The challenges of climate change and energy security of late have prompted exploration of other alternatives to fossil fuels to generate electricity.
This challenge has been compounded by fossil fuels being easier and cheaper to buy and most Hydrogen being used to make petroleum and fertiliser. Some examples are:
- The steel industry, where fossil fuels have been assumed to be the only way to power the smelting chemical reactions. However, hydrogen can power the process fossil-fuel free while creating water alone as a by-product. This technology is in development to make hydrogen power ready for market by the mid-2020s.
- Using Hydrogen fuel cells to run heavy transport as container ships, with around only a 5% reduction in cargo space. Similarly, hydrogen-powered flights could be used in the aviation industry, with both areas using hydrogen to help cut emissions.
However, not all hydrogen is created equal, hence the use of a (non-standard) colour-coding system used to differentiate between hydrogen’s production methods.
The most common form is grey hydrogen which is generated from fossil fuels making it inherently dirty – and there are two significant ways to clean it up:
- Blue hydrogen. This is produced using fossil fuels but:
- includes carbon capture and storage in the process.
- It is still made using methane and natural gas through the steam methane reformation method which produces CO₂ to be captured and stored or recycled.
- The process still has a large greenhouse gas footprint which is greater than the one left by simply burning natural gas. This is because generally, it cannot capture anywhere near the amount of emissions envisaged and actually releases methane in the process which is more than 25 times more potent than CO₂ at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
- Green hydrogen. This is the only truly clean hydrogen as renewable energy (such as wind or solar) is used to power the electrolysis process required to produce hydrogen on a large industrial scale in an emission-free process.
Optimistically, Hydrogen is predicted to yield up to 20% of energy needs by 2050. Currently however, green hydrogen makes up a tiny proportion of all hydrogen produced but this looks set to change as the price of both larger electrolysers and renewable energy continues to fall allowing for more upscaled manufacturing.
So what are RB Plant doing to support managing this transition?
RB Plant have been working collaboratively with Net Zero Scientific (NZS) to support development of their existing laboratory scale process to a full-scale commercial unit. This is in-line with RB Plant commitment to championing Research and Development of innovative technologies particularly in the green/alternative energy sector.
The technology currently takes low-value scrap grade Aluminium and converts it into higher value Aluminates (3 to 5 times the value of the scrap Aluminium)