In the pursuit of untapped renewable energy, Chinese researchers have achieved a significant milestone by developing a technology that transforms seawater into hydrogen and oxygen.
The landmark initiative, orchestrated by Shenzhen University's Xie Heping in collaboration with the state-operated Dongfang Electric Corporation, introduces an offshore platform that successfully exploits both solar and wind energy to utilize seawater without necessitating desalination.
The platform, named "Dongfu Number One," resides off the southeast coast of China in Fujian province. It's engineered to withstand wind gusts up to Beaufort 8 strength and significant wave surges.
Per the South China Morning Post, the platform's footprint spans 63 square meters (approximately 678 square feet) and combines a hydrogen production system with an offshore wind energy supply mechanism. The innovative design allows the platform to convert seawater into hydrogen via electrolysis, creating an environmentally-friendly floating farm without any harmful byproducts.
In November, an article published in the reputable journal Nature by Xie's team detailed the intricate technology underpinning the platform. Seawater, being a complex mix of microorganisms and suspended particulates, often hampers the electrolysis efficiency and longevity of the equipment. Traditional methods, employed by countries such as the Netherlands and Germany, resort to desalinating seawater first before using the resulting freshwater to produce hydrogen, which adds complexity and cost.
In a significant leap, this pioneering project has succeeded in producing hydrogen from seawater electrolysis on an offshore floating platform in Fujian province, as per multiple reports. During a test run overseen by the Dongfang Electric Corporation, the floating platform managed to generate hydrogen continuously for over 240 hours, the results of which were authenticated by a team of experts from the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), according to China Global Television Network (CGTN).
The systems managed to withstand high winds, waves reaching up to a meter, and heavy rainfall. Notably, the majority of projects using seawater typically require desalination apparatus.
Earlier this year, an international research team led by Professor Shizhang Qiao and Associate Professor Yao Zheng from the University of Adelaide's School of Chemical Engineering announced their successful production of green hydrogen by splitting seawater without pre-treatment.
China is anticipating a surge in hydrogen demand up to 100 million tons annually by 2060. In response to this anticipated demand, China will establish an integrated pipeline network to transport hydrogen from the northern and northwestern regions, rich in solar and wind energy, to the south and eastern markets, per Up Stream Online.
Li Guohui, vice president of China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering Corporation (CPPEC), stated last week at China's World Hydrogen Technology Convention that a comprehensive 6,000-kilometer pipeline network will be in place by 2050, connecting several regions and cities across China. This will serve as a national hydrogen pipeline infrastructure, providing access to hydrogen asset owners and traders.
One of these proposed pipelines, constructed by Sinopec, will transport renewable hydrogen produced in Inner Mongolia to Beijing consumers. The ambitious pipeline plans signal a significant stride towards a greener future.