Pilot Trials for electrochemical production of MCH

February 22nd, 2022

R&D Focus Areas:
Whole supply chain, Energy systems integration

Lead Organisation:
Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Partners:
ENEOS (Japan)

Status:
Active

Start date:
Phase 1: December 2018
Phase 2: November 2019

Completion date:
Phase 1: March 2019
Phase 2: Estimated December 2024

Key contacts:
Professor Ian Mackinnon – ian.mackinnon@qut.edu.au
PV Data Analytics – Associate Professor Dezso Sera (QUT)
Michelle Gane (03/2019 – 02/2023)

Funding:
ENEOS and QUT

Project total cost:
Approximately AUD$750,000

Project summary description:
This ‘proof of concept’ research project involves the production and export of ‘green’ hydrogen to Japan (in early 2019) via a substance called methyl cyclohexane (MCH) – Phase 1; more recently, scaled-up MCH production process testing has occurred (Phase 2).

In March 2019, it was announced that QUT and Japanese petroleum conglomerate JXTG (now known as Eneos) has taken part in a ‘proof of concept’ research project involving the production and export of ‘green’ hydrogen to Japan.

The proof-of-concept test involved combining proprietary technology owned by Eneos with QUT’s solar power facilities at Redlands. The Eneos researchers used QUT’s 30 kW Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) array as well as a standard 3 kW Si-PV array also operating at Redlands.

The green hydrogen was created by adding water and acid to a chemical called toluene in an electrochemical process using solar energy. The toluene was converted into a substance called methyl cyclohexane (MCH) using the Eneos process powered by QUT’s solar arrays.  MCH has the look and feel of oil and can be transported using conventional means such as road tankers, pipelines and tankers.

More recently as Phase 2 of this project, Eneos and QUT undertook a higher-scale electrochemical treatment of toluene powered by renewable energy to produce MCH. This 10x scale-up of the process has provided valuable process detail on MCH production rates that enables engineering design of a future full-scale pilot plant planned to be located in Queensland. Phase 2 also includes installation of 200kWe of PV power to enable high resolution, long-term data on power outputs at a location similar to the intended installation of next scale pilot plant for direct-MCH production via electrolysis in South East Queensland.

Once shipped to Japan, the MCH is converted back to toluene and the hydrogen extracted for use in a fuel cell or vehicles. The toluene is then available for re-use in the transportation cycle. The green hydrogen was extracted from transported MCH at Chiyoda Corp’s facilities in Yokohama and used in a Toyota Mirai to visit a high school in Saitama Prefecture. Professors Sugiyama and Mackinnon gave presentations on clean energy for the future to assembled dignitaries and students at the high school.

Design and contracting for installation of 200kWe solar PV at the Redlands site is completed. Installation and commissioning of the PV system is expected in QTR 1 2023. Ongoing data collation and analysis will commence on commissioning.

Related publications and key links:
Media Releases
Brisbane Courier Mail – “Deal demonstrates successful export of renewable hydrogen, paving way for new industry” March 28th, 2019 (further reports in PV Magazine, Manufacturers Monthly, Renew Economy, Mirage News, Stockhead etc).

Chiyoda Corp/ENEOS/QUT – “Successfully Scaled Up an Australian CO2-Free Hydrogen Supply Chain Demonstration using Direct MCH” November 2nd, 2021. https://www.chiyodacorp.com/media/0b910493999712ab03108ecf7a5d365b.pdf

Higher degree studies supported:
Not applicable

 

Reviewed: June 2023