US DOE awards $2m to clean hydrogen R&D projects

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $2 million (€1.67 million) to four research and development projects advancing clean hydrogen production technologies.

In a statement, the DOE said these technologies may prove ‘pivotal’ to reducing carbon emissions and reducing the Biden Administration’s climate change goals.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said: “One of the most important ways to achieve net-zero carbon emissions is to find innovative approaches to create clean sources of energy like hydrogen.

“With these awards, we’re leaning on some of the US’s most brilliant minds to turn these ideas into real solutions – at the same time creating clean energy jobs and reducing pollution in the air we breathe.”

Natural gas is currently the main source of hydrogen production by industrial facilities in the US. With this new funding, researchers will explore a different way to produce hydrogen using a process known as co-gasification.

Co-gasification blends waste from biomass, plastic, and coal feedstocks with oxygen and steam under high pressures and temperatures, which has the potential to produce cleaner hydrogen. When combined with carbon capture and storage, this process may even lead to net-negative emissions.

The funding from the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy will enable four teams to work on co-gasification technologies, with a focus on prioritising sustainable feedstocks such as forestry or agriculture waste.

  • Auburn University in Alabama plans to study the gasification performance of select feedstock mixtures in a laboratory-scale fluidised-bed gasifier with $499,485 in funding;

  • The Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, plans to perform testing of a moving-bed gasifier using coal, biomass, and waste plastic blends to generate clean hydrogen with $500,002 (€419,000);

  • The University of Kentucky Research Foundation in Lexington plans to develop and study a coal, biomass, and plastic-blend fuel by producing hydrophobic layer encapsulated biomass suitable for slurry, conducting lab-scale kinetic and gasification studies on the feedstock blend, and demonstrating practical operations in a commercially relevant 1 ton per day entrained flow gasifier, with $500,000 (€419,000);

  • The University of Utah in Salt Lake City plans to leverage a high-pressure, slurry-fed, oxygen-blown entrained-flow system to enable co-gasification of biomass and waste plastic by creating slurries of coal, biomass, pyrolysis liquids, and liquefied plastic oil, with $500,000 (€419,000).

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said: “The University of Kentucky continues exploring the future of energy production to encourage cutting-edge job growth in our Commonwealth.

“I’m proud to support the university’s innovative pilot programme and our coal communities. Kentucky remains at the centre of coal research and technology, tapping into our high-skilled workforce and natural resources.

“I will keep working to deliver federal funding for ongoing fossil energy research programmes in Kentucky.”

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