PowerHouse has begun plans to develop a network of up to 200 waste-to-hydrogen (H2) plants around the UK.

Within 10 years, PowerHouse intends to propel the UK’s burgeoning H2 economy whilst assisting the country with its build-up of waste plastic.

The proposed plants are compact, so they can be built close to the source of waste, and do not produce harmful by-products or require a smokestack. Each unit is designed to consume about 25 tonnes a day of waste plastic or used tyres.

The UK currently exports 500,000 tonnes of waste plastic each year for recycling overseas but much of this plastic isn’t recycled. The Chinese government recently announced it would no longer accept waste plastic from the UK.

Keith Allaun, the CEO of PowerHouse Energy, says, “It’s an absolute scandal that the UK exports waste plastic. Much of it won’t be recycled, there’s a carbon footprint to shipping it and the plastic recycling industry in the third world is one of human misery.”

“Around 300m tonnes of new plastic is manufactured each year so waste plastic is a problem that’s not going to go away: we need sustainable technologies to recycle, transform or destroy it,” Allaun continued.

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The soulution

PowerHouse Energy has developed a suitable solution called Distributed Modular Gasification (DMG), a proprietary technology designed to transform waste plastic as well as used car tyres, into H2 and electricity in an environmentally benign way. In fact, the DMG system can be used to generate electricity from almost any waste stream.

Keith Allaun says, “the H2 economy has been held back by the cost of producing and transporting H2 and also by the fact that current H2 production produces significant quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Our system produces H2 much more cheaply, at about the same cost as diesel, and produces one sixteenth of CO2 produced by standard processes’.

The DMG system is based on gasification, a method in which ultra-high temperatures are used to decarbonise waste such as plastic and turn it into synthesis gas, or ‘syngas’. PowerHouse’s technology modulates this syngas to produce H2 on a very high purity, which has been independently confirmed as road fuel quality. The company hopes to target the H2-powered fuel cell vehicles market with this product.

PowerHouse’s business model is to build, own and operate DMG facilities in the UK. At each of these facilities, the company would receive a gate fee for receiving waste and then convert the waste into H2 and green electricity for onward sale. The production costs of DMG H2 would be about £3 per kilo, compared with a current H2 price of about £12 a kilo.

The company estimates it could open 500 sites in the next 10 years and is also exploring the potential for the technology to be licensed worldwide.

Keith Allaun says, “2018 will be a tremendously exciting year with the development of our first commercial DMG system on a site in Chester. We are on the threshold of delivering on our vision of kick-starting the H2 economy through a profitable business based on the eradication of waste plastic.”