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Development of compact reformers for distributed bio-hydrogen production
Deadline: May 3, 2016  

 Start Up
 Raw Materials
 Energy Efficiency
 Horizon Europe

Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

There is a need to increase the share of renewable resources in final energy consumption and achieve increases in energy efficiency. In the objectives and vision of the FCH-JU, hydrogen production from low carbon sources represents a valuable possibility to promote the decarbonisation of the energy system in a sustainable way. Thus, there is a need to in the near term identify pathways leading to low-cost hydrogen production technologies with near-zero net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from highly efficient and diverse renewable sources.

The distributed production of hydrogen (d/dt H2<500 Nm3/h) is one of the interesting approaches to introduce hydrogen as an energy carrier in the near term. This approach requires less capital investment for the smaller capacity of hydrogen, and it does not require a substantial hydrogen transport and delivery infrastructure. Such hydrogen production will use locally available feedstock and power in compact systems.

The specific challenge is to demonstrate the potentials of alternative and sustainable utilization of biogas, bio-alcohols and other biofuels as renewable fuels for a decentralized bio-hydrogen production in the form of more compact and efficient reforming technologies.

The objective of generating renewable hydrogen from biofuels is proving different possible options for the fuel cell industry, especially for application in the distributed energy market. There is a need to have many energy sources as possible to feed different types of FC (especially SOFC, MCFC, HTPEM) with renewable hydrogen to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and to improve the air quality (through the production of clean energy) in different parts of a country (cities, farms, industry, remote areas, etc..) with availability of biofuels.. In addition, the development of small-scale units, easily integrable with FCs, can help to revitalize the clean energy market that is of interest, i.e. for energy providers, companies that deal with materials (catalysts, components), software and hardware (control and monitoring systems).


This topic calls for proposals to develop compact reformers that can be applied cost-effectively at small scale in the distributed production of hydrogen from biofuels. In general, the efficiency, the start-up time and the durability should be improved as well as the thermal management and the reduction of the thermal mass of the reformer. Moreover, the use of less pure renewable feedstock (e.g. clean biogas containing CO2 and or other pollutants and contaminants) directly in the reformers is a technological aspect that can be considered to indirectly reduce the feedstock purification cost and consequently the H2 production cost.

The reformer technology should address the following aspects:

  • range: 100 – 500 kg/day H2, for distributed applications in farms, municipalities, small power houses
  • hydrogen purity: 99,9%
  • demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of small units (100-500 kg /day H2) able to process renewable raw materials derived from biomass feedstock
  • improve the efficiency of hydrogen production through a better heat integration of the different reformers components; flexibility to process less clean biofuels

In addition, projects should support development of optimized and more compact systems, tolerant to variable amount and typology of raw materials. Thus, the proposals should demonstrate a high degree of process/reactor improvement to decrease the total required systems volume, increasing bio-fuels conversion and hydrogen yields, moreover, achieving higher overall energy efficiencies, as well as overcome heat and mass transfer limitations to increase the H2 production rate.

The project should demonstrate the economic feasibility of producing hydrogen to support integration of renewable biomass energy sources into the energy systems at distributed level.

The following objectives should be addressed:

  • Design and construction of bio-fuels reforming units, including BoP for thermal, gas and electrical management, demonstrating the following:
    • Min - max H2 production capacity: 100 - 500 kg/ day
    • H2 quality : 99.9%
    • Load variation : 20-100%
    • Min cold starts: 50 / year
    • Cold start up time: < 2 h
    • Start up after stand by : 15 min – immediately
    • Reactor & system modularity
    • System size and weight: Process intensification by integration of reformer catalysts and heat exchangers and burner
    • Control hardware, protocol/algorithms improvements for stand-alone operation
  • Assessment of the techno-economic performance in comparison to other state-of–the-art technologies
  • Demonstration of a business plan and service strategy during the project that will be replicable and validated in the chosen market segment after the project
  • Projects are expected to start at TRL 3 and to reach TRL 5.

Proposals should indicate the specific business case and development steps planning to reach higher TRLs > 6.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 3 million would allow the specific challenges to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected duration: 4 years

A maximum of 1 project will be funded under this topic.

Expected Impact:

Expected outcomes from the project are to develop reactor and system design for renewable H2 produced on-site with the following features:

  • Total cost of H2 (including CAPEX, OPEX) between 0.3-0.5 €/Nm3
  • Design lifetime of at least 10 years
  • Demonstration of reformer of at least 4,400 hours
  • Overall efficiency on or above 80% based on higher heating value

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