Compact Multifuel-Energy to Hydrogen converter

Project Information
Framework Programme: 
Call for proposals: 
Application area: 
Hydrogen production & Distribution
CoMETHy logo

Key Objectives of the project

CoMETHy aims at the intensification of hydrogen production processes, developing an innovative compact and modular steam reformer to convert reformable fuels (natural gas, biogas, bioethanol, etc.) to pure hydrogen, adaptable to several heat sources (solar, biomass, fossil, etc.) depending on the locally available energy mix. Therefore, the developed system will be featured by two degrees of flexibility, either in terms of the feedstock that is converted to hydrogen, and in terms of the primary energy source. Indeed, CoMETHy aims at supporting the transition from a fossil-based to a renewable-based energy economy, providing a flexible technology for different energy scenarios.

The objective is to provide a reformer for decentralized hydrogen production (i.e. close to the end-user), thus surmounting the actual lack (and costs) of a reliable hydrogen distribution infrastructure.


Challenges/issues addressed

CoMETHy proposes a new “low-temperature” steam reforming technology, where a molten salt (molten nitrates mixture) at maximum temperatures of 550°C is used as the heat transfer fluid. This concept allows recovery and supply of the process heat to the reformer from different heat sources like solar. The produced hydrogen is separated and purified by means of selective membranes.

First challenge is the development of advanced low-temperature steam reforming catalysts and cost-effective selective membranes in the reference operational range (400-550°C, 1-10 bar). Next technical challenge is targeted on the coupling of the membrane with the catalyst in a membrane reactor. Finally, the project involves the integration of the developed membrane reformer in a molten salts loop for proof-of-concept at the 2 Nm3/h hydrogen production scale, and the performance assessment of the whole system.


Technical approach/objectives

The first year of the project is mainly focused on the development of the two key components, catalyst and membrane, to provide basic recommendation about the catalyst system and the membrane to be applied. This represents input to the reformer design and validation as key activity during the 2nd project year. Finally, after construction of the 2 Nm3/h pilot unit, the 3rd project year is mostly dedicated to the proof-of-concept and to optimization and evaluation of the whole. In the perspective of a multi-fuel application, the identification of specific catalysts for bioethanol steam reforming is required too.


Expected socio and economic impact

CoMETHy proposes a new steam reforming concept for decentralized hydrogen production with potential benefits in terms of production costs, operational flexibility and environment impact.

Reduction of steam reforming temperatures to less than 550°C allows use of costless construction materials (no special steel alloy typical of conventional steam reforming are required), and elimination of the water-gas-shift reactor(s), whereas the integration with membranes avoids dedicated hydrogen separation and purification units.

Moreover, this system can operate with different sources (depending on local availability) and the decentralized production avoids distribution costs. The coupling with renewable heat sources (like solar heat from CSP plants) makes production cost less sensible to the fossil fuel price and allows a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions (and corresponding fossil fuel consumption) in methane steam reforming, being the order of 40-50% with respect to the conventional process, whereas the use of biofulels (biogas, bioethanol, etc.) allows totally green hydrogen production.

Project details
Project reference: 
SP1-JTI-FCH.2010.2.2 - Development of fuel processing catalyst, modules and systems
Project type: 
Research and technological development
Contract type: 
Collaborative Project
Start date: 
Thursday, December 1, 2011
End date: 
Thursday, December 31, 2015
36 months (originally), extended to 49 months
Project cost: 
€ 4,933,250.39
Project funding: 
€ 2,484,095

