The Hydrogen Stream: Fortescue develops tech based on photocatalytic water splitting coupled with solar

Australia’s Fortescue Future Industries wants to develop a green hydrogen technology based on photocatalytic water splitting coupled with solar radiation. Elsewhere, Linde has signed a long-term agreement with German chemical company BASF for the supply of hydrogen and steam in France and Nel has received a contract for a containerized PEM electrolyzer and light-duty hydrogen fueling station package from an unnamed U.S. power utility.

Australia’s Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) has announced it is acquiring an interest in Sparc Hydrogen, a company that has an exclusive license to develop and commercialize green hydrogen technology developed by the University of Adelaide and Flinders University. Sparc Hydrogen is researching technology which would see green hydrogen produced by only sunlight and water – photocatalytic water splitting coupled with solar radiation – instead of renewable energy and electrolysis. The process is known as Thermo-Photocatalysis. FFI’s initial investment of AU$1.8 million (US$1.28 million) will give it a 20% interest in the Sparc Hydrogen joint venture formed with Sparc Technologies and the University of Adelaide. FFI could invest a further AU$1.47 million (US$1.04 million) to own up to a 36% interest. “Sparc Hydrogen’s promising early-stage technology has the potential to create significant energy efficiencies and a cost-competitive advantage with low capital and operating expenditure required, compared to renewable energy and electrolysis,” a press release about the initiative stated. FFI is building an electrolyzer factory in Gladstone, Queensland, with the company stating “the first sod [is] due to be turned this month.” 

Ireland-based, U.K.-headquartered Linde has signed a long-term agreement with German fellow chemical company BASF for the supply of hydrogen and steam in France. Linde will build and operate a new hydrogen production facility at Chalampé to supply BASF’s new hexamethylenediamine manufacturing facility. Linde expects the plant to go on stream in the first half of 2024.

Nel Hydrogen U.S., a subsidiary of Oslo-based hydrogen business Nel, has received a contract for a containerized polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzer and a light-duty hydrogen fueling station package, from an unnamed U.S. power utility. “The project will demonstrate several use cases for green hydrogen, including cooling of the turbine generators, direct injection of hydrogen into the natural gas fuel stream at the plant, and for fueling a fleet of light-duty fuel cell vehicles to be operated by the utility,” Nel said last week. “Power for the electrolyzer will come from various sources, including an on-site solar PV array.” The equipment will be delivered within a year.

Fukuoka City and Toyota Motor have signed a partnership agreement to promote initiatives to create a hydrogen society in Japan. “As a first step, they have commenced discussions regarding the introduction of fuel cell vehicles,” Toyota wrote yesterday. As part of the project, the city “launched the world’s first initiative to produce hydrogen from public household sewage and supply it to fuel cell vehicles.” The city has already undertaken verification tests for trucks and motorcycles equipped with fuel cell technologies.

The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) and U.S.-headquartered industrial gas company Air Products have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore opportunities to establish a hydrogen value chain in northern Germany. “Northern Germany and Hamburg are particularly suitable for a green hydrogen sector, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), mainly due to [their] regional advantages and a large off-take potential of resident industrial companies,” HPA wrote yesterday. Several companies have showed interest in the port’s hydrogen potential including Shell, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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Shell’s maritime subsidiary and France-based cryogenic containment systems designer GTT have teamed up to develop new technologies to enable the transportation of liquid hydrogen (LH2). “This includes the development by GTT of a preliminary LH2 carrier design as well as an LH2 cargo containment system for [a] mid-size LH2 carrier,” GGT wrote today. 

Californian carbon-free aviation bsuiness Universal Hydrogen has signed a letter of intent with Paris-based airline Amelia for three ATR 72-600 aircraft, hydrogen conversion kits. “This announcement follows Amelia’s November 2021 launch of Amelia Green, an internal pledge from the airline to actively find sustainable options to decrease its carbon output,” the companies wrote last week. After the installation of the conversion kits, Universal Hydrogen and Amelia will enter a contract. Universal will then provide hydrogen fuel to power Amelia’s ATR fleet on an ongoing basis.

Portugal’s Keme Energy has contracted 4.8ha in Sines Industrial and Logistics Zone to install a 2.52MW green hydrogen production plant. The €5.2 million (US$5.95 million) investment will be based on electrochemical electrolysis. It will compress and store the gas in PED bottles. The first part of the project, already approved and supported, will have a total capacity of 1.26MW. The hydrogen would be used by industry and for electricity production. “Considering the total value of green hydrogen production and the pilot project nature, success may result in its replication in other locations nationwide,” wrote Aicep Global Parques, the manager of the Sines industrial complex today. “This project will be a net contributor to the national industry decarbonization targets.”

Annual government funding for hydrogen has reached US$16 billion per year globally, up 40% from July. “This puts it two-thirds of the way to where it needs to be in order for clean hydrogen to play a strong decarbonizing role in the economy,” BloombergNEF wrote in its market outlook for the first half of 2022. “Electrolyzer sales have more than doubled to 458MW in 2021 and are set to grow 4-5 times this year. Almost two-thirds of these sales will happen in China. Globally, BNEF’s database now tracks 122GW of planned electrolyzer projects, up from 50GW in July 2021,” the analyst said, adding stronger policies in favor of decarbonization will still be needed to maintain growth.

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