WP6 Sustainable Production and Purification of Hydrogen, Syngas, BioH2 and BioCH4

Led by: Prof Alan Guwy, University of South Wales


The sustainable production of hydrogen and methane is a significant challenge for the realisation of a low carbon future. The use of hydrogen and methane offers substantial benefits in the reduction of local and global atmospheric pollutants. These gases can also be used as energy storage vectors and in a wide variety of clean and efficient end use energy technologies. The generation of hydrogen and methane gases from industrial and agricultural wastes, gas streams and co-products has recently been the focus of industry and governments around the world. This WP will investigate emerging multi-stage biological processes to convert organic wastes in to hydrogen and methane and new reforming and purification processes to convert and recover hydrogen and methane from industrial syngas streams and waste streams.   Syngas mixtures or hydrogen rich waste streams from industrial processes, e.g. steel production, semi-conductor manufacture, provide considerable potential for recovering energy rich gases, which can be efficiently purified and used to recover energy in gas turbines or fuel cells systems.


The main aim of this work package is the efficient generation of sustainable energy gases enabling the decarbonisation of the gas grid and the smart infrastructure deployment. There are three main strands to this WP that can be integrated to produce an effective sustainable hydrogen and methane production platform.
 Fermentative and bioelectrochemical hydrogen and methane production.
 Reforming industrial syngas, liquids and biogas streams to hydrogen.
 Recovery and purification of hydrogen and methane.
Anaerobic fermentation is a well-established technology, but recent work by SERC at the USW has shown that an optimized two-stage fermentation system (BIOHYGASTM) can produce hydrogen as well as methane and in doing so increase the overall energy yield by nearly 40%. In addition, the use of biological electrolysis can further improve energy recovery by 10%. The scale up, integration and demonstration of these pioneering technologies will be undertaken within this WP. Work will be conducted on a multistage-pilot scale reactor system based at the USW Hydrogen Research Centre at Baglan Energy Park, allowing further integration with reformers, fuel cells and refuelling equipment already established at the site and being studied in USW WP1 and WP3. Key companies such as Welsh Water, Shell, Thames Water, Azko Noble, and HYET will all be collaborating in USW WP2 to commission and optimise a “state of the art” integrated multistage fermentative and bioelectrolysis process for the production of hydrogen and methane. This information can then be used to implement a full-scale hydrogen and methane production platform. Hydrogen recovery from industrial waste streams will be investigated with anchor companies Tata and IQE.
The work package will:
a) Design and commission the multistage-pilot scale biohydrogen and biomethane reactor system.
b) Integrate and operate the multi-stage hydrogen, methane and bioelectrolysis processes together to maximise the utilisation of energy from low grade wastes and co products.
c) Determine the functional and the control mechanisms of microbial consortia in the hydrogen, methane and bioelectrolysis processes.
d) Optimise and control the integrated processes to increase energy recovery in the form of hydrogen and methane.
e) Commission and upgrade a pilot scale reformer facility at the Hydrogen Research Centre based at Baglan.
f) The use of novel processes and mechanisms for reforming biogas, liquids and syngas to hydrogen
g) Develop novel processes for the purification and recovery of hydrogen and methane from industrial gas streams.
h) Technical, economic and environmental assessments will carried out on the hydrogen and methane production platform using a variety of industrial waste and syngas streams.
As a cross cutting approach to the USW led work packages there will be safety, economic and environmental assessment of the technology R&D described above, to ensure the approaches investigated are sustainable.