The Hydrogen Stream: New tech to convert hydrogen into methanol for transportation


Researchers at the German research institute Fraunhofer IMM are developing methanol reformers that can overcome challenges like catalyst attrition and space demand. The reformers reportedly need around 17% of the space that a comparable performance class conventional reformer would require. “We are opting for catalyst coatings containing precious metals similar to those used in automotive catalytic converters, because there is no attrition with these coatings,” commented Gunther Kolb, Deputy Institute Director and Division Director at Fraunhofer IMM. “Less catalyst material is required as a result. Because our catalyst materials also have a higher activity, the amount of catalyst required is reduced even further, and consequently the costs.” In the press release published earlier this month, Fraunhofer IMM said that its catalyst does not produce by-products such as carbon monoxide when operated at partial load. The idea behind, as explained by Fraunhofer IMM, is that hydrogen should be converted into methanol for transportation. The methanol should then be converted back into hydrogen and carbon dioxide for final consumption.

China presented on Mar. 23 its first long-term plan for hydrogen, targeting production of green hydrogen between 100,000 and 200,000 tonnes per year by 2025. “By 2025, a relatively complete system and policy environment for the development of the hydrogen energy industry will be formed, the industrial innovation capability will be significantly improved, the core technologies and manufacturing processes will be basically mastered, and a relatively complete supply chain and industrial system will be initially established,” reads the NDRC communication, adding that hydrogen is “strategic”. Innovation leads, self-reliance, and self-improvement are the three main drivers of the strategy to address the country's hydrogen energy industry weaknesses. According to the communication, the hydrogen sector “is still in the early stage of development, compared with the international advanced hydrogen industry.”

India and Japan have agreed to expand the scope of their energy collaboration to cover solar power, clean hydrogen, electric vehicles, and battery storage. The decision was taken during a recent three-day visit to India by Prime Minister of Japan, Kishida Fumio. Meanwhile, National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI) has launched the Green Hydrogen Consortium of Indian Industry (GHCII) in partnership with the Hydrogen Association of India (HAI).

In its new strategic plan for 2025, Paris-based industrial gases company Air Liquide said it would increase research investments in five new markets, the first being hydrogen mobility and notably heavy-duty mobility. The plan aims “to at least triple its turnover in order to reach more than 6 billion euros by 2035”, while bringing its total electrolysis capacity to 3GW by 2030. The company committed to an €8 billion investment in the low-carbon hydrogen supply chain by 2035.

UK-based energy storage and clean fuel company ITM Power has concluded a strategic partnership agreement with Vitol Holdings for wholly-owned subsidiary ITM Motive Limited, trading as Motive, to become a 50/50 joint-venture owned between ITM Power and Vitol. “As part of the transaction, Motive has entered into a framework agreement with ITM Power, under which Motive appoints ITM Power as its preferred supplier for up to 240MW of electrolysis equipment to support Motive with the development and roll-out of new green hydrogen refueling stations. Motive has also appointed Vitol as its preferred supplier for up to 240MW of electricity demand, which will provide green power to the network of new refueling stations,” ITM wrote on Wednesday.

German electrolyzer manufacturer Sunfire has raised a total of €86 million to expand its manufacturing capacity, specifically for its Series D. Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and Blue Earth Capital are among the investors. Last October, the Dresden-based specialist for alkali and solid oxide technologies (SOEC) already raised €109 million euros, bringing the total amount raised in Series D to €195 million. CIP is also securing access to electrolysis capacities from Sunfire. The project developer plans to purchase pressurized alkali electrolyzers with a total capacity of up to 640MW in the coming years.

German utility RWE and the gas grid operator OGE want to create the backbone of a hydrogen infrastructure from the North Sea coast to southern Germany. They called the project H2ercules. The concept envisages setting up electrolyzers as well as storage and import facilities for green hydrogen in the north and connecting these with industrial end-users in the west and south of Germany. Other import routes under development from the south and east are to be commissioned by 2030. RWE and OGE put the investment requirement at around €3.5 billion. H2ercules could meet two-thirds of the hydrogen demand expected for 2030 in consumption centers along the recommended corridor, the two companies expect.

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German power company Steag and thyssenkrupp signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the supply of thyssenkrupp Steel’s site in Duisburg with hydrogen and oxygen from the neighboring STEAG site in Walsum. “The investment decision for the scenario considered as the most robust, a water electrolysis plant with an installed capacity of up to 520 MW at the Walsum site, is to be made by 2023 at the latest,” the two companies wrote earlier this week. 

The North Netherlands Cooperation Agency awarded a €3.5 million subsidy for the WAviatER project to develop green hydrogen technology from the European Regional Development Fund (EFRO). Consortium partners are Douna Machinery Leeuwarden, JB Besturingstechniek, REDStack, Demcon, Groningen Airport Eelde, New Energy Coalition and the University of Groningen, supported by TNO and VONK. The first concrete application is at Groningen Airport Eelde, where an electrolyzer will produce green hydrogen for light aircraft, drones and ground equipment. “In the Northern Netherlands, this is the first step towards an ecosystem of companies developing their own products for the green hydrogen economy,” said the companies, underlining how partnerships can develop business models and ecosystems to increase hydrogen demand.

New York has signed a multi-state agreement, including with an initial group of 40 hydrogen ecosystem partners, to develop a proposal to become one of at least four regional clean energy hydrogen hubs designated through the federal Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “The New York-led consortium includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey – longstanding leaders in hydrogen and fuel cell innovation, and key neighbors on the I-95 corridor – as the first out-of-state partners to join the regional effort, opening the door for future state additions,” the office of the governor wrote on Thursday.

Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria announced on Friday a tri-state collaboration on a renewable hydrogen refueling network for heavy transport and logistics along Australia’s eastern seaboard. “Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the States have agreed to collaborate on the development of the east coast hydrogen refuelling network that includes the nation’s most critical roads and highways,” the Queensland Cabinet wrote.

Australia-based Aviation H2 expects the construction of its first hydrogen-fuelled prototype to begin soon. The company said in an email statement that it has completed the research stage and will soon start modifying turbofan engines to test and prove the concept. The company expects “Australia’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft” to be in the skies midway through 2023. “The results from our analysis have been very positive. We now have a pathway outlined towards building a hydrogen-fuelled plane that will be both efficient and commercially viable,” said Aviation H2 Director, Helmut Mayer.

Australian companies Pure Hydrogen and JJ Waste & Recycling say their partnership will see the hydrogen-powered garbage trucks hit the streets of Queensland’s southeast before the end of the year. On Monday, Pure Hydrogen announced its Binding Term Sheet with JJ Waste. The agreement will see the parties enter a “wet hire lease agreement” with Pure Hydrogen supplying the hydrogen-fuelled garbage truck, hydrogen, and refueling services.

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