Canadian Firm Plans Solar Hydrogen Pilot Plant

The next stage of development is anticipated to be a commercial-scale demonstration at a landfill gas site using 40,000 kg per year hydrogen production modules.

Published: 01-Jun-2005

 SHEC-Lab's prototype solar hydrogen generator has now operated for approximately 1,200 hours with no noticeable coking or degradation of the catalysts. Hydrogen production is near the theoretical maximum at approximately 66% in the product gas stream with a 98.2% mol conversion of the feed methane. The estimated maximum hydrogen production with the unit is approximately 3,500 kg per year with minor modifications to the operating pressure and reactor configuration and an increase in the solar mirror area.

The next stage of development is anticipated to be a commercial-scale demonstration at a landfill gas site using 40,000 kg per year hydrogen production modules. This one project (a small-to-medium sized landfill gas project) will prevent more than 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from entering the atmosphere over the next twenty years and will significantly improve local air quality and reduce smog. This one plant would consist of 30 modules for a total annual production of 1.2 million kg of hydrogen per year. (550 million cubic feet).

SHEC-Labs is currently in the process of capitalizing to deploy its first commercial scale plant. Once this plant is operational, we will be able to copy it a hundred or a thousand times or more.

The next generation of solar hydrogen involves direct water splitting with only water as the primary feed component. According to SHEC scientists, six of the ten steps needed for this process are already integrated into the current system.

About hydrogen production.
More than 95% of hydrogen produced today is by the Steam Methane Reformation (SMR) of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas, a process that liberates massive amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants to the atmosphere. The SMR process provides a net energy loss of 30 to 35% when converting methane into hydrogen since a great deal of fossil energy or electrical power is required to operate the process. Hydrogen is also produced by electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen. Although electrolysis itself can be quite efficient in converting electricity into hydrogen, the electricity used for electrolysis is often primarily generated from fossil fuels. Therefore, traditional hydrogen production methods result in a net increase in air pollution and are highly inefficient from an energy conversion perspective.

Solar hydrogen production provides a net energy gain when converting methane into hydrogen since the energy used to drive the process is from the sun. Since SMR is not typically cost-effective at small to moderate production levels, SHEC's technology is particularly attractive for smaller and distributed hydrogen production. The environmental benefits of generating hydrogen using renewable energy include significant greenhouse gas reductions, and the reduction of smog precursors, acid gases, and mercury as a result of reduced local need for oil, coal, and natural gas.

To add even greater value, the process has the ability to use a renewable source of methane and carbon dioxide, such as biogas from municipal wastewater plants and landfill gas. Renewable methane generated from biomass results in no net increase of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere when the methane is converted into hydrogen by SHEC's solar hydrogen generator.

Why produce hydrogen?
The current market for hydrogen is approximately 42 billion kg per year and growing, and is used primarily in ammonia fertilizer manufacturing, for hydrogenation in the food and beverage industry, and in petroleum refining to reduce the sulfur content of fossil fuels.

Hydrogen is also an energy carrier and is recognized by many as the fuel of the future. When hydrogen is consumed by a fuel cell, its only significant emissions are water and heat. A clean source of hydrogen will lead to energy self-sufficiency and clean air and clean water.

The U.S. will increase natural gas imports 700% during the next 20 years and will HAVE to import more than 25% of its gasoline by 2025.

SHEC foresees it hydrogen production technologies as a way to fill some of this demand.

About SHEC-Labs – (Solar Hydrogen Energy Corporation)
SHEC-Labs a research and development company, is a world leader in providing solutions for the production of clean, renewable energy for the emerging hydrogen economy. SHEC-Labs, founded in 1996, has developed technologies to more economically harness the power of the sun, reduce the temperatures required for the disassociation of water, more economically produce hydrogen from fossil fuels and the production of hydrogen from bio gas sources.

Additional information about SHEC-Labs may be found online at

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