SEID’s Project ColdSpark® is developing a groundbreaking process to produce sustainable hydrogen and solid carbon with minimal greenhouse gas emissions. “We are taking one of the worst greenhouse gases, namely methane, and turning it into an environmental benefit,” says Terje Hauan, Chief Technology Officer at SEID.
There is a yin and yang to hydrogen. Used as a fuel, hydrogen burns clean, creating no greenhouse gas emissions. But hydrogen must be produced, and most production processes create carbon emissions.
“Over 90 per cent of the world’s hydrogen production uses steam methane reforming (SMR), in which 1 kg of produced hydrogen releases 9 kg of CO2,” explains Hauan. Supposedly greener, less common methods are water electrolysis and methane pyrolysis, but they have their drawbacks as well.
To solve these challenges, SEID is conducting the EU-funded Project ColdSpark®.
SEID’s Project ColdSpark® is using non-thermal plasma technology to develop cold methane pyrolysis, a new method of producing ultra-low-carbon hydrogen from natural gas or biogas. The method will provide a more cost-efficient alternative to SMR, water electrolysis and methane pyrolysis, all methods in use today.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it must be produced for use in specific applications. Since hydrogen is only found in chemical compounds such as water (H2O) and methane (CH4), technology must be used to separate the hydrogen atoms from the other elements.
In the ColdSpark® process, strong electromagnetic nanopulses are used to crack, or split, methane into hydrogen and solid carbon. “Our novel method will produce sustainable hydrogen at 25 per cent of the energy cost compared to water electrolysis and lower CAPEX than methane pyrolysis,” explains Hauan.
The novel method will minimise the transport of hydrogen, which entails huge challenges related to cost, safety, space and vehicle emissions. “Our approach will enable smaller, distributed production systems. The hydrogen will be containerised and located close to the end users,” says Hauan.
Like water electrolysis, ColdSpark® will produce clean hydrogen, but will require only one-seventh of the energy needed for electrolysis. Moreover, the process will not need copious amounts of ultra-clean water as a feedstock.
In addition to hydrogen, ColdSpark® will produce clean solid carbon, rather than gaseous carbon which pollutes the air or requires carbon capture and storage (CCS). “The solid carbon can be a valuable product in itself, for sustainable use wherever toxic carbon black is now used, such as car tyres or batteries,” says Hauan.
Finally, he points to the technology’s simplicity of design. “The system is 100 per cent electric, and operates at a low temperature and low pressure. We use electrons as a catalyst, and no rare earth metals are required,” he says.
This bodes well for the future of ColdSpark®, which is currently under development. The first pilot plant at commercial scale should be ready in Norway in 2024.
Project ColdSpark® has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement no. 101069931.
“EU funding is a stamp of quality. They believe in our project,” concludes Hauan.
7. Affordable and clean energy
SEID’s Project ColdSpark® will increase the availability of clean hydrogen as a fuel source.
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
By providing clean solid carbon, SEID’s Project ColdSpark® will increase sustainability in industries that currently use toxic carbon black.