Research finds way of improving ultrapure hydrogen production yield and reducing energy consumption for carbon capture and compression Hydrogen production yields will increase greatly thanks to CO2 removal step, whilst auxiliary power consumption costs reduce

Edinburgh, Scotland - Tuesday 26th April 2016: Academics at the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with researchers at Yonsei University, South Korea, have developed a process that improves the production rate of high purity hydrogen (H2).

This breakthrough will provide a significant step-change for a broad range of chemical engineering and industrial applications where there is significant demand for the gas, in, for example, low carbon hydrogen-based heat and power production, across large-scale industrial plants, or powering the next generation of hydrogen fuel cells used in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The University of Edinburghs commercialisation arm, Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI), is now seeking industry partners to license this technology for development into commercially viable application.

Until now, the primary form of hydrogen production has been by natural gas (methane) steam reforming. During this process, the hydrocarbons in the gas are converted at high temperature into a hydrogen-rich mixture of gases. The hydrogen is then separated out during an additional process step.

Natural Gas is generally used as raw material for the production of commercial, ultrapure hydrogen (99.9+ % H2 purity). However, the demands to produce high purity hydrogen from cheaper raw materials such as coal and biomass continue to increase.

The University of Edinburgh research found that such solid-to-H2 processes is not economically feasible against the conventional methane-to-H2 process due to an intrinsically very low hydrogen yield.

Moreover, this is required to produce low carbon hydrogen by implementing a carbon capture unit to fossil fuels H2 plants.

Dr Hyungwoong Ahn, a Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering from the University of Edinburghs School of Engineering, reveals how, through a series of adopted processes, the research uncovered ways to produce the low carbon hydrogen from coal that improves on this ultra-pure hydrogen yield:

"By integrating a coal‐to‐hydrogen process with carbon capture, the hydrogen yield per unit coal feed can be greatly improved using the carbon capture unit used on a synthesis gas stream generated by coal gasification. This helps to improve the hydrogen yield by greater and more efficient use of the H2 Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) tail gas - an important separation process for gases and applied widely in gas purification and gas recovery."

The research team identified the core invention was to split the PSA tail gas into three sub-streams and use them accordingly (i) as a supplementary fuel for a carbon gas capture unit to improve its sorbent regeneration; (ii) as an additional feed to shift reactors to boost the hydrogen yield by converting more carbon to hydrogen and (iii) as fuel from drying coal instead of using synthesis gas.

John Jeffrey, ERIs business development executive, comments:

"This breakthrough now allows us to look for industrial and commercialisation partners who see the clear advantages in this research. The production of high-purity hydrogen and the efficiency of the process, from start to finish, will amount to an improvement in hydrogen production yield by more than 2% further to what would be expected of a solid-to-H2 process with CO2 capture and a total auxiliary power consumption reduction by around 7%. These can be viewed as significant savings depending on the output of the processing plant."


Edinburgh Research & Innovation

Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI) is a global leader in commercialising University research and entrepreneurship [1]. As the University of Edinburghs commercialisation (technology transfer) office, ERI has a proven track record of creating win-win deals for technology licence agreements that reflect the individuality of each technology, a fair risk-reward allocation, the licensees needs and the Universitys objective of ensuring commercial development for societys use.

An economic impact study revealed that companies that licence University of Edinburgh IP (intellectual property) increase their turnover by £12 million for every £1 million in licence royalties they pay. Globally, the impact of this activity is worth £73.8 million ($106 million) and supports 1,622 jobs.

Twitter: @EdinLicensing
[1] Global University Venturing TTO Rankings 2014

For further details, please contact Kevin Dorrian at Acumen on +44(0) 131 661 7027 or email -

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