Sugar Reformed as a Source of Hydrogen

Sugar is good for many things, but when it comes to energy production the first thing many people think of is that late afternoon candy bar or fruit drink. Virent Energy Systems is developing a demonstration system capable of converting sugar into power through an Aqueous-Phase Reforming (APR) process, which is a simplified, carbon neutral one-step method for chemically converting widely available sugar-based liquids into hydrogen and other fuel gases for distributed power systems.

The final system will integrate a Virent APR System with a hydrogen/natural gas fueled generator set that will deliver 5 kW of power to the power grid of Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) at Virent’s headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. Virent said they are dedicated to enabling the hydrogen economy by dramatically increasing energy densities and eliminating hydrogen storage issues through widespread use of its APR process. Virent’s system offers a cost effective method for production of hydrogen and fuel gas using renewable biomass, according to the company’s press release. Through increased energy densities and reduced energy and equipment costs this process can be used for distributed power systems, fuel stations, or offer on-board reformation. By demonstrating the capability of localized, on-demand hydrogen delivery, Virent said the system is a promising first step to addressing the formidable hydrogen storage and transport issues that have historically limited widespread adoption of hydrogen-based energy systems. Funding for both the system and integration to the grid will be provided in part by MGE. Eric Apfelbach, Chief Executive Officer of Virent, offered that the project is the first opportunity to validate the effectiveness of the APR process in a live environment. MGE is a public utility that generates and distributes electricity to nearly 132,000 customers in Dane County and purchases and distributes natural gas to more than 129,000 customers in seven south-central and western Wisconsin counties.

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