Innovation

Partnership brings UK step closer to first waste-to-hydrogen plant

Logo for waste-to-hydrogen company PowerHouse EnergyThe UK’s first plastic-to-hydrogen recycling plant is a step further towards development after PowerHouse Energy (PHE), the developer of the technology, signed an agreement for engineering services with Waste2Tricity.

Waste2Tricity has the exclusive rights to use the technology developed by PHE in the UK and South East Asia.

The technological process, called Distributed Modular Gasification (DMG), involves heating waste to extremely high temperatures to produce synthesis gas or syngas, a fuel gas made up of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. This can then be converted into pure hydrogen suitable for road fuel.

The process was certified back in November 2018 and since then the company has signed an agreement with Peel Environmental to host the UK’s first industrial waste-to-hydrogen plant, at Peel’s 54-acre Protos site in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

The Protos site is intended as an innovative industrial hub, where an energy-from-waste (EfW) plant will be situated, along with a biomass facility and resource recovery centres. Waste2Tricity says its facility will have a capacity of 25 tonnes of waste per day, capable of processing end-of-life tyres as well as non-recyclable plastics. It will also export enough electricity to power around 3,000 homes and enough hydrogen for a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) to travel 6,000 miles.

Though the site lease has been signed, planning permission has not yet been sought for the Waste2Tricity facility, which is projected to cost £7 million. The company states that, subject to planning approval, the plant could be operational later this year. PHE will provide planning and engineering design services relating to the Protos site.

Waste2Tricity’s Chairman, John Hall, commented: “We are excited to be the exclusive representative for the PowerHouse DMG system in a number of geographical regions, particularly in South East Asia, where 90 per cent of ocean plastic emanates from. Signing this agreement with PowerHouse Energy means this technology will soon be ready for a large scale roll out to eliminate the bulk of ocean plastics and making hydrogen the go-to fuel for the future.”

Hydrogen as a fuel: A growing technology

The use of hydrogen as a transport fuel is not yet widespread, but it has the potential to revolutionise the transport industry. When used to power a bank of fuel cells (combining hydrogen and oxygen), hydrogen produces only water as a by-product.

There are various methods of producing hydrogen, the most common of which is currently natural gas reforming or traditional gasification, by which natural gas, extracted from below the earth’s surface through fracking, is turned into syngas. Using waste as a feedstock to produce syngas would reduce the environmental impact of the gasification process when compared to processes that use natural gas, and PHE claims that its process results in ‘zero emissions’.

Interest in the process is growing, with Japanese conglomerate Toyota engaging in commercial discussions with PHE and Waste2Tricity regarding the deployment of DMG technology in Japan and “possibly worldwide”, according to Takashi Torigoe at Toyota.

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