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Plasma thermal decomposition (methane)


Technology Description

Methane splitting/pyrolysis/cracking is a thermochemical process in which methane is decomposed at high temperatures in H2 and solid carbon in the presence of a catalyst, thus generating CO2-free H2 since the carbon present in the methane is separated as a solid carbon that can be used in different applications. The plasma torch generates temperatures in excess of 2000°C, which is sufficient to break down the molecular bonds of methane, resulting in the formation of carbon (C) and hydrogen (H2). However, there are some challenges associated with thermal plasma methane pyrolysis. The process requires a significant amount of energy to maintain the plasma discharge, which can be expensive. The electric energy ignites the plasma (an ionised gas), which reaches temperatures in the range of 1 000-2 000°C and splits CH4 into its elements. Although this technology is based on plasma-arc reactors driven by electricity, there are other concepts based on the use of microwaves to heat the gas.

Relevance for Net Zero

Other alternative technologies for hydrogen production from fossil sources with CCS are far more developed and cost-competitive, although there may be some scope for its deployment thanks to the possibility of producing low-emission hydrogen with a simpler configuration than technologies incorporating CCUS

Key Countries

Germany, United States

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