Jun 19

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” Albert Einstein.

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The TYBRID project is investigating the use of natural gas to make hydrogen for two purposes, one simply to use the pure hydrogen to power a fuel cell, and a second purpose of firing up the diesels with a mixture of mainly natural gas, with a dash of diesel and hydrogen.

Hydrogen enjoys the ability to be produced from a wide range of sources. One such source is simple water, where around 55kw of electricity is needed to make the rough equivalent of a US gallon of petrol, in hydrogen gas. This process is called electrolysis, and the closest you may have come to a roughly similar process, is when you saw the bubbles forming on the plates of conventional car battery. One of the other ways to make hydrogen, is in the process where 85% of the energy from LPG or natural gas, is transferred or ‘reformed’ to make hydrogen. This we hoped can be done onboard, in a small hydrogen reformer and PSA unit, separate from the hydrogen electrolyzer.

Eden Energy, based in Perth, and operational across the globe, promotes the use of a blend of both hydrogen and natural gas in combination, to both clean up the emissions, and then ‘sex-up’ the conventional diesel engine, all while the world awaits the more affordable release of the very efficient fuel cell.image004.jpg This blend of hydrogen and natural gas in the proprietary HYTHANE gas, blends to allow the diesel fuel component of a diesel engine, to be reduced to but a small fraction of the fuel use for TRYBRID’s diesel engines. With diesel prices rising to an uncomfortable and ever higher cost, the motive to minimize diesel use in the main combustion engines is as much about saving money, as it is to save the planet. Helpfully, despite losing say 15% of the energy embodied in natural gas to make hydrogen, the fact that hydrogen can then be used more efficiently to make electricity through TRYBRID’s fuel cell, adds motivation to the process of reforming hydrogen.

With only 20-30% of the 25kw solar sourced photovoltaic power being available after night time and cloud cover are factored in, there is added motive to not only electrolyze hydrogen from water, but to make it on demand from natural gas. image012.gifSo accordingly, the TRYBRID design is searching for suitable reformers of either LPG or natural gas. Sourcing suitbale equiptment is difficult as protracted discussions with refomer manufacturers atest. Combining ‘free’ hydrogen from electrolyzed solar energy, with the more easily made hydrogen reformed from natural gas, could give TRYBRID several interlocked advantages, providing hydrogen in the larger amounts needed for full throttle powering of the 400kw diesel electric drive chain. This releases TRYBRID from dependence on diesel, saving a lot in fuel costs if onboard reforming is possible, whilst still allowing the fall back position, of running the diesel engine component on diesel alone. The emissions are substantially improved, such that a HYTHANE fueled diesel engine will burn more cleanly than an already clean natural gas engine. Timing changes are needed to diesel engines, as the very small molecule of hydrogen promotes rapid and spread out explosion of its hydrogen/natural gas and small part diesel fossil fuel mix, making the spread of ignition faster. India’s rapid shift to this technology, for use it its regular but dirty diesel buses is remarkable, and with near to 1,200,000 people dying of air pollution related lung disease in India and China each year, the imperative to clean up emissions is arguably more important than simply saving money on diesel fuel costs.

image013.jpgThis diversification of energy sources, where hydrogen is the common denominator, is reflective of the broad hydrogen debate, where many ‘roads’ all lead to the one destination.

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This a proposed as a composite energy approach on TRYBRID, that maximizes solar input, with one foot still in the diesel electric camp, whilst the other foot aspiring to cover natural gas feedstock to hydrogen production is a solution that could indeed calibrate and defines the world’s steps ahead, as we move progressively from fossil fuels to renewables. Trybrid is not so much about a ‘silver bullet’ solution, rather, it’s more about the ‘silver buckshot’ approach, as we face the new energy agenda. The potential ability of TRYBRID to demonstrate the full gambit of hydrogen, solar, diesel and natural gas energies all on one integrated package makes the project potentially very useful as a ‘see, feel touch’ demonstrator, capable of visiting and showing off to a vast number of the world’s capital cities, in a way that an industrial plant, a hydrogen bus project, or a series of lectures can never hope to attain. If the world community is to to keep up with the political imperative to shift towards new energy sources, it needs to see and understand working examples. This is TRYBRID’s role.

For those interested in the HYTHANE concept, and how hydrogen is extracted from natural gas, here below is a direct extract from Eden Energy’s site:

Step 1: Sulfur Removal

The natural gas (NG) or LPG feed first passes through an ambient temperature sulfur adsorption vessel. The proprietary adsorbent in this vessel has been specifically designed to remove sulfur species native to NG or LPG feeds as well as those sulfur compounds that are added as odorants for leak detection. The sulfur adsorbent has been proven effective in removing compounds ranging from H2S and mercaptans to thiophenes such as THT. Since sulfur is known to affect the performance of all reforming catalysts, removing the sulfur prior to entering the reforming section ensures the highest level of reforming catalyst performance and maximum catalyst life.

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Step 2: Reforming

During the reforming step, the NG or LPG feed is converted into a hydrogen rich product stream. At the entrance of the reforming catalyst bed, the feed, air and steam are mixed in proportions that are chosen to maximize hydrogen production from the given feedstock. The conversion takes place over a bi-functional catalyst that promotes both partial oxidation and steam reforming reactions in the same catalyst bed. This results in a direct transfer of heat within the catalyst bed and efficient production of hydrogen. The direct transfer of heat also means the process is responsive to changes in hydrogen demand requirements.

Step 3: Hydrogen Purification

Hydrogen purification is performed via the use of Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology. The PSA technology employed by HyRadix combines novel process hardware technology with proprietary adsorbents to attain a very high recovery of the product hydrogen. In addition, the process ensures removal of all of impurities such as water, CO, CO2, and CH4, which are harmful to end user industrial and fuel cell applications. This unique combination of technologies allows for a wide range of hydrogen purity control with the only product impurities being the inert components nitrogen and argon.

Step 4: Heat Integration

The heat integration step is key to achieving overall process efficiency. Heat is recovered from high temperature streams, such as the reactor section effluent or the PSA waste gas stream, and is used to preheat the feed streams to the reactor and generate steam for the reforming reaction. Additionally, any CO that remains in the PSA waste gas stream is converted to CO2 before the waste gas stream exits the unit.image0011.jpg

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