Cold Methane Pyrolysis

PROJECT COLDSPARK®

A novel approach to sustainable hydrogen production

IN A NUTSHELL

COLDSPARK® is a Research and Innovation project (Grant agreement No. 101069931) under the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme.

The 42-month project, launched in June 2022, will validate a non-thermal plasma technology to produce hydrogen at an industrial scale from natural gas or biomethane, contributing to the global zero emissions.

The project will develop and test a novel plasma reactor for production of hydrogen, alongside high-value carbon, at low energy cost (< 15 kWh/kg H2 produced) without the need for catalysts and water.

GLOBAL TIMELINE

THE NEED

Clean and affordable methane cracking to H2

Methane cracking is the non-oxidative breakdown of methane to solid carbon and H2 and represents one of the most promising alternatives for H2 production with zero emissions to produce turquoise hydrogen. Methane cracking or methane pyrolysis pathway has been intensively investigated. However, problems arise in conventional cracking that include:

  1. high temperature is required to produce effective decomposition, resulting in high energy demand and high reactor wearing
  2. the carbon produced during cracking deposits on the reactor walls as a solid layer, blocking the reactors
  3. a rapid catalyst deactivation
  4. the regeneration of catalysts entails additional energy consumption of the system as well as the release of CO2.

Developing and testing a novel Plasma Reactor for production of sustainable Hydrogen alongside High-Value Carbon

FACTS AND OBJECTIVES

COLDSPARK® is a cost-efficient cold methane pyrolysis platform for sustainable Hydrogen production

The reactor’s modular design enables low CAPEX and OPEX, resulting in increased flexibility and scalability compared to other production techniques (SMR/electrolysis).

ColdSpark will bring a catalyst-free process that performs at low temperatures and low pressure with reduced reactor size/space requirement and thus, reduced capital cost.

The focus of ColdSpark is to bridge the gap between the economic and effective, but unsustainable SMR method, and the environmentally friendly, but very expensive and still not easy to implement water electrolysis method.

The pilot system will be placed in a containerized platform which can easily be placed close to natural gas or biogas infrastructure.

ColdSpark® is accelerating the development of novel cold plasma (non-thermal plasma) reactor for the production of sustainable Hydrogen alongside high-value Carbon and is created on SEID’s 25 years of experience with Non-Thermal Plasma and high voltage power systems.

EXPECTED IMPACTS

Project ColdSpark will contribute significantly to increasing the knowledge in methane cracking mechanism and H2 production and will aid in overcoming the challenges to reach higher TRL.

ColdSpark will significantly expand the understanding of plasma-induced gas conversion, especially the methane cracking mechanism.

The project will focus on the fine-tuning of the electron energy distribution initiated by the plasma discharge aiming to align most of the plasma energy into the electron-related process, especially the vibrational excitation and the electron impact dissociation. 

This innovative step will bring the plasma application to a more advanced stage, with regards to better selectivity for the different chemical processes that can be more precisely controlled by tuning the power supply parameters and the plasma reactor design. 

The study of the chemical routes to achieve more valuable carbon products will contribute to generate valuable knowledge for the optimisation of other methane cracking processes.

ColdSpark has a reduced footprint due to the intensification of the plasma process as well as an optimised material design and operates at low temperature and pressure, which produces less wear in the reacting chamber.

The high energy efficiency combined with the flexibility opens the possibility to produce various amounts of H2 on demand to bring production closer to the point of consumption, decentralizing the market.

The carbon products generated alongside H2 have a high impact on the economic feasibility of the process.

Ample creation of jobs will be linked with our technology commercialization and also, ColdSpark solution will contribute specifically to the creation of jobs in the rural areas through its uptake by the biogas industry.

ColdSpark® process contributes to the global zero emissions. It’s low energy cost (<15 kWh/kg H2) and the possibility to be powered with intermittent renewables, means also contributing to reduced emissions (depending on energy source) or zero.

The ColdSpark® process is catalyst-free, and does not require any water supply to operate the methane cracking process.

PROJECT ORGANISATION

The consortium will work to design and develop the 3 main subsystems for the optimization of the methane cracking process: Plasma reactor, power supply and carbon-gas separation. The Research and Innovation (R&I) project will be implemented through 8 work packages.

WP1 - Development and optimisation of plasma methane cracking process at lab scale

WP Leader: Seid AS

Work package 1 aims at characterizing two types of intensified non- thermal plasma reactors at lab scale with parameter optimization for an energy-efficient plasma driven methane cracking device. This WP aims to provide the key systems for the design of the large -scale prototype at TRL 5.

WP2 - Gas separation and management of impurities

WP Leader: the University of Stavanger (UiS)

Work Package 2 aims to manage typical impurities encountered in the plasma cracking of methane. The tolerance of optimized cracking process to the presence of impurities and oxygenated by products from impurities will be assessed. The optimal combination of technologies, such as membranes, Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA), for capturing the impurities and producing high purity H2 will be developed at lab scale. Based on this finding WP2 will also provide design and process parameter for gas separation and impurities management unit for the large-scale prototype.

WP3 - Up-scale and function testing of ColdSpark system components

WP Leader: Seid AS

Work Package 3 aims to build the plasma reactor together with the optimized power supply for the large-scale prototype and do the function test. Such function test will focus on the electrical and mechanical performance of the integrated system. This will include a quick vibration test and discharge tests. The discharge tests will check the distribution of the plasma glow and its interaction with the flow dynamic of the test gas when varying the parameters from the power supply and the flow rate.

WP4 - System components integration, testing and validation

WP Leader: NORCE

Work Package 4 aims to integrate all the individual units and (upstream and downstream) processes for the demonstration and evaluate the whole system with designed test campaigns. The output of the averaged hydrogen conversion rate, cost, and energy efficiency resulting for the different test campaigns should meet the final KPIs of this proposal.

WP5 - Desktop modelling for definition of industrial set-up

WP Leader: NORCE

Work Package 5 aims to desktop design an industrial scale integrated system by upscaling the large-scale prototype (WP4) to 10 time more H2 and carbon production The industrial scale system design will be based on flow process modelling (Aspen/HYSYS) for the complete methane cracking plant with ColdSpark reactor, gas separation and H2 purification systems. The industry scale flow processes modelling will be based on the models created for the lab-scale and large-scale and further developed according to their test results.

WP6 - Sustainability and techno-economic assessment of plasma methane cracking process

WP Leader: The Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC)

Work Package 6 aims to evaluate the sustainability of innovations through life cycle studies (LCA and LCC). This WP interpret all results to make up the sustainable comprehensive performance of the new technology. A techno-economic analysis will be performed to guide the best path to commercialization of the innovation.

WP7 - Exploitation, Communication and Dissemination activities

WP Leader: EUROPROJECT EP

Work package 7 will deal with communication, dissemination and exploitation of the main activities and outcomes of ColdSpark to maximise the project’s visibility by reaching the key audience and target groups defined in the project, support engagement of stakeholder groups, raise project awareness to the wider public, and promote the activities, tools and outcomes of the project.

WP8 - Project management

WP Leader: Seid AS

Work package 8 will ensure proper coordination and supervision of the project activities. This WP ensure that proper economic and technical reporting is carried out and ensure that all the planned activities are being carried out without delays. Moreover, this WP will also cover the procedures for data management and will set up all legal, financial and contractual aspects.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No. 101069931 (ColdSpark). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.