Aingeru Remiro-Eguskiza, a chemical engineer of the University of the Basque Country, in his Ph.D. thesis, developed a process to produce nearly 100% pure hydrogen from bio-oil that has a lower impact on the environment than the current processes.
For more than a decade, hydrogen has been touted as a clean alternative to fossil fuels because it releases a significant amount of energy relative to its weight and also produces nothing but water when it burns. It can also be produced cleanly, using biological methods, such as photosynthesis. However, the high costs incurred in production have proved too big an obstacle to facilitate its wide-spread use.
Remiro-Eguskiza’s goal in the thesis was to contribute towards the laboratory scale development of a process for producing hydrogen from bio-oil by means of catalytic reforming using water vapor. The bio-oil used for the research in the thesis was developed at an IK4-Ikerlan plant.
Remiro-Eguskiza used bio-oil from a heterogeneous mixture of wood-based oxygenated products, the catalytic transformation of which routinely entails problems of operability and deactivation of the catalyst.
Remiro-Eguskiza solved the problems with an in-house designed reaction unit comprised of two stages: the thermal and the catalytic stages. In the thermal stage the controlled deposition of the pyrolytic lignin takes place and this minimizes the operational problems and the deactivation of the catalyst. That way the compounds obtained in the thermal stage are more susceptible to being transformed.
In the third stage, the carbon dioxide is extracted before reaction, increasing the efficiency of the reaction increases.
In this context, he stresses that improvement in the carbon-dioxide capture in the reaction bed was verified when extremely pure hydrogen, close to 100%, was obtained and at a lower operating temperature with respect to the process minus the carbon-dioxide capture.
Remiro-Eguskiza is offering a whole new way to exploit the bio-mass to fuel pathway for renewable fuel.