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Hydrogen from seawater?

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Stockton-based Torvex Energy Limited, an independent research and development company, has developed a novel method of producing hydrogen which utilises a ‘hybrid electrolysis’ concept, to generate ‘green’ hydrogen from natural seawater.

Existing electrolysis technology is expensive, with specific electrical energy consumption (kWhr per kg H2) being in the range of 55-60 kWHr per kg H2 produced. The Torvex method for producing hydrogen is almost twice as efficient, consuming about 25 kWHr per kg of H2, due to its hybrid approach.

Working with the Tees Valley Hydrogen Innovation Project (TVHIP) at Teesside University, Torvex Energy were able to understand the electrochemistry of its process, verify its specific energy consumption and better understand the amount of hydrogen it would produce.

Normal electrolysers require highly purified water as a feedstock or strongly alkaline feed, and are incapable of operating with seawater due to the production of chlorine, which is a poisonous gas. Given the crucial importance of fresh water for drinking and irrigation, a process that utilises natural seawater directly is vital.

The inventor and director of Torvex Energy Limited, Stewart Hudson, first saw the potential for a different process for hydrogen production when working in the marine industry and seeing the impact of galvanic corrosion on different metals on ships. Speaking about the collaboration with the University, Mr Hudson said:

“Teesside University has supported us in validating the electrochemical process, confirming its game changing efficiency and identifying optimum routes to scaling the design.

“Having access to highly specialised equipment and support from a very knowledgeable team who are experts in their field has enabled us to have a clear understanding of the process so that we can progress to commercialisation.

“We can move forward with scaling up with confidence and, with the benefits of the expertise of the Tees Valley Hydrogen Innovation Project, in refining the designs for a commercial unit.”

The TVHIP helps businesses across the region to identify growth opportunities within the hydrogen and decarbonisation economies and to explore the potential application of hydrogen solutions for business growth.

Dr Venkatesan Krishnan, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering and TVHIP team member, said:

“Teesside University is committed to helping businesses reduce their environmental impact and helping facilitate a just transition to a green economy.

“We are already involved in key projects in hydrogen production, hydrogen storage and hydrogen as a tool for decarbonizing the local industry and were delighted to use this expertise to help Torvex Energy.

“Supporting this innovative company is helping transition Tees Valley to a greener and more sustainable means of energy production and establish the region at the centre of the UK’s green revolution.”

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