The Anonymous Widower

Affordable Blue Hydrogen Production

The title of this post, is the same as that of this page on the Shell Catalysts & Technologies web site.

This is said at the top of the page.

Natural gas producers are at a crossroads. They face a shifting regulatory landscape emphasising emissions reduction and an economic environment where cash preservation is critical. Shell Catalysts & Technologies offers resource holders a phased approach to diversifying their portfolios towards clean hydrogen fuels by leveraging proven and affordable capture technologies and catalysts.

My knowledge of advanced chemical catalysts is small, but I did work in the early 1970s on a project with one of ICI’s experts in the field and he told me some basics and how he believed that in the future some new catalysts would revolutionise chemical process engineering.

Wikipedia’s definition of catalysis, or the action of catalysts is as follows.

Catalysis is the process of increasing the rate of a chemical reaction by adding a substance known as a catalyst.

When I heard that Velocys were going to develop a catalyst-based system to turn household waste into sustainable aviation fuel, I did make a small investment in the company, as I thought the project could have legs.

Shell’s process takes natural gas and converts one molecule of methane (CH4) into two molecules of hydrogen (H2) and one of carbon dioxide (CO2) using one molecule of oxygen (O2) from the air.

In the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, does a clever catalyst extract the carbon atom from the methane and combine it with two oxygen atoms to create a molecule of carbon dioxide? If it does, then this would leave the four atoms of hydrogen to form two molecules of H2 and the catalyst to go and repeat its magic on another methane molecule.

The video on the Shell site claims to do the conversion 10-25 % cheaper than current carbon intensive methods like steam reforming.

For every two molecules of hydrogen produced, both the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process and steam reforming will produce one molecule of carbon dioxide.

If you look at steam reforming it is an endothermic process, which means heat has to be added. The classic endothermic process is dissolving ice cubes in a glass of water.

Shell don’t say, but does their process need less energy to be added, because their clever catalyst does a lot of the work?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the reaction takes place in a liquid, with hydrogen and carbon dioxide bubbling out.

  • The two gases would be separated by using their different physical properties.
  • Carbon dioxide is heavier for a start.

Whatever Shell have done, it is probably pretty impressive and has probably taken many years to develop.

If as I suspect, it produces pure carbon dioxide, that would be an added bonus, as some uses of carbon dioxide wouldn’t want impurities.

Uses of pure carbon dioxide include.

  • Feeding it to soft fruits, flowers, salad vegetables and tomatoes growing in large greenhouses.
  • Dry ice.
  • Mineral Carbonation International can use carbon dioxide to make building products like blocks or plasterboard.
  • It can be added to concrete.

The more of the carbon dioxide that can be used rather than stored the better.

May 18, 2022 - Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , ,

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