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Sumitomo Chemical jointly developing microwave-based pyrolysis process for “turquoise” hydrogen

| By Mary Bailey

Sumitomo Chemical Co. (Tokyo, Japan) and Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd. have started joint development of a process to produce hydrogen by pyrolyzing methane through the use of microwaves, aiming to begin commercial production in the early 2030s, with a capacity of several tens of thousands of tons per year.

Hydrogen obtained by the pyrolysis of methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG), is known as turquoise hydrogen. One advantage of this pyrolysis process is that it simultaneously yields valuable solid carbons, such as carbon black and carbon nanotubes. On the other hand, the methane pyrolysis reaction requires a large amount of heat, making the reduction of energy used in production a major challenge.

A microwave, a type of electromagnetic wave, can directly and selectively heat objects in a reactor from their inside by rotating their molecules and atoms. Compared to other processes that indirectly heat objects in a reactor from their outside, the pyrolysis process using microwaves has greater potential to reduce the energy required to produce hydrogen, as well as CO2 emissions, while also offering higher scalability for commercial production. This joint development aims to establish an energy-saving and highly efficient hydrogen production process by 2026 by combining Sumitomo Chemical’s catalyst and chemical process design technology with Microwave Chemical’s microwave platform technology. The two companies have already started laboratory-scale experiments at Microwave Chemical.

Committed to its grand design for carbon neutrality in 2050 announced in December 2021, Sumitomo Chemical is striving to fulfill its obligation to reduce the GHG emissions from the Group to near zero and its contribution to driving carbon neutrality across society through the Group’s products and technologies, by utilizing the technology and expertise that it has accumulated as a diversified chemical company. Sumitomo Chemical will continue to accelerate its research and development efforts, actively leveraging external technologies by partnering with academia and start-up companies.

Microwave Chemical is advancing its “C NEUTRALT 2050 design” initiative toward achieving carbon neutrality, aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 90% compared to conventional processes that use fossil resources by combining electrification using renewable energy with microwave processes. Microwave Chemical is a leader in the effort to replace conventional petrochemical processes, which entail a large amount of CO2 emissions and energy consumption, with microwave processes.