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NETL Researchers Achieve Unprecedented Experimental Scale-Up of Catalyst for Hydrogen Production
NETL researchers Michael Bobek (left), Ranjani Siriwardane (right front), Hayat Adawi (right), Chris Atallah (right middle) and Jarret Riley (back) discuss their recent catalyst test.

NETL researchers Michael Bobek (left), Ranjani Siriwardane (right front), Hayat Adawi (right), Chris Atallah (right middle) and Jarret Riley (back) discuss their recent catalyst test.

NETL researchers recently scaled up hydrogen production tests by increasing the catalyst load from 500 grams to 4.5 kilograms, a significant step toward advancing the hydrogen production technology needed for a clean energy future.

The patented NETL catalyst helps to enable a process called catalytic methane pyrolysis (CMP), which breaks down methane into hydrogen and solid carbon without creating carbon dioxide emissions. This and other clean methods of hydrogen production will be critical for the growth of the future hydrogen economy supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

DOE is seeking to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to one dollar per one kilogram in one decade via its Hydrogen Shot initiative. Such a reduction could unlock new markets for hydrogen, including steel manufacturing, clean ammonia, energy storage and heavy-duty trucks. This would create more clean energy jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and position America to compete in the clean energy market on a global scale.

“We achieved greater than 80% methane-to-hydrogen conversion for 30 hours in the test,” said NETL’s Ranjani Siriwardane. “And this was after using 10 times more catalyst than in the previous test, which shows that the material can be scaled up and work at the sub-pilot scale.”

The NETL catalyst outperformed other catalysts reported in the literature, and the scale of the test is also unprecedented. The CMP process provides several technical advantages over processes using other catalysts, including using a more effective and lower-cost catalyst. Additionally, CMP is a one-step process to produce both hydrogen, which is a clean-burning fuel, and high-value solid carbon products such as graphitic nano carbons and nano fibers, which can be used to create many high-tech and clean energy technologies and help offset hydrogen production costs.

“Developing a suitable catalyst for methane pyrolysis has been a barrier issue in this research,” Siriwardane said. “But, by leveraging the world-class facilities and talented staff at NETL, we’ve solved the problems facing other catalysts such as poor conversion, high-cost and separation issues. We have a catalyst with a high conversion rate, low cost and continuous hydrogen production with effective carbon separation that was tested at a significant scale for production.”

NETL is a DOE national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By using its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.