Ethanol to Hydrogen, A Double Duty Fuel

Ethanol is commonly touted as an alternative fuel suitable for any vehicle. Researchers from the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) have produced hydrogen from the corn-based product, however, and that could shift ethanol into a whole new fuel market.

For the past six months GTI engineers have done research to demonstrate the potential of its fuel processor technology that is used to generate hydrogen from a variety of renewable fuels. A steam powered two-step, reforming-shift fuel processor is used for the conversion. “We believe GTI is now strongly positioned to develop and deploy both stationary and transportation energy systems utilizing ethanol to hydrogen reformation,” said Gerry Runte, who is the executive director of GTI’s Hydrogen Systems Center. “We were able to produce a high-quality hydrogen gas from ethanol, similar to results using natural gas, and demonstrated our process to representatives of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).” GTI is also developing a fueling station platform for a natural gas to hydrogen fueling station, and the institute would like to create an ethanol to hydrogen station based off of the same plans. Researchers are also pursuing the use of ethanol for stationary fuel cell demonstrations. “Ethanol has the potential to be an integral part of the emerging hydrogen economy. Its properties make it an excellent liquid fuel for the extraction of hydrogen,” said Runte. The institute has over three decades of experience in converting a variety of fuels into hydrogen, according to the company press release. They use an optional passive carbon monoxide (CO) control system that consistently produces less than 4 ppm CO without requiring complicated control systems. The unit is adaptable to use either fuel cell anode recycle gas or pressure swing adsorption off-gas recovery for efficient supplemental heat generation.
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