16 October 2021
112CO2 project - Emergency CO2 Low temperature catalytic methane decomposition for COx free hydrogen production


Autumn 2021

Methane decomposition (MD) reaction, also known as methane pyrolysis, allows the conversion of methane from natural gas or biomethane into solid carbon and hydrogen with high purity:

CH4 → C (s) + 2H2 ΔH0 = 75.3 kJ mol-1

This reaction has the unique feature of being 100% selective. Apart from allowing the swift decarbonization of the energy, when biomethane is used, this reaction has the power to remove CO2 from the atmosphere as it produces H2 at very competitive costs. This technology enables using the present storage and distribution infrastructure for natural gas and produces H2 to be used locally as a fuel for electricity/ heat or as feedstock for chemical industries (steel production, ammonia synthesis, reversal petrochemistry, etc.).

Considering only the price of the raw materials, H2 from the decomposition of natural gas costs 1.9 €/kg, while biomethane-derived H2 costs 2.2 €/kg. At the present prices of CO2 allowances, >60 €/ton, this process saves 0.54 €/kg of H2. The MD of biomethane removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Assuming a cost for the direct air capture of CO2 of 150 €/ton and for its sequestration of 50/ton, per 1 kg of H2 produced, 0.60 € are saved in capture and sequestration of CO2.

The industrialization of catalytic MD has been hindered so far by the extremely fast catalyst deactivation, which is caused by the inevitable coverage of catalytic sites by the formed solid carbon. Competing institutions/companies are developing high temperatures MD processes involving either metal liquid reactors or reactors using carbon catalyst particles; however, these approaches are energy-intensive, dangerous to operate and display low catalytic activity.

112CO2, a FET-Proactive project, aims at developing a disruptive low temperature (ca. 550 °C) methane decomposition process, using abundant and cheap metallic catalysts. Briefly, the designed reactor uses Ni-based catalysts, which are very active but need to be cyclically regenerated. It is expected to reach >0.45 gH2 gCat -1 h-1 and stable for at least 10 000 h.

The project, which has started in September 2020, gathers some of the finest EU research laboratories and companies, including University of Porto, author of this new MD concept; Pixel Voltaic Lda., which is a spin-off company from UPorto, responsible for designing the process lab prototype; CSIC to synthetize the catalysts; DLR to develop proton conducting ceramics for efficient and cost-effective H2 purification; EPFL responsible for the dissemination activities; Paul Wurth S.A. and Quantis for performing life cycle assessment and economic analysis.

As explained by Adélio Mendes, professor at the University of Porto and project coordinator: "preliminary results allowed to reach a maximum catalytic activity of 3 gH2 gCat -1 h-1 and proved that the cyclic regeneration allows keeping the catalyst at its maximum catalytic activity. Initial experiments demonstrated worldrecord stabilities, using a compact reactor loaded with commercial and non-optimized catalysts." 112CO2 also proposes an ambitious communication strategy, aiming to involve stakeholders, investors, researchers, youngsters, and students for this emergent technology.

112CO2 project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation Programme under the grant agreement No 952219.