Over 90-percent of the hydrogen created today is done so by the process of steam reforming natural gas / methane. In this process, CO2 is created as a byproduct. And a substantial portion of this CO2 (a greenhouse gas) is simply released into the atmosphere as a byproduct. Now what if this didn’t have to be the case?
Engineers in Germany at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are building a production system that separates hydrogen from methane and the byproduct is carbon and not carbon dioxide.
According to KIT, “CO2-free hydrogen production at KIT will be achieved by thermal decomposition of methane in a high-temperature bubble column reactor. KIT researchers enter entirely new ground. ‘With this project, we have the opportunity to participate in the development of fundamentals for a completely new energy technology,’ explains the head of KALLA, Professor Thomas Wetzel. ‘If feasibility can be confirmed, sustainable production and use of hydrogen from fossil sources that would have affected the climate if they were used conventionally will be possible.’
“The liquid-metal bubble column reactor to be built up at KALLA in the next months is a vertical column of about half a meter in height and a few centimeters in diameter. The column is filled with liquid metal that is heated up to 1000°C. Fine methane bubbles enter the column through a porous filling at the bottom. These bubbles rise up to the surface. ‘At such high temperatures, the ascending methane bubbles are increasingly decomposed into hydrogen and carbon,’ explains Professor Thomas Wetzel.”
So, there you have it, reforming methane into hydrogen without creating any greenhouse gases along the way. By the way, back in the U. S. the Argonne National Laboratory also has a take on how to reform methane into hydrogen and capture and sequester the CO2. Either method will be cleaner and greener than what is typically being done right now.