Water industry gives green light for hydrogen

Green hydrogen – and how the water sector can engage with this “green, clean fuel source” – was the focus of the latest Water Action Platform webinar, a forum for water sector collaboration across international boundaries, which took place on May 20.

Hosted by Isle chairman Piers Clark, the webinar featured Dr Jennifer Baxter, director for innovation and policy at Protium Green Solutions, who gave a rundown on key insights into hydrogen for the water sector. The presentation also featured emerging hydrogen technologies from the UK and Australia.

Dr Baxter said: “We see hydrogen as an opportunity to decarbonise key pillars of our society, including things that form part of our critical infrastructure like water and waste. This is about sustainable development and making our industries much more sustainable by being able to understand exactly what feedstocks and wastes we have and how we can use them more effectively.

“It is a circular economy of energy and waste.”

She explained how historically hydrogen has been reliant on the exploitation of fossil fuels, but that there are “clean” ways of producing it and trials and feasibility studies are taking place at water utilities globally exploring cleaner, greener ways of producing hydrogen.

Capturing carbon
New resource recovery opportunities were explored during the technology showcase, both of which have the potential to simultaneously improve the wastewater treatment process while generating clean hydrogen. The first was from Hazer Group, an Australian company which produces fuel-cell grade hydrogen and graphite from methane, with low CO2 emissions.

Geoff Ward, CEO of Hazer Group, commented: “Rather than typical gas-based hydrogen production which produces CO2 as a by-product, we produce graphite – a solid, capturable and usable product. It’s a clean and cost-effective technology and, when paired with renewable biogas, has the lowest emissions profile of any available technology – going beyond where solar and electrolysis can reach and taking methane originated from waste out of the atmosphere and capturing all the carbon associated with the feedstock.”

UK-based Organics operates globally and is focused on renewable energy, ammonia recovery and anaerobic digestion. Keith Richardson, commercial director of Organics, explained how the company’s system recovers ammonia from high-strength wastewater and turns it into a range of saleable ammonia products, along with hydrogen.

Organics already has a thermal ammonia stripper which is used to remove ammonia from, for example, watering liquors and landfill leachates. The recovered ammonia can be used as a fertiliser, a raw material for industrial processes or as a feedstock for ammonia-cracking processes that could generate green hydrogen.

Global update
In addition to the focus on hydrogen, the webinar also included updates on global water stories, including the rollout of wastewater-based epidemiology and progress on diversity and inclusion in the water sector.

Water Action Platform participants were also invited to take part in a Digital Twin Tour from Idrica, a Spanish-headquartered company specialising in services and solutions for global water utilities. The event, which will be taking place on Jun 9, will be moderated by Piers Clark and features a keynote address by Jaime Barba, CEO at Idrica.

The demonstration will show how a digital twin – a virtual model that replicates real system behaviour and allows it to stimulate its response under any condition – works.