New system converts Sasol fuel to hydrogen

New system converts Sasol fuel to hydrogen

In a global first, American fuel-cell development company Intel-ligent Energy has announced the development of a new hydrogen-generation system, which is the product of a collaborative effort between itself and local fuel giant Sasol.

The ”˜Hestia’ system converts Sasol’s Fischer-Tropsch (FT) fuels into hydrogen. The high-purity hydrogen is then transformed into electricity and heat for practical applications, using Intelligent Energy’s fuel-cell systems.

Intelligent Energy explains that the hydrogen-generation technology was designed to develop a microrefor-mer fuelled by liquid hydrocarbons and to demonstrate the use of hydrogen in a fuel cell.

The prototype unit consists of a catalysed reformer system and mircor pressure-swing absorption hydrogen purification system. The unit takes in liquid fuel and produces high-purity hydrogen.

Measuring a mere 710 mm wide, 460 mm deep and 1 520 mm high, the Hestia prototype system can produce 10 kW of electricity, if used in conjuction with the company’s stationary combined heat and power fuel-cell system.

As a cleaner energy solution, the technology ”illustrates the transitional possibilities between the use of conventional fuels and a more sustainable long-term hydrogen economy”, Intelligent Energy commented in a press statement.

Sasol Technology new business development manager Jennifer Zeiss says the fuel producer’s main interest in the collaboration with Intelligent Energy is the use of its FT liquid fuels, produced from coal or natural gas, in a stationary microreformer and fuel-cell applications. Sasol’s FT fuels are particularly advantageous for these applications as they contain almost no sulphur, have a low aromatics content and high paraffinics content. Zeiss adds that the high quality of Sasol’s FT-derived diesel, together with the growing worldwide diesel market, means that the economic prospects for FT liquid fuels are excellent.

The Hestia technology platform is fuel flexible and can use many other fuels to produce the high-purity hydrogen. These include low-sulphur liquid fuels such as biodiesel, etha-nol, synthetic diesel and gaseous fuels. As a result, Intelligent Energy proposes that the Hestia platform is ”capable of serving a broad range of future markets and applications”.

The system has been successfully demonstrated by using the technology to run Intelligent Energy’s Long Beach facility. The company suggests that the technology may also have the potential for transportation applications. Meanwhile, Intelligent Energy says that future developments of the technology will focus on higher-sulphur fuels, size and cost reduction, with improved reliability.

Although the technology is still at a very early stage of development, and is far from marketability, Zeiss maintains that Sasol is ”definitely considering South African applications as a priority”.


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