March 10, 2022

ZEPPELIN Mission: circular economy at the service of green hydrogen production

  • The industrial research project ZEPPELIN, led by AQUALIA with CETIM Technolgical Centre as technical office coordinator, will seek innovative, efficient and circular technological solutions for the green hydrogen production and storage.
  • The ZEPPELIN consortium is formed by 7 other leading companies that cover the entire hydrogen value chain: NATURGY, NORVENTO, PERSEO, REDEXIS, REGANOSA, TECNICAS REUNIDAS and REPSOL.
  • ZEPPELIN is financed by the Centre for Technological and Industrial Development (CDTI), through the CDTI Missions program, aimed at financing large strategic business R&D initiatives that propose solutions to cross-cutting and strategic challenges for Spanish society.

The Europe transformation into a climate-neutral continent by 2050 is one of the main social, technical and economic challenges we face today. To meet this goal, it’s necessary to seek renewable and more sustainable energy alternatives that compete in efficiency and cost with traditional energy production systems to meet the expected high energy demand.

In this context, AQUALIA leads the ZEPPELIN consortium with CETIM Technolgical Centre as technical office coordinatorwhose objectives are to investigate a set of new green hydrogen production technologies alternative to electrolysis and that promote circular economy by the valorization of waste and by-products from different sectors (agri-food, textiles, WWTPs, refineries…). New green hydrogen storage materials and modeling tools for the different technologies developed will also be developed. All this, aligned with the objective of reducing the energy, economic and environmental costs associated with the current production of hydrogen and promote a safe, efficient and clean energy.

ZEPPELIN has been granted by the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), dependent on the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, within the framework of a program aimed at supporting large strategic business R&D initiatives that propose solutions to transversal and strategic challenges to Spanish society. It has a budget of €7,894,266 and the investigation will last until the end of 2024.

ZEPPELIN’s ambition and impact on the energy transition

Currently, 96% of the hydrogen produced in the world comes from fossil sources and only 1% from renewable sources. Spain’s Hydrogen Roadmap calls for 25% of the hydrogen consumed by industry to be renewable by 2030 and will begin to power our trains, planes and vehicles.

Hydrogen production using ZEPPELIN technologies will offer Spain an annual circular green hydrogen generation potential of around 135.000 tons per year. Translated into practical examples, this is sufficient production for the Spanish industry to meet the objectives set out in the Hydrogen Roadmap, or to satisfy the energy needs of the entire Spanish railway network. In addition, it will contribute to Circular Economy policies and objectives, by revaluing more than 99 million tons of waste and 50 million tons of municipal wastewater.

From a socioeconomic point of view, ZEPPELIN will not only provide new technological tools to the energy and mobility sector. It will also stimulate economic activity and skilled employment in rural areas. In these areas, traditionally with few job opportunities and threatened by depopulation, ZEPPELIN will create new market niches, revaluing waste linked to the primary and food sectors as raw material for the energy sector.

A leading consortium that covers the entire hydrogen value chain

The ZEPPELIN project is formed by a consortium of leading Spanish companies at national and international level, with an important commercial and technological positioning in the entire hydrogen value chain.

AQUALIA, leader of the proposal, is one of the most important global players in the water sector. In ZEPPELIN, it will develop processes for dry reforming of surplus biogas and dark fermentation and microbial electrolysis from WWTP sludge and wastewater. NATURGY, being leaders in the gas sector and a reference in the electricity sector, will research in obtaining syngas (synthesis gas) through gasification technologies and in hydrogen separation to achieve hydrogen suitable for use. NORVENTO, as an expert in renewable energies, will research dark fermentation technologies and hydrogen purification processes. PERSEO, thanks to its experience in the development and design of processes for the waste valorization into value-added products, will be the company in charge of researching wet reforming technologies for the bioethanol produced. REDEXIS, a company with great expertise in the development of natural gas transportation and distribution networks, will be in charge of researching green hydrogen storage in form of ammonia. REGANOSA, a company dedicated to the transport and regasification of natural gas, will investigate storage processes in porous materials and will design a modeling tool for green hydrogen production. TÉCNICAS REUNIDAS, the largest engineering company in Spain, specialized in the development of advanced technologies for industrial processes, will also research the production of syngas through dry reforming of biogas and wet reforming of bioethanol, the optimization of hydrogen production in gasification and the CO2 purification and capture. REPSOL, being a Spanish multinational energy and petrochemical company, will investigate the production of biohydrogen through dark fermentation technologies and the syngas production through bioethanol wet reforming techniques.

First-level scientific and technological support

In addition to the business consortium, the scientific section stands out. CETIM, present in all preparation stages of ZEPPELIN and technical office responsible, is a Technological Centre specialized in the development of sustainability and circular economy technologies for the industry. In ZEPPELIN, CETIM will develop catalytic processes, research microbiological techniques, optimize fermentation and electrolysis processes, and work on biohydrogen purification processes. It will also formulate hydrogen storage materials and support proof-of-concept testing, performing technical, economic and environmental analysis of these technologies.

ZEPPELIN also involves the collaboration of 8 other highly specialized research organizations, with a complementary technological capacity of high scientific value for the project: CIDAUT, a leading center in R&D&I in the transport and energy sector; CIEMAT, a center for energy, environmental and technological research; EnergyLab, a technology center specialized in energy efficiency and sustainability; IMDEA Energía, an institute for sustainable and decarbonized energy development; ITMATI, an entity specialized in the development of industrial mathematics; ITQ, a joint research center of CSIC and UPV, a national reference in catalyst research; and the chemical engineering and environmental technology group of the University of Valladolid.

Thus, ZEPPELIN’s implementation will supply green hydrogen to the national industry and to our transport system, surpassing the production potential target set for 2030 by Spain’s Hydrogen Roadmap. By obtaining green hydrogen through circular routes, ZEPPELIN will improve the environmental sustainability of Spain’s industry and mobility. In addition, the offshore production of hydrogen will boost new businesses and promote skilled employment in rural areas of our country, threatened by depopulation.

The ZEPPELIN is supported by relevant companies, both public and private, which consider this initiative to be of maximum interest: Port Authority of the Bay of AlgecirasAlgeciras City CouncilAndalusian Energy AgencyGalician Innovation Agency (GAIN)Spanish Biogas Association (AEBIG), Spanish Hydrogen Association (AeH2), Galician Life Science Technology Business Cluster (BIOGA)Galician Renewable Energy Cluster (CLUERGAL)GASNAMTechnology Platform for Advanced Materials and Nanomaterials (MATERPLAT)SEDIGAS and Galician Cluster of Environmental Solutions and Circular Economy (VIRATEC).

The Science and Innovation Missions program

The CDTI’s Science and Innovation Missions program is part of the State R&D&I Plan approved in 2021 and aims to promote projects led by companies that develop relevant research capable of finding solutions to the main cross-cutting and strategic challenges of Spanish society, improving the knowledge and technology base on which Spanish companies rely to compete and stimulating public-private cooperation.

The program is fully aligned with the Spain 2050 initiative developed by the Spanish government, which defines the proposals needed to address the main challenges and problems that Spain will have to face in the next 30 years. 

The missions selected in this second call of the program focus on relevant aspects of two of the nine challenges set out in the Spain 2050 initiative, including “Becoming more productive for better growth” and “Becoming a carbon neutral, sustainable and climate change resilient society”.

This ZEPPELIN project has been granted by the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), within the framework of the 2021 call of the MISSIONS SCIENCE AND INNOVATION Program (Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan), and is supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The aid granted to the project is financed by the European Union through the Next GenerationEU Fund.

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