How can hydrogen be produced from sewage sludge?

At Fraunhofer ISI and Bingen University of Applied Sciences, two scientists have assessed the BHYO process, developed as a pilot plant, from a process engineering viewpoint and in terms of its prospects for energy system integration. The process can produce up to 100 kilograms of hydrogen from one metric ton of biomass waste – whether from landscape maintenance, the contents of organic waste bins, or even municipal sewage sludge.

The process – developed and patented as a pilot plant – is based on a hybrid reforming technology and can produce up to 100 kg of hydrogen from one metric ton of biomass. An expert appraisal has certified the process’s very high cold gas efficiency.

Lower carbon footprint

Furthermore, this way of producing hydrogen has a much lower carbon footprint compared to conventional hydrogen production from natural gas. To ensure its successful market introduction, the planned further development strategy complies with the high standards of the process industry.

“In the context of moving towards a hydrogen-based society, we must make use of every possibility to produce hydrogen. Processes based on municipal waste streams such as that proposed by BHYO will make an important contribution here. Based on the results of our study, the process can be classified as extremely innovative in process engineering terms,” says Prof. Bernhard Seyfang, Professor of Chemical Process Engineering at Bingen University of Applied Sciences.

System integration analysis

In addition to the process engineering evaluation, a system integration analysis was also conducted within the study. This examined how the process can be integrated into existing systems. The analysis developed an easy-to-use application to illustrate possible implementation in a municipal system. The analysis also offers the option to test the system integration of the BHYO process under different configurations and at different locations.

Efficient integration of new technologies into existing infrastructures

“Innovative, novel processes always have to be regarded in the context of system integration. This means that the new technology is able to be efficiently integrated into existing infrastructures of cities and businesses. The analyzed process offers numerous possibilities, especially in municipal applications, for example, to supply electricity and heat, but above all in the possibility to use the hydrogen produced in municipal vehicles such as buses or waste collection trucks,” explains Prof. Martin Pudlik, Professor for Renewable Energy Economics at the University for Applied Sciences Bingen and a researcher at Fraunhofer ISI.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.

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