You are not logged in!

You are not logged in!

You are not logged in!

Producing hydrogen using firedamp from the Walloon mines - Companies

Producing hydrogen using firedamp from the Walloon mines – Companies

The hydrogen sector is found in all the transition plans. But we often ignore that this hydrogen could be produced, without the slightest CO2 emission, from gas present in the old mines. A consortium of Walloon companies has submitted a pilot plant project in Hainaut.

Coal mines are part of our industrial past. But they may also be part of our future. Rest assured, it is not a question of reviving coal-fired power stations but of producing green hydrogen without any CO2 emissions from firedamp buried in the mines. It is not a laboratory daydream either, but a project supported by heavyweights in Walloon industry (AGC, John Cockerill, Carmeuse, Prayon, Aperam, etc.) based on a technology patented, developed by the Materia Nova research center based in Mons.

Coal mines are part of our industrial past. But they may also be part of our future. Rest assured, it is not a question of reviving coal-fired power stations but of producing green hydrogen without any CO2 emissions from firedamp buried in the mines. It is not a laboratory daydream either, but a project supported by heavyweights in Walloon industry (AGC, John Cockerill, Carmeuse, Prayon, Aperam, etc.) based on a technology patented, developed by the Materia Nova research center based in Mons. This technology is plasmalysis. Plasma, found in the light of a neon tube or in lightning during a storm, is the fourth state of nature along with solid, liquid and gaseous. We have been using it for years to manufacture double glazing (AGC) or to adapt vegetable oils to mechanical needs (Greenfix in Ghislengien). Each time with the scientific support of Materia Nova. “We have built up great expertise in plasma, explains Luc Langer, director of the research center. We used it with solid and liquid elements, we tried to do the same thing with gases.” And this is how they succeeded, by plasmalysis, in separating the atoms of hydrogen and carbon, which make up methane (CH4). The decisive advantage of this technique: it produces hydrogen without emitting CO2. By way of comparison, conventional production methods generate 10 kg of CO2 per kilo of hydrogen (then called gray and not green). The process also requires eight times less energy than the production of hydrogen by electrolysis of water, a technology in which John Cockerill from Liège is the world leader. Plasmalysis, Materia Nova is not the only one to have invented it. A similar technology has indeed been developed in the United States by the company Monolith. And there, we are already at the industrial stage with a fundraising of one billion dollars in order to build a gigafactory for the production of hydrogen. “Our systems are different, specifies Luc Langer. We operate with reactors at a lower temperature than our American competitors. Our efficiency is greater, we consume less energy and the cost of investment is lower.” There is therefore a priori a way to make a nice place for yourself on the market. This is why the project was included in the Walloon recovery plan. It provides for a budget of 25 million for the launch of a pilot plant (1,000 t of hydrogen) and if the technology is validated, an investment of 90 million to then go up to the industrial phase (15,000 tons). “The potential is enormous, assures Luc Langer. The more we think about it, the more new applications we find.” Plasmalysis, for example, also breaks down ammonia (NH3). One way may be to produce hydrogen from urea (the process will be tested with a pigsty in the Pays des Collines) and also to transport the hydrogen. In recent months, the issue of value chains has been regularly on the table. In this regard, the Walloon project is impressive. Let’s start with the basic material: it is available in abundance with the millions of cubic meters of firedamp (methane) in the old Walloon mines. The Gazonor company, which uses firedamp from a former Anderlues mine to supply a cogeneration facility, will provide valuable technical expertise here to the regional industrial consortium. There is in fact no precise cartography of the state and content of the Walloon mines. Gazonor and the University of Mons will remedy this. The gas from biomethanation units is another potential source, which would give a good recovery to household or agricultural waste. Materia Nova is working on this with the Vanheede group’s biomass plant in Quévy, as well as on a pilot project for the use of agricultural effluents in Germany (the Mons research center has a branch across the Rhine) . Then you have to build the facilities. Major contractors such as AGC or John Cockerill can obviously take on this task. They will receive support from companies specializing in certain technologies, such as Jema (Louvain-la-Neuve) for the power supply or Graux (Momignies) for mechanically welded parts. Then there will be opportunities. The members of the consortium together represent 25% of the CO2 emissions of the Walloon economy, they are logically all applicants for greener energy and therefore potential users of hydrogen. Will it eventually become a new fuel for cars? “This requires very pure hydrogen, says Luc Langer. Plasmalysis is not yet sufficiently mature for this, unlike production by electrolysis of water.” There is therefore a priori room for the two technologies to advance in parallel. Hydrogen can also be burned in future power plants, in addition to natural gas. The interest is obviously to reduce the CO2 emissions of these plants. However, this implies being able to produce them in large quantities. When you separate methane, you therefore obtain hydrogen but also carbon. To make the process profitable, this solid carbon (carbon black) must be valued. It is notably used in car tires (that’s why they are black) as well as in most black plastics, but also in fuel cells. Plasmalysis makes it possible to produce carbon with the quality required for these different applications. This will certainly be the case in the Walloon project since the world leader in the sector, the Indian group Philips Carbon Black, is a partner in the consortium through its R&D center in Ghislenghien. “Today, carbon black is mainly produced from petrochemical waste, explains Luc Langer. This generates a lot of CO2 and, in addition, there are still too many impurities for certain highly technological applications. a demand for a greener carbon black, decarbonized in a way.” It would also be a relocation of activity because we hardly produce any more carbon black in Europe. Advantage: if plasmalysis is highly automated and therefore creates relatively few jobs, the carbon industry is more job-providing, including less qualified ones. The Walloon consortium therefore brings together companies active at the various links in the value chain. This structuring should make it possible to optimize the economic benefits of this innovation. “In Wallonia there is a real culture of working in a consortium to rapidly develop technologies, analyzes Luc Langer. two large German groups, this requires very long discussions. For us, calling the most specialized colleague has almost become a reflex. The work of the competitiveness clusters is no stranger to this agility of our companies.”

.

Comments

0 comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.