Hydrogen from Solar Thermal Energy: High Temperature Solar Chemical Reactor for Co-production of Hydrogen & Carbon Black from Natural Gas Cracking

Title of Programme
Sustainable Energy Systems
Financing Code for Project
Project start year - end year 2006 - 2010
Financing organisation
Coordinator Laboratoire Procedes, Materiaux et Energie Solaire (CNRS/PROMES)
Other partners
Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich (ETH)
Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI)
Weizmann Institute of Science (WEIZMANN)
Aerosol and Particle Technology Laboratory (APTL)
Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft-und Raumfahrt,e.V., Inst. for Techn.Thermodynamics, Solar Research Division (DLR)
VEOLIA Environnement - CREED
Budget / APTL Budget 3,254,600 € / 326,400 €
Scientific Manager / Project researcher
Project website
The SOLHYCARB proposal addresses the exploration of an unconventional route forpotentially cost effective hydrogen production with concentrated solar energy. The novelprocess thermally decomposes natural gas (NG) in a high temperature solar chemical reactor. This process results in two products: a H2-rich gas and a high-value nano-material, CarbonBlack (CB). H2 and marketable CB are thus produced with renewable energy. Solar energy isstored as a transportable fuel. The fuel has zero CO2 emission: carbon as opposed to CO2 issequestered, and fossil fuels are saved. Potential impacts on CO2 emission reduction and energysaving are respectively: 14 kg CO2 avoided and 277 MJ per kg H2 produced, with respect toconventional NG steam reforming and CB processing. The proposal aims at designing, constructing, and testing innovative solar reactors at differentscales (1-10 kW and 50 kW) for operating conditions at 1500-2300 K and 1 bar. First, two prototypes based on different concepts of solar receiver/reactor (direct and indirect heating concepts) will be developed and studied. A critical analysis of the results from experiments andmodelling will determine the best reactor concept suitable for solar methane splitting. Based onthe concept retained, a 50 kW power pilot reactor will be developed. The targeted results are: methane conversion over 80%, H2 yield in the off-gas over 75%, and CB properties equivalentto industrial products. This experimental work is highly combined with advanced reactormodelling, study of separation unit operations, industrial uses of the produced gas, anddetermination of CB properties for applications in batteries and polymers. Decentralized andcentralized commercial solar chemical plants (and hybrid plants) will be designed for 50/100kWth and 10/30 MWth.Projected cost of H2 for large-scale solar plants depends on the price of CB: 14 €/GJ for thelowest CB grade sold at 0.66 €/kg and decreasing to 10 €/GJ for CB at 0.8 €/kg.