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COP26: Powerhouse Energy, HUI target lowest-cost hydrogen from waste plastic with Linde deal

Highlights

Targeting Eur1.50/kg hydrogen as byproduct

Turns waste plastic to syngas via pyrolysis

Modular system to produce 1,000 mt/year hydrogen

  • Author
  • James Burgess
  • Editor
  • James Leech
  • Commodity
  • Coal Electric Power Energy Transition Natural Gas Metals Petrochemicals
  • Topic
  • Recycled Plastics

Powerhouse Energy and Hydrogen Utopia International plan to bring low-cost hydrogen and syngas to industrial gas customers in Europe using waste plastics as a feedstock, signing an agreement with industrial gas and chemicals company Linde at the UN Climate Change Conference.

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Linde has signed a framework agreement with HUI to use the plastic waste-to-hydrogen technology across Europe, starting with a plant in Poland, HUI said in a statement Nov. 12.

The modular system converts waste plastic at high temperatures to syngas and hydrogen through pyrolysis and cracking of hydrocarbon chains into gases.

Linde Engineering will supply the technology to clean the syngas and extract and process the hydrogen, while HUI will build the waste-to-hydrogen system, HUI said. The project is subject to EU funding approval from the Just Transition Fund.

Each unit is can process 40 mt/day of waste plastic that can't be recycled, producing 14,500 mt/year of syngas and 1,000 mt/year of hydrogen.

HUI has an agreement with Powerhouse to develop the technology in Europe, outside of the UK.

Under the Linde deal, Linde Engineering has a five-year exclusivity option to supply HUI plants in Poland, Hungary and Greece, where HUI has the exclusive rights to the Powerhouse DMG system.

"We're talking with Linde at Eur3/kg ($3.50/kg)" for hydrogen supply without opex subsidy, Howard White, adviser to Hydrogen Utopia on behalf of Powerhouse Energy, told S&P Global Platts in an interview Nov. 11.

"If we wanted to drop the price of hydrogen to Eur2/kg or Eur1.50/kg, we could," he said.

S&P Global Platts assessed the cost of producing renewable hydrogen via alkaline electrolysis in Europe at Eur10.14/kg ($11.60/kg) Nov. 11 (Netherlands, including capex), based on month-ahead power prices, though prices based on power purchase agreements are much lower.

Blue hydrogen production by steam methane reforming (including carbon, CCS and capex) was assessed at Eur5.03/kg.

Soaring feedstock power and gas prices have pushed calculated hydrogen production costs dramatically higher in recent weeks, though anticipated production costs for green hydrogen are significantly lower based on falling costs of renewable power generation.

Flexible system

The Powerhouse system has advantages over other low-carbon hydrogen production pathways, White said.

"Our intention is to create the lowest-cost hydrogen available," he said. "The technology enables this because the hydrogen is actually a byproduct of the system."

The hydrogen production from Powerhouse's Distributed Modular Generation system is essentially a byproduct of syngas production, so it is not directly comparable with hydrogen production by either steam methane reforming or electrolysis of water, White said.

The system can be adjusted to increase or decrease the share of hydrogen produced, he added.

"It's a very flexible system," he said.

White said the feedstock was not only free; companies would pay to dispose of waste plastic.

The process uses an electric kiln on a green power tariff, and has other co-benefits such as cutting the use of virgin materials in syngas production.

The process had a zero-CO2 footprint, White said.

Potential applications for the syngas and hydrogen produced included use in the cement, steel and chemical industries, he said.

"Our syngas is of a similar purity to the syngas that companies are already using," White added. "We'd be looking for a 10-year contract at probably 25% below the current market."

"Powerhouse Energy's technology is modular and designed to be used at a local level, providing a solution for plastic waste to communities across the world, helping to improve air quality and accelerate the clean energy transition," Powerhouse Business Development Executive Richard Hodgkinson said in an email Oct. 11.

Oil company interest

The initial focus is on a project in Konin in Poland, but HUI has plans to expand, and is in talks with large oil and gas companies over an agreement.

"If we make a deal with a major energy company, I would expect to roll out in the second half of 2022," HUI founder Aleksandra Binkowska told Platts in an interview.

HUI raised GBP2.2 million ($3 million) in a pre-initial public offer funding round on Sept. 9, and plans to raise a further GBP5 million to GBP7 million in an IPO on the Aquis Growth Market in November.

The company is to use the funds raised to build its first syngas system, to be deployed around the middle of 2022.

Powerhouse Energy is developing a first commercial-scale plant in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, in the UK. It has secured the site, and is planning first operations from 2023.

Another syngas-from-waste plastic producer, EQTEC, also sees potential for an increased role for hydrogen production.

"We are actively developing agreements with leading technology partners for joint, go-to-market solution development based on hydrogen and other applications," CEO David Palumbo said in a statement Sept. 28.