Distretto Circolare Verde

Low carbon hydrogen | Nextchem

NextChem, the ideal link between the electrons’ world and the world of molecules for the decarbonization of industry

Hydrogen is establishing itself as a key element for the energy transition. Hydrogen, in fact, is at the center of the challenges related to global warming. Its characteristics make hydrogen a fundamental energy carrier, as it is usable as a fuel and as a chemical raw material in many industrial processes, it is storable and transportable over long distances.

According to the forecasts published in November 2021 by the Hydrogen Council, by 2050 the demand for renewable or low-carbon hydrogen could reach about 660 million tons, constituting 22% of the final energy demand at global level. It will play a key role in the decarbonization process, it can be used in the transport sector, as a raw material in several industrial sectors such as steel or chemical, or as a building block to produce different products, such as fertilizers.

In 2020, global hydrogen demand reached 90 Mt, almost entirely satisfied by natural gas reforming, coal gasification and lignite production. In the same year, given the dominant presence of fossil sources, the production of hydrogen has emitted 900 Mt of climate- changing emissions in the atmosphere (IEA, 2021).

To face up to the global challenges of the industry’s decarbonization through hydrogen, NextChem has adopted a unique business model able to meet the needs of the new developing hydrogen market. Relying on the capabilities of the Maire Tecnimont Group, NextChem is positioned both as a project developer and co-investor in the project development, as industrializer and integrator of innovative technologies, and finally as an EPC contractor in the realization steps.

Thanks to the technical expertise of a leader engineering company in the energy, petrochemical and fertilizer sectors, Maire Tecnimont represents the ideal link between the world of renewables and the world of the process industry and is positioned through NextChem as the optimal partner for any type of end-to-end project related to the decarbonization of industrial processes.

Regarding the projects involving the production and the use of renewable or low-emission hydrogen, NextChem’s offer is divided into several levels:

Thanks to the Group’s organization which integrates various companies with different expertise, Maire Tecnimont through NextChem is able to develop, engineer and realize renewable hydrogen-based solutions, including the entire value chain. NextChem’s offer includes both the realization of plants to produce renewable energy (solar and wind farm, through Neosia Renewables) and plants for the production of high value-added chemicals which use renewable or low carbon hydrogen as feedstock.

NextChem has developed three technologies to produce three different types of low carbon and renewable hydrogen, which allow a significant emissions’ reduction.

The first one is ElectricBlue HydrogenTM , based on traditional know-how but which involves the use of electricity to feed the endothermic reactions of methane steam reforming. The architecture of the ElectricBlue HydrogenTM is very similar to that of the steam reformer, but the innovation is, beyond the CO2 capture, the electrification of the process, to which is added the possibility to use feedstock from renewable sources to provide the heat for the reaction. ElectricBlue HydrogenTM can significantly reduce the amount of CO2 emitted compared to the traditional process. In addition, thanks to an effective process of capturing CO2 , carried out with a higher partial pressure, it is possible to achieve a further reduction of the CO2 emitted and the energy required for the process is lower.

This technology allows to:



NextChem also has in its portfolio the production of hydrogen by electrolysis powered by energy from renewable sources, the so-called green hydrogen. The electrolysis of water is an electrochemical process that allows to transform electrical energy into chemical energy. It is the most sustainable version of hydrogen, whose costs of energy supply from RES and electrifier are decreasing over time, although the use of energy from RES and its supply discontinuity have a direct effect on production costs, still too high compared to the production costs of grey hydrogen production. However, the interest in the technology is growing, green hydrogen competes with both fossil fuels and other shades of hydrogen, because it is the only zero-carbon option. For a widespread application of hydrogen, it is important to produce a sufficient volume to meet the demand of the industry, using sectoral synergies, investing in the size of costs and providing flexibility to the energy system. It is important that the main players are EPC contractors, because of their knowledge of each step of processes and technologies functional to the production.

NextChem is developing different projects to produce green hydrogen and its integration into low carbon chemical processes, including the realization of a plant in the United States with Enel Green Power North America, Inc. (EGPNA). The project provides the supply of renewable energy from the solar plant of EGPNA in America for the production of green hydrogen for a bio- refinery (To read the press release click here). In 2021 NextChem and MYTILINEOS signed an agreement for the engineering activities for the development of a green hydrogen production plant via electrolysis in Italy. The plant will provide local buyers with an alternative carbon neutral energy carrier which could allow a real decarbonization of hard to abate sectors (To read the press release click here).