ENEA, Italy

Dr. Alberto Giaconia
Contact email: 
Other participating organisations: 
1 Agenzia per le Nuove Tecnologie, l’Energia e lo Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile, ENEA Italy
2 Processi Innovativi Srl. Italy
3 Acktar Ltd. Israel
4 Technion - Israel Institute of Technology Israel
5 Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Foerderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V - Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems Germany
6 Università degli Studi di Salerno Italy
7 Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, CPERI/CERTH Greece
8 Aristotelio Panepistimio Thessalonikis - Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) Greece
9 Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza Italy
10 Stichting Energieonderzoek Centrum Nederland - Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, ECN The Netherlands
11 GKN Sinter Metals Engineering GmbH Germany
12 (Università Campus Bio Medico di Roma) Italy
Patents and Publications
A. Giaconia , G. Monteleone , B. Morico , A. Salladini , K. Shabtai , M. Sheintuch , D. Boettge , J. Adler , V. Palma , S. Voutetakis , A. Lemonidou , M.C. Annesini , M. den Exter , H. Balzer , L. Turchetti Energy Procedia Vol. 69 Multi-fuelled Solar Steam Reforming for Pure Hydrogen Production Using Solar Salts as Heat Transfer Fluid
Alexios-Spyridon Kyriakides , Laura Rodríguez-García , Spyridon Voutetakis , Dimitris Ipsakis , Panos Seferlis , Simira Papadopoulou International Journal of Hydrogen Energy Vol. 39/Issue 9 Enhancement of pure hydrogen production through the use of a membrane reactor
Michael Patrascu , Moshe Sheintuch Chemical Engineering Journal Vol. 262 On-site pure hydrogen production by methane steam reforming in high flux membrane reactor: Experimental validation, model predictions and membrane inhibition
Sofia D. Angeli , Luca Turchetti , Giulia Monteleone , Angeliki A. Lemonidou Applied Catalysis B: Environmental Vol. 181 Catalyst development for steam reforming of methane and model biogas at low temperature
Vincenzo Palma , Concetta Ruocco , Filomena Castaldo , Antonio Ricca , Daniela Boettge International Journal of Hydrogen Energy Vol. 40/Issue 37 Ethanol steam reforming over bimetallic coated ceramic foams: Effect of reactor configuration and catalytic support
Maria Anna Murmura , Michael Patrascu , Maria Cristina Annesini , Vincenzo Palma , Concetta Ruocco , Moshe Sheintuch International Journal of Hydrogen Energy Vol. 40/Issue 17 Directing selectivity of ethanol steam reforming in membrane reactors
Moshe Sheintuch Chemical Engineering Journal Vol. 278 Pure hydrogen production in a membrane reformer: Demonstration, macro-scale and atomic scale modeling
Vincenzo Palma , Filomena Castaldo , Paolo Ciambelli , Gaetano Iaquaniello Applied Catalysis B: Environmental Vol. 145 CeO2-supported Pt/Ni catalyst for the renewable and clean H2 production via ethanol steam reforming
Vincenzo Palma , Filomena Castaldo , Paolo Ciambelli , Gaetano Iaquaniello , Giancarlo Capitani International Journal of Hydrogen Energy Vol. 38/Issue 16 On the activity of bimetallic catalysts for ethanol steam reforming
Vincenzo Palma , Filomena Castaldo , Paolo Ciambelli , Gaetano Iaquaniello Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy Vol. 14/Issue 5 Hydrogen production through catalytic low-temperature bio-ethanol steam reforming
M.A. Murmura , S. Cerbelli , L. Turchetti , M.C. Annesini Journal of Membranes Science Vol. 503 Transport-permeation regimes in an annular membrane separator for hydrogen purification
Sofia D. Angeli , Fotis G. Pilitsis , Angeliki A. Lemonidou Catalysis Today Vol. 242 Methane steam reforming at low temperature: Effect of light alkanes’ presence on coke formation
Hadas Abir , Moshe Sheintuch Journal of Membranes Science Vol. 466 Modeling H2 transport through a Pd or Pd/Ag membrane, and its inhibition by co-adsorbates, from first principles
Michael Patrascu , Moshe Sheintuch Chemical Engineering Journal Vol. 282 Design concepts of a scaled-down autothermal membrane reformer for on board hydrogen production
Olga Nekhamkina , Moshe Sheintuch Chemical Engineering Journal Vol. 260 Effective approximations for concentration-polarization in Pd-membrane separators
Ernst D. German , Moshe Sheintuch Journal of Physical Chemistry C Vol. 117/Issue 44 Predicting CH 4 Dissociation Kinetics on Metals: Trends, Sticking Coefficients, H Tunneling, and Kinetic Isotope Effect
Ernst D. German , Olga Nekhamkina , Oleg Temkin , Moshe Sheintuch Journal of Physical Chemistry C Vol. 119/Issue 17 H Tunneling Effects on Sequential Dissociation of Methane over Ni(111) and the Overall Rate of Methane Reforming
Moshe Sheintuch Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering Vol. 9 Can the permeance of a Pd-based membrane be predicted from first principles?
Olga Nekhamkina , Moshe Sheintuch Journal of Membranes Science Vol. 500 Approximate models of concentration-polarization in Pd-membrane separators. Fast numerical analysis
Ernst D. German , Hadas Abir , Moshe Sheintuch Journal of Physical Chemistry C Vol. 117/Issue 15 A Tunnel Model for Activated Hydrogen Dissociation on Metal Surfaces
Sofia D. Angeli , Giulia Monteleone , Alberto Giaconia , Angeliki A. Lemonidou International Journal of Hydrogen Energy Vol. 39/Issue 5 State-of-the-art catalysts for CH4 steam reforming at low temperature