Shell initiative to produce hydrogen from ethanol in Brazil
Photo courtesy of Shell Brasil

Shell initiative to produce hydrogen from ethanol in Brazil

Shell Brasil, together with Raízen, Hytron, the University of São Paulo (USP) and SENAI CETIQT, announced a partnership to develop a technology capable of transforming ethanol into green hydrogen.

Their partnership aims to validate the production technology through the construction of two plants designed to produce 5 kg/h of hydrogen and, later, the implementation of a plant 10 times larger (44.5 kg/h).

The agreement includes the first green hydrogen vehicle supply station based on ethanol from Brazil and the world at USP, to supply buses that circulate around the campus in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. The buses used by students and visitors to the campus will no longer use diesel and traditional internal combustion engines but rather hydrogen produced from ethanol and engines equipped with fuel cells.

Scheduled to start operating in 2023, the initiative constitutes a low carbon solution for heavy transport, including trucks and buses, with the first hydrogen ethanol fueling station in Brazil and in the world.

Together with Shell, Raízen will be responsible for leading the development of the market of hydrogen from ethanol. Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel.

Hydrogen will be produced from ethanol in an innovative way using biofuel supplied by Raízen and a technology developed and manufactured by Hytron, which currently belongs to the German Neuman & Esser Group (NEA Group), with support from SENAI CETIQT’s SENAI Institute for Innovation in Biosynthetics and Fibers, and Shell’s funding.

“We are excited to see that a project that began as a dream of students within the university is now becoming a high-impact solution for the energy transition in Brazil and the world,” said Hytron’s CEO, Marcelo Veneroso.

Currently, hydrogen is predominantly used in the chemical industry and is produced from natural gas in industrial units close to refineries. In the future, H2 produced from renewable electricity, such as solar and wind, is expected to play a critical role in the decarbonization of several industrial and heavy transport segments.

However, the transport of this product is complex, since it requires compression or liquefaction for storage in cylinders or trucks, making logistics more expensive. In light of that, the production of hydrogen through ethanol conversion constitutes an advance in the availability of renewable fuels through a new technological route for the expansion of sustainable solutions in Brazil and in the world.

“This is a pioneering initiative for large-scale production of renewable hydrogen from ethanol,” said Julio Romano Meneghini, executive and scientific director of USP’s Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Innovation (RCGI).

Through this agreement for the production of green hydrogen, the companies are entering a new phase in the production of renewable energy, contributing to the decarbonization of the economy and expanding their product portfolios.

“This technology can be easily installed at conventional gas stations, without requiring changes in the distribution infrastructure, ensuring that hydrogen will be ready to fuel vehicles quickly and safely,” said Shell Brasil’s Low Carbon Energy Manager and Vice Executive Director of the RCGI Alexandre Breda. “The use of hydrogen is not restricted to the transport sector and will benefit other segments in Brazil, when it comes to replacing fossil energy sources,” he said.

The project will be financed by Shell Brasil, through the ANP Research and Development clause, with an investment of approximately BRL50 million (USD9.7 million).