Hydrogen fuel (or pure molecular hydrogen, H2) is a clean fuel for generating electricity and powering vehicles because it emits no greenhouse gases or particulate matter. However, primary energies of non-renewable and renewable kinds are needed to produce hydrogen fuel on an industrial scale. Another “green” method for hydrogen production is the gasification of industrial and household wastes. Recently, SGH2 Energy Global, a company that specializes in gasification of wastes into hydrogen, has announced that it plans to build a plant in California for production of hydrogen fuel from recycled paper. The official press release states that the proposed plant will be the largest in the world. Its annual production is projected to be nearly three times greater compared with any other green hydrogen plants in operation or under development. It is provisionally scheduled to enter full operation in 2023.
SGH2 is a subsidiary of Solena Group, an American technology conglomerate that is active in many areas including energy. This latest project will be located at Lancaster, a city in northern Los Angeles County. The proposed plant will be turning mixed paper waste into hydrogen via a proprietary process. The government of Lancaster has signed a memorandum of understanding with the company and will be the co-owner of the plant. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that SGH2 has yet to secure the financing for the project. According to its tentative timetable, SGH2 aims to have construction begin in the first quarter of 2021, start-up near the end of 2022, and full operation by 2023.
SGH2 describes its gasification technology—Solena Plasma Enhanced Gasification (SPEG)—as a plasma-enhanced thermal catalytic conversion process optimized with oxygen-enriched gas. This patented technology uses plasma torches that break down wastes into molecular compounds in a catalyst-bed chamber at a temperature between 3,500 and 4,000 degrees Celsius. The compounds then becomes hydrogen-rich syngas as it leaves the chamber and cools down. The gas is further filtered and refined, resulting in a hydrogen fuel of the highest purity.
SGH2 claims that its technology can gasify not just recycled paper but also many other kinds of solid wastes (e.g., discarded plastics, tires, and textiles). Moreover, the process does not create any pollution or toxic byproducts. It actually eliminates soot, tar, and heavy metals. As for carbon dioxide, SPEG leaves so insignificant an amount that it would not be considered as part of greenhouse gas emissions.
SGH2 also says that its technology has been verified by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A lifecycle carbon analysis conducted by the Berkeley Lab shows that every ton of hydrogen fuel produced by SPEG leads to a reduction of 23 to 31 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The company touts that its technology is “greener than green” compared with other forms of hydrogen production based on renewable energies.
The proposed plant in California is designed to produce 11,000 kilograms of green hydrogen daily. It annual production is thus estimated around 3.8 million kilograms, which is nearly three times more than that of any other green hydrogen plants that are in commission or under construction.
SGH2 also asserts that SPEG costs five to seven times less than other green methods. Robert T. Do, CEO of the company, has said that hydrogen energy can be cost-competitive with natural gas if it is mass produced via SPEG. The 42,000 tons of recycled paper that the proposed plant will be processing annually will be provided by Lancaster. The city, in turn, is expected to save between US$2.1 million and US$3.2 million in landfill costs (or US$50 to US$75 per ton).
(News source: TechNews. Photo credit: SGH2 Energy Global.)