Energy crisis breakthrough as Israel cracks code for cheap green hydrogen

8 mins read

An Israeli start-up has discovered a way to make green hydrogen, which could one day replace gas completely, on-scale and in an affordable way in a major breakthrough amid the global energy crisis. As the world scrambles to wean itself off fossil fuels, which have not only been soaring in price but are also polluting the atmosphere and speeding up the rate of global warming, it is now more important than ever to find a way to power industries and homes with cheap and clean alternatives. Green hydrogen, has been tipped to one day become a viable alternative, but there are currently obstacles to rolling out the energy source on-scale. 

Most of the hydrogen being used for power at present is what’s called either grey or blue hydrogen. While hydrogen fuel does not emit fossil fuel when it’s burned, grey, and to a lesser extent, blue hydrogen use greenhouse gases in the production process. 

On the other hand, green hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity in a process known as electrolysis. But currently, there is hardly any green hydrogen technology on the market as electrolysis is a costly and energy-intensive process to perform. 

But H2PR0, an Israel-based hydrogen start-up, has discovered a way to create green hydrogen in a far more energy-efficient and affordable way. The company’s relatively cheap and scaleable device could deliver green hydrogen at under $2 per kilogram(£1.73) by 2023, it claims. 

H2PRO’s special technology called E-TAC uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, but unlike normal electrolysers (the machines which usually used to split hydrogen and oxygen in water to produce green hydrogen), it generates hydrogen without using up vast amounts of energy. met Prof Avner Rothchild, a hydrogen expert from Technion University who helped to set up H2PRO and create the E-TAC technology, who told us all about the innovation in an exclusive interview. 

He explained: “This technology (hydrogen technology) has been around for 100 years, but for really niche applications on a very small scale compared to the scale of the global energy demand…We need to scale up this industry of electrolysers by a factor of 1000 in just a few years. 

“Electrolysers are expensive because you need to separate hydrogen and oxygen (in the process) and they have moderate energy efficiency – this means that in the best case you lose about 30 percent of the energy you produce – which is a lot. You need electricity to break the chemical bonds and ideally, you would like to have 100 percent conversion – meaning you invest energy but get it back. 

“But in the best case, you lose about 30 percent of the energy, which is an issue because it is valuable. These are the two main challenges – system costs need to go down and energy costs need to go down so that efficiency can go up. Because of these two issues with current technologies the cost of hydrogen production is simply too high for wide-scale application.”

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However, Prof Rothchild’s company is tackling this problem, giving hope to Governments around the world that have set ambitious targets for rolling out hydrogen to combat climate change and soaring gas costs.

The UK, for example, put hydrogen at the forefront of its 10-point plan for ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, published in late 2020, which lays out a plan for Britain to rapidly and significantly scale up production. But Britain will need to overcome the major obstacles pinpointed by Prof Rothchild and H2PRO if it is to reach its targets. 

Pro Rothchild explained: “We need to cut down the system cost, we need to cut down the electricity cost and we can do that by increasing the efficiency – and that is exactly what H2PRO is trying to do based on breakthrough technology that does this process than other methods already in place. 

“We decouple hydrogen production and oxygen, dividing the process into two main stages – at the first hydrogen and the second oxygen – so we don’t need as many bulky technologies and expensive metals that normal electrolysers need – and that saves a lot of money. 

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“We operate at around 90 percent and above efficiency, whereas most electrolyzers only operate at around 70 percent. That means will generate around 30 percent more hydrogen than most other technologies and that is a huge advantage….This is exactly what is new to the game.”

While the start-up is based in Israel, there is also for the potential to the firm to export the exciting new technology to Britain to help the UK meet its climate and energy targets on schedule. 

Prof Rothchild said: “In a year, we will produce 600 machines, and sell them to individual customers. Each one produces one megawatt (MW) of hydrogen, so 600MW a year will be produced by using these machines. We are definitely open to the world.

“Israel has a very small market for hydrogen and it is definitely not our market – it is global. The UK is a major player in the market of green hydrogen with a long history of promoting the technology in this field, so we are definitely interested in the UK.”

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