Chinese scientists produce desalination-free hydrogen from seawater

The South China Morning Post has reported that Chinese scientists have successfully developed a process of making hydrogen from seawater without desalination.
Christopher McFadden
Image of the offshore platform.


Chinese scientists have successfully developed a process of turning seawater into oxygen and hydrogen with the need for desalination, The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports. If true, the process could provide an exciting avenue for producing large amounts of hydrogen for energy production at pennies on the dollar. Moreover, the entire process is powered by renewable sources like wind and solar. Moreover, the entire process is figuratively "swimming" in raw materials as it is situated on an offshore platform.

Working with seawater to make hydrogen can be challenging due to its complex composition of microorganisms and suspended particles. This can result in low electrolysis efficiency and equipment lifespan. The Chinese team, however, utilized an innovative new hydrogen production technology process that forms the platform's beating heart. The nuts and bolts were previously published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature in November 2022.

The team behind the discovery includes Xie Heping from Shenzhen University and the state-owned Dongfang Electric Corporation. The newly developed hydrogen production offshore platform, known as "Dongfu Number One," is located in the southeastern waters of China, off the coast of Fujian province. This platform is designed to endure high waves and gusts of up to a force of eight on the Beaufort scale.

“It completed a 10-day continuous operation during its inaugural run in May, marking a promising start to the prospect of offshore hydrogen production powered by renewable energy,” reported the Chinese state news agency Xinhua earlier in June.

A floating production facility measures 678 feet2 (63 m2). It has been developed to incorporate an innovative design combining a hydrogen production system with a stable offshore wind power supply system, resulting in an eco-friendly farm electrolyzing seawater into hydrogen without any adverse side effects or pollution.

“This demonstration experiment validated the device’s anti-interference capacity and produced valuable data. The project is an exemplary case of transitioning from academic achievement to industrialization,” the report said.

According to the research team, after ten days of operation in seawater, the system managed to maintain an impressive ion rejection rate of over 99.99%, producing hydrogen that was at least 99.9% pure. To this end, the platform offers a cost-effective solution to current industrial production as it eliminates the need for desalination. If scaled up, it could produce hydrogen at around 11.2 yuan (US$1.57) per kilogram (2.2 pounds), significantly cheaper than the current mainstream cost of hydrogen production from natural gas, ranging from 20 to 24 yuan per kilogram.

“We have successfully integrated offshore renewable energy and achieved desalination-free seawater electrolysis in the real and complex ocean. Our team plans to develop a more efficient hydrogen production system that can withstand interference and promote its industrialization with global companies,” Xie said.

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