Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has developed a technology that can separate hydrogen from natural gas in the national grid efficiently and cost-effectively, H2 Bulletin reports.
The membrane technology makes it possible for the two gases routed through the national natural gas grid together and then isolated from one another at their final destination.
When it comes to transporting green hydrogen to consumers, producers are planning dedicated pipe networks, which requires time and resources. Shipping hydrogen through tanks is also complex.
The HYPOS (Hydrogen Power Storage & Solutions East Germany) research project aims to develop an intelligent infrastructure of distributor networks and storage stations to make the green hydrogen available to all regions. The idea is to transporting hydrogen along with natural gas.
Germany already has a 511,000 km long gas grid and 33 gas storage locations, where this existing infrastructure can be used for shipping hydrogen at the same time. Both gases can be transported together in one line. “Once they arrive at the destination, we can separate them from one another again as needed,” explains Dr Adrian Simon, Group Manager at Fraunhofer IKTS.
The technology will involve carbon which forms an ultrathin layer on porous ceramic substrates where it acts as a membrane, separating natural gas and hydrogen from one another.
There are various processes involved in membrane production, starting with custom polymer synthesis. Polymers are then applied to the porous substrate, which after heating, forms a layer of carbon on its surface. The carbon layer’s pores are less than a nanometer in diameter, making them effective for gas separation.
Hydrogen and natural gas are pushed through the tubular modules, where smaller hydrogen molecules move through membrane pores in the form of gas while methane molecules cannot penetrate. Through this process, hydrogen can be extracted with an 80% purity, which then passes through another filter in a second separation step, where purity reaches 90%. Hydrogen with this purity can be used in several applications, such as steel production. The research institute is now working on scaling the technology while working on a prototype.