Hydrogen is currently produced by two methods: (1) steam methane reforming SMR of massive volumes natural gas and (2) electrolysis of water which is already to expensive for the refining industry. Steam reformation of natural gas is by far the most prevalent method of producing hydrogen for such uses as the upgrading of heavy oil, sulphur removal and refining operations. As natural gas becomes shorter in supply its use for such applications will become even more expensive. Therefore many companies are aggressively investigating ways to produce hydrogen in other ways.


Syngas has access through its exclusive license to a very innovative method to inexpensively produce hydrogen referred to as the PyStR (Pyrolitic Steam Reforming) process. This process can directly produce high purity hydrogen from biomass and other carbonaceous feed stocks such as oil sands, coal and petroleum coke.

The PtStR technology involves the simultaneous pyrolysis and steam reforming of virtually any solid, liquid or gaseous fuel. Its products include separate high purity streams of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen in a relatively low cost stainless steel or refractory lined vessel.

The PyStR, pronounced “pie star,” technology has the potential to significantly reduce hydrogen costs to levels much less than present steam methane reforming methods. The technology can use carbonaceous materials other than methane to produce hydrogen. PyStR can directly produce nearly pure hydrogen in a single step; it does not require shift catalysts, separation membranes, oxygen separation, catalytic hot & cold shift reactors, pressure swing adsorption towers or liquefaction pressures. Hydrogen embrittlement is avoided altogether by combining pyrolysis with reforming in a direct contact refractory lined vessel. This eliminates the greatest system maintenance cost associated with current conventional technologies. In addition, it utilizes a very dense phase continuous closed circuit recycle regeneration loop with an advanced solids/gas separation moving bed filter which eliminates the need for a separate solids removal system.

Key to the PyStR process is its use of calcium for carbon separation from steam reformed hydrogen gas. The carbonation reaction is more exothermic than the reforming reactions are endothermic. Thus hydrogen can be directly formed in a hot sink of jetting lime by continuous feeding of reactants. The PyStR process involves 3 innovative steps. In step 1, fuel and steam are fed directly into the heat sink of lime sorbent. As the solid fuel pyrolyzes, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide immediately react with calcium oxide to form limestone while near pure hydrogen exists the reactor vessel along with some excess steam. Step 2 involves an innovative separation of solids from gases and removal of ash from the process. Step 3, or calcination, includes another innovative PyStR process wherein a small portion of product hydrogen is combusted in air resulting in near pure nitrogen and water stream as well as a separate near pure carbon dioxide stream produced in an indirect jetting calciner. Below is a picture of a pilot Pystr unit as well as a schematic diagram of the process:

To date the PyStR has produced hydrogen by steam reforming biomass fuels, charcoal, wood chips and shredded elephant grass. The PyStR has also achieved very high solids/gas separation efficiencies in an innovative, continuous process without the need for bags or electrostatic precipitation.

One further note: PyStR is even more attractive in applications where there is a use for the produced, pure carbon dioxide stream, such as for enhanced recovery from conventional oil wells.


We estimate that the Syngas Pystr process will be able to produce hydrogen in the range of $0.65/kg, which is less than current production costs from methane steam reforming plants. In addition, by producing hydrogen from biomass, a renewable source, we will be able to take advantage of carbon credit trading, which will greatly enhance these already stellar economics, also significant incremental revenues will be realized by the petroleum upgrading industry since valuable natural gas will not be consumed to generate hydrogen, instead these massive volumes of natural gas will be sold to market thus increasing profits.