SGH2 ($5M to turn organic waste to low-cost green hydrogen)

SGH2, an American cleantech company founded in 2020, develops a plasma-enhanced gasification reactor to convert organic waste to low-cost clean hydrogen. The waste materials can be recycled paper, organic waste, purposely grown energy crops, and wood. The produced clean hydrogen costs  $2-$3 per kg, making it cost-competitive with the cheapest carbon-intensive hydrogen made from fossil fuels.

Challenges: waste to hydrogen

Hydrogen (H₂) is a “simple solution” to address the world's energy problems and needs. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and the simplest element on the periodic table. For its use as an energy carrier, it must be separated from hydrocarbons (e.g., methane CH₄) or water (H₂O).

In fact, the overall thermal efficiency of converting hydrogen to electric energy required by a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is three times greater than the thermal efficiency of burning this liquid fuel to power today's internal combustion engine vehicles. Utilizing hydrogen in this manner may significantly contribute to global energy security.

The majority of the world's hydrogen (over 60 million tons) is currently produced via steam methane reforming (SMR) process, which requires a significant amount of energy input and emits a substantial amount of CO₂. The SMR process emits between 5 and 9 tonnes of CO₂ per tonne of hydrogen produced.

Electrolysis of water by using renewable electric power produces green hydrogen without emitting CO₂. However, electrolysis requires 50 kWh of energy to produce 1 kg of H₂ which only gives 33 kWh of energy. 35% of the original input power is wasted. The cost of electrolysis-produced hydrogen is higher than that of SMR-produced hydrogen. In addition, the capacities of currently available electrolyzers are inadequate as they are useful for small scale production only.

Both economically and technically, the gasification of abundantly available biomass to produce green hydrogen may be a cost-effective method.

SGH2 Technology

SGH2 Energy has developed a plasma enhanced gasification reactor for the low-cost production of green hydrogen from abundant biomass waste materials, such as recycled paper, organic waste, purposely grown energy crops, and wood.

SGH2 Energy’s gasifier is distinct from other plasma gasification reactors. The plasma gasification reactor of SGH2 Energy is integrated with a low-cost oxygen absorber system that can generate oxygen enriched air (90% to 95%) to ensure that the syngas product contains no unconverted hydrocarbon molecules, such as tars. Other plasma gasification reactors use oxygen from a secondary supplier at very high cost or from a dedicated air separation unit that employs expensive cryogenic technology to separate air.

In addition, SGH2 Energy’s plasma gasification reactor uses a biochar catalytic bed in the oxidation zone, whereas other reactors use metallurgical or petroleum coke. The biochar material consists of a dense carbon char that consumes at a much slower rate than the biomass feedstocks to be gasified as a result of the very high fixed carbon fraction of the carbon char.

SGH2 plasma reactor

The diagram below depicts SGH2 Energy’s plasma gasification reactor integrated with a low-cost oxygen absorber system.

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