TECNALIA AND H2SITE LAUNCH THE FIRST INDUSTRIAL SCALE MEMBRANE REACTOR TO PRODUCE HYDROGEN
- H2SITE boasts exclusive membrane reactor technology as an alternative to electrolysis for the conversion of different raw materials, such as ammonia, bioethanol, biomethanol, biogas, among others, into hydrogen.
- Today, the new plant has been visited by Ainara Basurko, Provincial Council of Bizkaia’s Representative for Economic Promotion, Joseba Mariezkurrena, Provincial Council of Bizkaia’s Director of Business Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness, and Olatz Goitia, Director of BEAZ Bizkaia, accompanied by Iñaki San Sebastián, CEO of TECNALIA, and Andrés Galnares, CEO of H2SITE.
- Hydrogen is set to play a major role in accelerating the energy transition, as well as being an essential component in the energy mix and decarbonisation strategies of the future, not just in energy and transport, but also in industrial processes where it is already in use.
Markina-Xemein, 12th April 2021. Hydrogen is set to become a key element in the decarbonisation of energy, industry and mobility and, accordingly, to accelerate the energy transition towards a low-carbon economy. The challenge lies in generating it sustainably on a large scale. To do so, the start-up company, H2SITE, was set up a year ago as a result of the collaboration between the TECNALIA research and technological development centre, the French company ENGIE and the University of Eindhoven (TUe), with the aim of developing more efficient and profitable technology for small and medium-scale, high-purity, low-cost, distributed hydrogen production by means of advanced membrane reactors.
H2SITE is currently building its own membrane production plant in Loiu (Bizkaia), which will provide employment to 50 people over the next 5 years. It is the world’s first plant that will industrialise the production of membranes used in the manufacture of hydrogen production reactors. These reactors are an alternative to electrolysis and offer renewable hydrogen at a competitive price, using technologies developed in Europe and built in the Basque Country. The first of these reactors is already in use, as seen today by Ainara Basurko, Provincial Council of Bizkaia’s Representative for Economic Promotion, Joseba Mariezkurrena, Provincial Council of Bizkaia’s Director of Business Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness, and Olatz Goitia, Director of BEAZ Bizkaia, accompanied by Iñaki San Sebastián, CEO of TECNALIA and Andrés Galnares, CEO of H2SITE, during a visit to Azaro Fundazioa in Markina (Bizkaia).
It is the first industrial scale, high-purity and low-cost membrane reactor to produce hydrogen for small and medium-sized consumers. The technology has been developed by TECNALIA and TUe, based on process intensification, using advanced membrane reactors to maximise the efficiency of the hydrogen production process and minimise the use of resources (energy, space, raw materials, etc.).
“It is a huge success for us and for the sector too. It is a milestone that is the result of more than 10 years collaboration between TUe and TECNALIA in the field of membrane reactors, which the H2SITE teams have now turned into a unique industrial product, capable of producing green hydrogen on site. The challenge faced now is to produce sufficient membranes to satisfy our customers’ demands, accompanying them in the reduction of their carbon footprint”, according to Andrés Galnares.
Ainara Basurko, Provincial Council of Bizkaia’s Representative for Economic Promotion, stated that “H2Site is a magnificent example of the strategic role that technology centres play and can continue to play in the promotion of innovative technology-based start-ups. Furthermore, it is a good example of the increasing importance of cooperation between different agents in order to make a business project feasible, sharing short and medium-term objectives. The Economic Development Department and Beaz have supported H2Site from the very outset and we are convinced that we will continue to do so as it is a start-up with a great future and capacity for development within the model that we foster in Bizkaia; it presents differentiated added value in a context in which it is essential to commit to energy transition and hence it has growth potential”.
Finally, Iñaki San Sebastián, CEO of TECNALIA, said that “we want to be a key player as an industry transformation agent, turning technological development into solutions to make renewable energy more competitive and to advance towards high value hydrogen. We hope to be able to multiply the number and scope of business opportunities developed for our industry”.
Hydrogen, the new green energy vector
Hydrogen is a gas with a high energy content that is capable of storing energy and releasing it as necessary, thus helping to overcome one of the main challenges of renewable energy production: its intermittent production unrelated to demand. It is widely used in industrial processes. However, it is not produced from renewable sources. Instead it is obtained from natural gas reforming processes in large centralised plants, which derives in economic and environmental costs in its compression and transport to points of use. Similarly, hydrogen transport and storage is not only complex and costly, but it is also accompanied by leakages, which lead to higher costs and endanger the environment. It is necessary to develop sustainable solutions that foster its profitable, sustainable and local generation, as proposed by H2SITE.
The start-up, supported by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia from its outset, will supply high-purity, low-cost hydrogen distributed on a small and medium scale for stationary applications (industrial uses and power generation), and for isolated areas that require energy (islands, areas without access to the grid, etc.) and mobility. In this regard, it will contribute to the roll-out of 100% green electric mobility, opening the way for on-board hydrogen production systems on vehicles themselves. As a hydrogen technology platform, H2SITE will be capable of producing hydrogen from a range of compounds, such as ammonia, biomethanol, bioethanol or gas, among others.
For industrial clients, H2SITE will entail reductions of up to 40% off their current hydrogen bills, while also minimising environmental impact and sidestepping the regulatory and safety problems associated with storage, as the gas will be produced on site and upon demand. The industrial sectors with greater application potential are the chemical, food, iron and steel, glass and electronic industries, which jointly account for a large share of regional and national GDP.
Therefore H2SITE seeks to build on its unique membrane technology to become an international reference in the production and separation of profitable, low carbon hydrogen, and therefore be a major player in the much-needed energy transition.
TECNALIA is a leading research and technological development centre in Europe, with 1,400 experts representing 30 different nationalities, focusing on transforming technology into GDP to improve people’s quality of life, by creating business opportunities for companies. Through TECNALIA Ventures, its deep tech venture builder, the centre works towards identifying and rolling out business opportunities with commercial possibilities, through its advanced technology asset incubation programme.