Roadside green cuttings from Germany’s Ruhr area will be used to produce hydrogen and electricity in a novel biomass demonstration plant.

Construction has begun on the 42 metre-high plant in Herten, known as Blue Tower, and which uses staged reforming technology suitable for various types of biomass feedstock. In the demonstartion plant it will use roadside green cuttings to produce so-called Blue Gas. The facility will have a capacity of 13 MWth.

In addition, the Blue Tower can produce up to 150 cubic meters of hydrogen per hour during a primary expansion stage from the Blue Gas, which is rich in the element at 40%-50%. This part of the facility is to be provided to the neighboring Technology Center – a project of the town at Ewald. The plant will save around 17.8 million cubic meters of natural gas per year, the company says.

During staged reforming, the raw materials are mostly converted into gas and a minimum amount of solids by thermolysis at temperatures of up to 950oC. The heat of reaction needed for thermolysis and reforming is gained mainly from combustion of the solid material.
H2Herten GmbH, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium Group, is developing the facility with a total investment of €24.6 million, which is being subsidized with €7.1 million by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Engineering company M+W Zander is tasked with design, procurement management, construction supervision and commissioning.

The aim of the plant is to prove that the technology is ready for the market, so that it can subsequently be marketed worldwide.

Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Mühlen, managing director of H2Herten, sees the Blue Tower in Herten as an internationally significant reference plant: ‘Our technology does not require any food or feeding stuff. Instead, it uses regenerative waste that is available almost everywhere. In contrast to standard biomass technology, this means that we can use very different types of feedstock, meaning in turn an almost unlimited number of potential locations around the world. In other regions, for example, olive stones and chicken manure can also be used.’