Shyp & FLIE join forces: feasibility study membrane-less electrolyzer

There is a huge need for green and blue hydrogen for the decarbonisation of the Port Industrial Complex (HIC) in Rotterdam. An electrolyzer is a promising technology to accelerate this process. This technology converts water into oxygen and hydrogen using electricity. A major disadvantage of many electrolyzers is that they have a membrane that only works well with pure water. sHYp wants to investigate the feasibility of a membrane-less electrolyzer for use of sea water without the need for desalination. We would like to invite companies that also see opportunities in the enormous potential of this innovation to join.

Since 2017, ships in Europe are no longer allowed to discharge waste and/or ballast water into surface water within the 200-mile zone. They must treat this water with an installation on board or discharge it ashore at a discharge point. A ballast water installation costs up to 2 million euros and on top of it are the costs for use of it (at least € 0.08 cents per tonne). Discharging outside the 200 mile zone is possible, but is not without risk. A ship that discharges ballast water is more unstable and can capsize in bad weather. Waiting for better weather means the ship is stationary and unable to carry cargo. There is a great need for a new, efficient and affordable technology to purify waste and ballast water on board ships.

Promising innovation: purify waste water with a membrane-less electrolyzer

With the HYlite, sHYp wants to develop a system that uses sea water on the basis of a membrane-less electrolyzer. This is made possible by a design with an innovative electrode configuration consisting of mesh flow-through electrodes that that are only coated on one side.Gaseous H2 and O2 bubbles then only form on the outer surfaces of the electrodes. When those bubbles are large enough, their buoyancy causes them to detach from the electrode surface. They then float up to separate collecting chambers.ers.

A membrane-less electrolyzer can be used for ballast water treatment and for the production of hydrogen.

It produces no residual flows (sludge) and the sea water is sterilized so that it can be discharged directly into surface water.

A disadvantage is that for the time being this technique is only profitable on board ships. It cannot compete with existing onshore water treatment technologies. The technology is initially aiming to be used in ports and subsequently also developed to be installed on vessels.

Design of the feasibility study

sHYp wants to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of a membrane-less electrolyzer together with the Fieldlab Industrial Electrification. The project is a partnership with the Solar Fuels Engineering Lab (SFEL) of the University of Colombia. After the research, the following objectives must be achieved:

  • Mid-scale prototype development (1kW)
  • Report with research results on technical, economic and legal feasibility
  • Plan of approach for further development (prototype on a pilot scale)

Next steps

The technology is in the TRL 4-5 phase. The next step is the development of a mid-scale prototype that can be used to test the efficiency. A subsidy has been requested for this in collaboration with the FLIE through the Energy & Climate Programme. This is followed by a prototype on a pilot scale (trl 7) of approx. 5 – 10 KW.

For who?

  • The membrane-less electrolyzer is particularly interesting for ports and offshore wind turbines. The aim is to create a modular design.
  • The HYlite can also be used in the energy-intensive industry. Here too, there are often wastewater flows that need to be purified. Generated hydrogen can be immediately reused in the production process.
  • In addition, the system is interesting in places where sustainable energy is generated and there is sea water nearby. For example, the production of hydrogen from energy that is processed not only by offshore wind turbines or but also the energy supply on oil rigs.

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