the H2 Fuel Cell Ship — or Truck — Has Sailed
[] – Maritime Applications for Hydrogen Fuel Cells

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