Many years ago, Hendrik Wiese read a book, The Mysterious Island, written by Jules Verne. In this book, Verne writes of a world where “water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable”.
146 years later and Wiese is part of an Australian company whose technology could reduce the world’s waste footprint whilst producing affordable hydrogen.
AfriPlasma Australia, a licenced sub-entity of AfriPlasma Holdings in South Africa, has developed technology that produces hydrogen from high-temperature gasification of waste.
And as CEO and founder of AfriPlasma Australia, Wiese believes the environmentally friendly technology can be cost effective and realistically produce hydrogen at a unit price of less than $6/kg, maybe even $3kg, in the future.
“Australia is well-placed to produce hydrogen and become a market leader using AfriPlasma’s waste-to-energy technology,” Wiese told H2 View.
“We have all the ‘natural resources’ needed to produce syngas, a track record in waste collection with well-established waste services in each city.”
“With our technology to produce hydrogen by using this everyday household solid waste as feedstock for our gasification process, AfriPlasma Australia will reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, reduce dependence on imported fuels and reduce carbon emissions, in Australia and around the world.”
In simply explaining the technology, Wiese said, “Our process dissociates solid municipal waste and scrap tires waste by means of high temperature gasification.”
“Due to a controlled and limited oxygen supply into our process, combustion of the feed material is prevented.”
“This is not incineration. There is no formation of typical combustion by-products like ash, smoke, NOx or SOx.”
“With temperatures between 1500-2000°C, pollutants in the waste material such as dioxins, furans and Chromium Carbonyl (Cr 6) are completely cracked into harmless or reusable compounds.”
“The business case proposes a plant for approximately 300 tonnes waste feedstock per day, producing environmentally friendly fuels and valuable products: hydrogen – 942 t/m, nitrogen – 14,025 t/m, CO2 – 14,600 t/m, methane – 708 t/m.”
AfriPlasma Australia is working with one of Australia’s biggest landfill and waste management companies, who cannot be named at this stage, as well as a private investor.
“We are currently looking for end users to negotiate potential offtake agreements or a letter of intent to secure a market for our hydrogen to make it a financially viable business case,” Wiese said.
So what are the possibilities of waste-to-hydrogen?
“Infinite!” Wiese enthused. “Afriplasma sees the conversion of waste-to-hydrogen as a social responsibility that must be addressed as close to source as possible.”
“Hence, just like sewage purification plants, or water treatment plant, the waste removal companies or municipalities should also take the responsibility to remove the waste entirely from society.”
“Our gasification process is virtually the only clean way to convert all these millions of tonnes of waste into valuable gasses, such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.”
“The uses for these gases captured and purified in our processes are numerous, suffice to say, they are all essential for sustaining life on earth as we know it.”
Wiese said all present efforts to contain the growing landfill areas by partial reclaim/recycle or incineration have either created more problems by increased air pollution or shifting the problem to another entity.
“Worldwide attention to create hydrogen production facilities from renewable sources have resulted in huge expenditure in wind or solar power facilities that will split water into hydrogen and oxygen,” he continued.
“Other green hydrogen is made from renewable energy coupled with electrolysis plant.”
“Thermodynamics dictates that for 1kg of hydrogen, they need 62kW electricity and 32kg deionised water. Most solar and wind renewable energy sources runs at about 25% overall efficiency.”
“The cost is presently between $10 and $13 per kg when made this way. By 2030 with extremely large solar and wind installations will be about $5/kg.”
“This technology, however, has a relatively low impact on job creation once operational. It also has no impact on waste volume reduction or landfill released methane – which is a travesty. Furthermore the end of life decommissioning of wind turbines or photo-voltaic panels, are extremely difficult and costly.”
“Although this method has merits, the areas of land used to generate the required electricity for electrolysis plants, is hundreds of times bigger than our plant requires.”
“Furthermore, the waste problem does not go away, and very few additional employment opportunities arises from such installations.”