The waste around the Suez Canal will soon be given a new life thanks to the German start-up H2-Industries.
The idea of using hydrogen cells to power all sorts of devices is nothing new. We already find this type of propulsion in various and varied machines such as cars, trucks, trains, boats… and even aircraft to a lesser extent. Some manufacturers, including Toyota, rely heavily on this technology.
And if this substance has the wind in its sails, it is because it does not lack arguments. It allows to produce a significant energy from a modest amount of matter. Moreover, she does without emitting any greenhouse gases during use; this chemical reaction produces only water.
But if these hydrogen fuel cells actually make it possible to propel so-called “clean”, the term is to be taken with tweezers. Indeed, the situation is not so idyllic on the whole of this industrial chain. And for good reason: the industrial process which makes it possible to produce hydrogen in mass is very energy intensive.
In particular, it involves heating large quantities of water. However, this energy must be found somewhere. And you will have understood it, the vast majority of the time, the latter comes from channels that are not not renewable for a penny. According to Axpo, the leading supplier of renewable energies in Switzerland, in 2020 more than 95% of the hydrogen produced in this way on a global scale was directly derived from fossil fuels!
From waste to green energy
Many institutions are therefore working to develop new conversion systems to transform other feedstocks into hydrogen, this time with a focus on base materials. It is with this in mind that the German company H2-Industries (H2-I) has just announced the construction of a gigantic hydrogen power plant in Egypt. And this place was not chosen at random since to supply its power plant, the firm relies on an unexpected resource: rubbish!
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, says an English expression; and this has rarely been so true as with this great project. Indeed, H2-I relies on the incessant flow of rubbish that accumulates in the Suez Canal zone, one of the most important arteries of world trade. This veritable ecological and logistical plague, H2-I hopes to transform directly into green gold thanks to a state-of-the-art $4 billion factory.
The company plans to transform around four million tonnes of waste into 300,000 tons of hydrogen per year. It is therefore a process that tries to convert the main current limit of this sector into a net profit all along the line. It is probably a proprietary process since it has not been disclosed in detail, but these promises are in any case exciting.
A future proof of concept that looks promising
In addition, the plant was apparently designed to avoid any loss of energy by making the slightest calorie profitable. According to TheNextWeb, waste heat from the process will be redirected to power steam turbines and other generators to produce electricity.
And the icing on the cake is that going without fossil fuels isn’t just ecologically beneficial; it would even save money. The company claims that this project will produce hydrogen at half the price compared to current production techniques!
It is advisable to remain cautious vis-à-vis these announcements, because the sometimes sensationalist announcement effects are legion in the energy sector. But we must still recognize the merits and relevance of the H2-I project. Ideally, it will advance an industry with a future while helping to manage a very concrete pollution problem. It only remains to hope that this proof of concept works well enough to emulate!