French startup Qairos Energies said it will invest nearly € 18,8 million ($ 23 million) in the planned hemp-based facility that will convert locally grown hemp into hydrogen and methane.
Based in Mareil-en-Champagne, Qairos said hydrogen production will be converted into electricity for fuel cells for buses and trains. The plant will also produce methane for Gaz Réseau Distribution France, the exclusive natural gas distributor in France and the largest distributor in Europe.
Pyrogasification for hemp-based energy
The facility, which will be located in Trangé, near Le Mans in northwestern France, is based on pyrogasification technology, an alternative to electrolysis. Pyrogasification consists of heating biomass at high temperatures in the presence of a small amount of oxygen, which converts the material into gas and simultaneously produces CO2 and heat. The waste-free process eliminates the tar that results from some refining methods.
Qairos said it was local hennep will purchase within a 35-kilometer radius of its Trangé facility, with members of Fermiers de Loué, an agricultural cooperative, supplying the biomass. The company conducted hemp trials in 2020 as part of setting up industrialization and development processes. Qairos said it will eventually require 1.000-acre hemp for full operations.
Access to energy network
The 3.500 square meter, 9 meter high facility has 15 meter high air inlets and outlets, and sits on a total industrial plot of 23.000 square meters. The company's building permit and other permits allow it to inject synthetic methane into France's energy network.
The plant will have a maximum production capacity of 3,6 tons of hydrogen per day, but the company said its goal is to produce about 2 tons of hydrogen per day and 200 cubic meters of methane. Qairos said 25 to 30 employees will be required to operate the new facility.
Kévin Collet, associate director at Qairos, said that while pyrogasification is already well established in Europe, the introduction of hemp-fired based in the production chain is an innovation.
The project has received support from investment bank Bpifrance and the Pays de la Loire region and continues to seek funding through KPMG.