Inspenet, August 14, 2023.
The University of São Paulo (USP) has announced its plan to establish the world’s first hydrogen plant from ethanol, a biofuel that promises to reduce costs and speed up transportation.
The conversion of ethanol, a fuel derived from the fermentation of sugar cane in which Brazil is the world leader in production, will be carried out using a chemical process called steam reforming , as explained by the state university.
This approach, which has been successfully tested in the USP laboratories, involves heating a mixture of ethanol and steam in a reactor to a temperature of 700° Celsius, generating hydrogen as a result.
Hydrogen plant produced with ethanol: the first in the world
The pilot plant will have the capacity to produce 4.5 kilograms of hydrogen per hour , which will be enough to initially power three buses and one light vehicle. The plant is expected to come online in the second half of 2024.
“The cost of manufacturing is estimated to be between 6 and 9 dollars per kilogram, compared to the 13 dollars that it means to produce hydrogen in California, according to Julio Meneghini, director of the Research Center for Greenhouse Gas Innovation at USP and one of the project leaders, during a press conference.
Another advantage lies in the fact that the installation that houses the chemical reaction, developed by the Brazilian company Hytron, can be installed in service stations that already have an ethanol supply, thus allowing the local production of hydrogen.
This approach eliminates some of the transportation costs associated with hydrogen made from natural gas, which must be compressed and liquefied for trucking to service stations.
“A serious problem is being solved in the logistics of transporting gas-based hydrogen, which requires enormous mechanical energy,” said Meneghini.
“The professor also noted that hydrogen-powered trucks are lighter and can be recharged in just five minutes, in contrast to electric vehicles that require batteries that weigh up to two tons and need eight hours for a full charge.
Cristiano da Costa, president of Shell in Brazil, a company that finances the project with 50 million reais (equivalent to about 10 million dollars or 9 million euros), said that the objective is to “evaluate the technological efficiency” of the plant to eventually “expand” the technology for commercial use.
Currently, more than 90% of the hydrogen produced globally is obtained through the vaporization of natural gas, while the rest comes from renewable energy sources.