Lancaster, California Will Be Home To World’s Largest Renewable Hydrogen Plant — Maybe

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Lancaster, California, north of Los Angeles, is where BYD has its US truck and bus factory, but soon it will have another distinction. It will be co-owner of the largest renewable hydrogen facility in the world. The plant will produce three times more hydrogen than any other facility in the world — existing or planned — according to Environment and Energy Leader. Construction is set to begin in the first quarter of next year and the plant should be operational by the end of 2022. Full scale production is scheduled to begin in early 2023.

SGH2 Plasma Furnace
Image credit: SGH2 via Vimeo

The hydrogen plant will be co-owned by SGH2, a subsidiary of Solena Group, and will use its Plasma Enhanced Gasification technology to turn biogenic waste materials such as plastic, paper, tires, and textiles into hydrogen without using any externally sourced energy. When completed, SGH2 says the facility will produce up 11,000 kilograms of “green” hydrogen daily or 3.8 million kilograms per year — three times more than any other renewable hydrogen facility worldwide.

According to Green Car Congress,

“SGH2’s gasification process uses a plasma-enhanced thermal catalytic conversion process optimized with oxygen-enriched gas. In the gasification island’s catalyst-bed chamber, plasma torches generate such high temperatures (3500 ºC – 4000 ºC), that the waste feedstock disintegrates into its molecular compounds, without combustion ash or toxic fly ash. As the gases exit the catalyst-bed chamber, the molecules bind into a very high quality hydrogen-rich biosyngas free of tar, soot and heavy metals.

“The syngas then goes through a Pressure Swing Absorber system resulting in hydrogen at 99.9999% purity as required for use in Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell vehicles. The SPEG process extracts all carbon from the waste feedstock, removes all particulates and acid gases, and produces no toxins or pollution. The end result is high purity hydrogen and a small amount of biogenic carbon dioxide, which is not additive to greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Berkeley Lab performed a preliminary lifecycle carbon analysis, which found that for every ton of hydrogen produced, SPEG technology reduces emissions by 23 to 31 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is 13 to 19 tons more carbon dioxide avoided per ton than any other green hydrogen process,” the company says. “And SGH2 hydrogen is five to seven times cheaper than other green hydrogen.” It will cost about the same as hydrogen made from natural gas, says SGH2 CEO Robert Do.

The hydrogen from the plant is expected to go to hydrogen refueling stations for light and heavy duty fuel cell vehicles within the state of California. The city will supply a guaranteed supply of recyclables, which will save it up to $75 per ton in avoided costs because it won’t have to pay to dispose of them in area landfills.

“If we continue producing energy as we have been, we’re not going to be here in 50 years,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris recently told the Los Angeles Times. As mayor, Parris also helped the city to transition away from its privately-owned electric utility and to purchase more renewable energy. He was also instrumental in convincing BYD to build its truck and bus manufacturing facility in Lancaster.

Parris says his city is looking for ways to ensure a better future as everyone copes with the coronavirus crisis. “We know a circular economy with renewable energy is the path, and we have positioned ourselves to be the alternative energy capital of the world.”

That may be true, but the hydrogen economy is still little more than a gleam in the eye of proponents. There is very little refueling infrastructure and even fewer fuel cell-powered heavy duty vehicles, but SGH2 and Lancaster think their partnership will help break the logjam and make the hydrogen economy a reality.

Tina Casey wrote recently about BP jumping into the renewable hydrogen game, so there are definitely some well-funded groups who think hydrogen could be a major player in a zero emissions future. CleanTechnica’s view is that hydrogen involves too many conversion processes to be as efficient as electricity from renewable sources coupled with battery storage, but we admit we don’t know everything there is to know on the subject and that we should keep an open mind. Certainly anything that keeps recyclables out of landfills and provides a source of zero emissions energy deserves careful consideration.

[Note: Out of curiosity, we searched for Solena Group but found no company homepage on Google. We found a web address on LinkedIn but it is inactive. LinkedIn says the company is located in Washington, DC and has between 1 and 10 employees. A search for SGH2 found no link to the company. A story on Green Car Congress features a video attributed to SGH2, which is embedded above.

Suffice to say our scam alert is flashing bright red. What we have is a slick 2-minute video and little else. Mayor Parris seems like a straight-ahead guy who is not going to be taken in by some pie in the sky proposa,l but that pressure swing absorber sounds a lot like the famous turbo encabulator spoof that has been kicking around on YouTube for years. Is the SGH2 plasma enhanced gasification process for real? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.]

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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