The current efficiency level of the H2 production is around 60-70%. The goal of the task is to develop hydrogen production technology with an efficiency higher than 75% including capture of CO2 to lower emissions from the H2 industry.

The conventional way to commercially produce hydrogen (H2) is to extract it from natural gas by reforming of methane . Although H2 is environmental friendly in itself, the greenhouse gas CO2 is a biproduct of H2 production from fossil sources. The efficiency level of the H2 production currently lies around 60-70%. The goal of this task is to develop hydrogen production technology with an efficiency higher than 75% including capture of CO2 to lower emissions from the H2 industry.

Our aim is to establish a modular Steam Methane Reformer (SMR), which is used to produce H2, based on ceramic Protonic Membrane Reformer (PMR) technology. In this process, we want to identify and improve on the most critical material performance and stability issues of the membrane and seals under SMR operating conditions at around 800 °C as well as modelling the PMR module and its integration.

As this is pre-combustion capture technology, it relates to both Deployment cases.

We collaborate closely with industry partner CoorsTek Membrane Sciences who develops the PMR technology. Professors Harry Tuller and Bilge Yildiz (Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) are also associated with the task.

Main results 2019

PMR experiments at lower temperatures for the first time

In 2019, we managed to perform catalytic PMR experiments at lower temperatures (750 and 700°C) for the first time, for comparison with the standard operation at 800°C (left figure). Methane conversion of 98.7% was achieved and the catalytic data corresponds well with thermodynamic equilibrium at the highest hydrogen recoveries (>95%). These results are important for further optimization of the PMR operating conditions. Specifically, lower operating temperature may translate to improved lifetime and reduced cost of materials and components in the PMR modules.

Improvements to experimental setup

The task-team has made several upgrades to the setup for detailed characterization of PMR membranes. We achieved high quality electrical measurements which provides the main input for further development of membrane cells with improved electrochemical performance. This work also benefits the long-term PMR testing that is planned within KPN MACH-2.

Modelling of membranes and modules

Simulations of PMR membranes and thermally integrated modules are being pursued to benchmark and improve the PMR hydrogen production process. Single-tube PMR simulations were performed for detailed temperature and gas composition profiles along membrane length, and for the role of gas inlet temperature. The results demonstrated the importance of thermal integration of PMR modules, and a simulation framework for a thermally integrated SEU – containing 36 membrane segments – was established for isothermal conditions.

Left: PMR test of single membrane at 700 °C showing CH4 conversion and CO/CO2 yield as a function of hydrogen recovery, as well as Faradaic efficiency (FE) and the difference in temperature at the center and outlet of the membrane relative to the process temperature (700 °C). Right: Module containing 36 membrane segments.

Results 2018

Main Results

  • Performance targets defined for a single PMR membrane for testing in NCCS, and for commercial deployment of the PMR technology.
  • Several modification and improvements to the experimental setup have been performed amid significant challenges with the experimental setup.
  • Simulation model for CoorsTek membranes was developed for modelling of PMR membrane and reactor.
  • Paper on theoretical studies of CO2 and H2O co-adsorption on membrane surface accepted for publication.

Impact and innovations

  • Knowledge of possible critical role of coke deposition in membrane anode.


Single tubular PMR membrane (dark grey) with electrode (light grey) and Cu-wire as current collector. PMR test could not be completed due failure of the membrane (cracked at the top), ascribed to unstable steam supply and coke deposition in the inner electrode.
Schematic of the various components of the membrane described in the simulation model.

Results 2017

The task deals with development of the Protonic Membrane Reformer (PMR) technology by CoorsTek Membrane Sciences which allows hydrogen production with CO2 capture in a modular steam methane reformer.

The work aims to identify and improve material stability and performance issues of the ceramic membrane and seals under PMR operating conditions and thermal cycling.

A membrane unit at SINTEF was upgraded for testing of electrochemical membranes provided by CoorsTek and commissioned for PMR test conditions (800 °C and 10 bar pressure with a steam to carbon ratio of 2.5). A single-segment tubular membrane was tested under PMR conditions and further improvements were made to the setup.

A paper was submitted on atomistic studies of CO2 adsorption on the BaZrO3-based membrane material in connection with a research visit at MIT supported by CLIMIT and other RCN projects.

Journal Publications




Task leader

Jonathan Polfus

Senior Research Scientist
Jonathan Polfus
Senior Research Scientist
400 61 363
Sustainable Energy Technology