A complementary path that NextChem is developing facing the need of low carbon hydrogen production is represented by Circular HydrogenTM. Circular HydrogenTM is produced by syngas, obtained by the chemical conversion of carbon and hydrogen contained in waste (in Refuse Derived Fuel, in the dry fraction of urban solid waste, in non-recyclable plastic materials, or in waste materials from recycling operations).

Circular HydrogenTM has significant environmental benefits as it can be one of the solutions for the problem of non-recyclable waste, currently sent to incineration or disposed in landfill. The production costs are competitive compared to traditional hydrogen. The synergy between the two sectors, that of waste management and disposal and that of the chemical industry, is translated into a very promising technology. This technology is well adapted to the principles of the circular economy and allows to achieve a high overall reduction of the environmental impact, if compared to the traditional approach of waste incineration and conventional synthesis of chemicals from fossil raw materials. Plants for the production of circular hydrogen could be located in traditional energy-intensive industrial sites, such as refineries, and they can contribute to their decarbonization, or close to waste sorting plants by optimizing logistical processes and reducing carbon footprint also in transport.

For more information on Waste to Hydrogen and Waste to Chemical technology: https://nextchem.it/what-we-do/technologies/waste-chemicals

NextChem has integrated Waste to Chemical technology into the Green Circular District model. To discover more about the technology and model visit https://www.distrettocircolareverde.it/tecnologie/

The Green Circular District model expanded in July 2020, when NextChem and LanzaTech signed an agreement to produce circular ethanol through the chemical conversion of hydrogen and carbon in Plasmix and RDF. With LanzaTech’s syngas fermentation technology, ethanol is produced by bacteria, transforming the Circular Gas™ at a low temperature and low pressure, improving the sustainability of the entire process. NextChem will exclusively license this technology for Italy with targeted agreements for foreign markets. The circular ethanol produced from this process can be mixed with gasoline, replacing fossil components, with a lower carbon footprint. When produced from dry waste containing non-fossil fractions, 40% of circular ethanol can be regarded as “advanced”, according to the European Renewable Energy Directive. Ethanol, all of which is imported in Italy, is also an important intermediate for a number of chemical components, such as ethyl acetate and alcohol used as a disinfectant.

Together with its subsidiary MyReplast Industries, NextChem has launched the MyReplastTM brand, showcasing its proprietary Upcycling technology and product portfolio, which includes granulates and flakes made from recycled polymers. MyReplastTM Upcycling is NextChem’s innovative technology that combines mechanical recycling with chemical processing. This technology is in use in a plant run by MyReplast Industries, a NextChem subsidiary, in Bedizzole (Brescia). It has a capacity of 40,000 tons per year and a recycling efficiency of around 95%. It allows for flexible production of premium quality bespoke products, made according to customer specifications, using post-consumer hard plastic. Available as granulates and flakes, these new recycled products have similar chemical and physical properties to virgin polymers derived from fossil sources.

To meet the market’s needs, NextChem recently launched its new subsidiary, MyRechemical, which offers the most innovative technological solutions for the circular economy. MyRechemical uses chemistry for the non-recyclable plastics and also employs waste to chemical processes. It’s also fully dedicated to chemical waste conversion processes to produce hydrogen, methanol, ethanol and circular derivatives. Through this additional initiative, NextChem can offer a complete and integrated platform to recover all types of plastic waste on an industrial scale. The circular products obtained through recovery by chemical waste conversion cuts CO2 emissions when used as a substitute for hydrocarbon products and avoids the emissions created through the incineration of waste, thereby increasing its recycling rate.

Speaking of electrolysis, NextChem and Enel Green Power North America, Inc. (EGPNA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding linked to a project for the production of green hydrogen by electrolysis, which is expected to be operational in 2023. The project will use renewable energy generated by one of the EGPNA solar plants in the United States, to produce the green hydrogen that will be supplied to a biorefinery. Under the agreement, NextChem will act as a technological and engineering partner, as well as a full turnkey EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) contractor, providing Enel Green Power with the technical assistance needed for the project’s development and implementation.

NextChem and JFE Engineering Corporation have signed an agreement for the production of low-carbon-footprint chemicals, with the aim of providing an integrated technology platform for waste-to-chemical technology. The aim of the agreement is to jointly develop a model that views waste as a resource to produce advanced fuels, fertilizers and low-carbon chemicals. The chemical conversion process of waste into syngas and the use of this intermediate to produce circular hydrogen, advanced fuels and many other products contributes to the decarbonisation of production processes and improves the carbon footprint when products reach their final use.