The University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil will become home of the world’s first experimental refuelling station that will provide renewable hydrogen from ethanol, Shell Brasil announced recently.   

Expected to be operational in the second half of 2024, the pilot installation will be able to produce 4.5 kg of hydrogen an hour, which will mainly be used for the refuelling of up to three buses and a Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle. Construction was launched in August. 

The aim of the project is to demonstrate that ethanol can be a carrier for renewable hydrogen, leveraging the industry’s existing logistics, explained Shell Brasil’s president Cristiano Pinto da Costa.

Shell is partnering on the initiative with Hytron, which will provide an ethanol steam reformer for the conversion of ethanol into hydrogen, and Raizen, which will supply the ethanol, as well as SENAI CETIQT and the USP’s Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Innovation (RCGI).  

During the operation of the project, researchers will validate calculations regarding emissions and production costs. "Our current estimate is that the cost of producing hydrogen from ethanol is comparable to the cost of hydrogen reforming from natural gas in the Brazilian context,” Julio Meneghini, scientific director of RCGI, adding that emissions are comparable to those from using wind-generated electricity for water electrolysis.