Research Seminar with Prof Laurent Fulcheri, France

Methane pyrolysis: The third way for low CO2 hydrogen production.

In the context of global warming and transition towards a less-carbonized energy, hydrogen will play a key role in coming decades. Unfortunately, the most current method for H2 production, often referred as ‘grey H2’, steam methane reforming (SMR) is responsible, on average, for 11 tonne CO2eq per tonne of H2.

Water electrolysis is reckoned an ideal long-term option for production of decarbonized H2 (‘green H2’)’ assuming the use of low-carbon electricity. However the water splitting reaction is significantly energy-intensive because it necessitates 285 kJ per mole (Eq. 1) which corresponds to ~ 40 kWh kgH2 -1. This makes large-scale development of this technology challenging at short-to-middle term due to high production costs of ~ 4-6 US$, respectively, for short- and middle-term.

Eq. 1) H2O → H2 + ½ O2      285 kJ mole-1

A third-way that is today making a come-back, often called as ‘blue H2’ is based on hightemperature natural gas pyrolysis (Eq. 2) for production of H2 and solid-carbon.

Eq. 2) CH4 → C + 2 H2      75 kJ/Mole

The main advantage of this approach is that is thermodynamically less energy intensive than water splitting since it necessitates around 7 x times less energy per mass (or mole) of H2 produced than water splitting. Another advantage is that it allows co-production of two valuable products: solid (nanostructured) carbon, and; H2.

Research on methane pyrolysis by thermal plasma has been carried out at MINES-ParisTech for > 25 year1. The technology is now mature and a first-commercial plant for the co-production of H2 and carbon black is under construction in the USA (MONOLITH Materials).

In this seminar the state-of-the-art of research and technology in this field will be critically assessed and the potential of this technology at short-, middle- and long-term will be briefly discussed.

1. Fulcheri, L & Schwob, Y. 1995. From methane to hydrogen, carbon black and water. Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 20 (3), 197-202. 

About the speaker

Prof Fulcheri

Professor Fulcheri was born in France and graduated from Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Arts et Métiers (ENSAM-ParisTech) in 1983 with major in Mechanical Engineering, and a Ph.D. in 1989 from INPGrenoble.

Laurent received his Habilitation (Teaching accreditation) in 2003. He joined Ecole des Mines de Paris (MINES-ParisTech) in 1989 as a Senior Researcher where he created and became Head of Plasma Group in 1995.

Laurent has published 83 papers in peer review journals and 12 patents, and is a specialist in CFD and MHD modelling in thermochemical processing and plasma-assisted reactive flows analysis.

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