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Virent enters agreement with Shell Oil unit to make hydrogen with biomass

Madison, Wis. - One of the barriers to introducing the environmental benefits of the “hydrogen economy” is reducing the CO2 emissions associated with hydrogen production.

In an attempt to overcome this barrier, Virent Energy Systems of Madison has entered into a joint agreement with Shell Hydrogen, a subsidiary of Shell Oil Co., to further develop and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for hydrogen production.

Virent and Shell Hydrogen will collaborate on the development and testing of hydrogen systems targeted to fueling station applications at Virent's facilities in Madison and the Shell Westhollow Technology Center in Houston.

Initial deployment of the new technology at a Shell hydrogen fueling station could follow within several years.

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Today, the vast majority of hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, including natural gas and coal, which have higher CO2 emissions.

The Virent BioForming technology enables the economic production of hydrogen, among other fuels and chemicals, from renewable glycerol and sugar-based feedstocks.

The platform converts the carbohydrates in biomass into liquid fuels, fuel gases, and chemicals, all of which are products commonly made from fossil fuels. The end products can be used as transportation fuels, in industrial applications, or as components of goods made using non-renewable resources.

Eric Apfelbach, president and CEO of Virent, said the collaboration with Shell Hydrogen would not only speed development and deployment of its technology in hydrogen fueling station applications, but also in the broader industrial hydrogen market.

Virent's current research efforts are focused on developing production capabilities for biogasoline, sugar-based biodiesel, hydrogen, and propylene glycol.

The global market for distributed hydrogen is estimated at approximately 45 million tons annually. In addition to its use as an energy carrier in transportation applications, hydrogen is used as a building block in many chemical processes, predominately ammonia fertilizer production. It also is used in oil refineries to upgrade lower quality oil fractions into gasoline and diesel, and to remove sulphur contaminants.

Other applications include the manufacture of glass, vitamins, personal care products, lubricants, refined metals, and food products.

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