Technological Centre

ZEPPELIN: Green hydrogen production from industrial and urban by-products

CETIM scientifically coordinates the research project that develops disruptive alternative technologies to the main production method of renewable gas, water electrolysis.

Biohydrogen production ‘batch’ test for ZEPPELIN project.

Climate change and the need to decarbonise our society are pushing the development of new technologies and tools, applicable at industrial level and with a low carbon footprint. Meanwhile, events such as the Ukraine war or COVID-19 health crisis have led to a shortage of raw materials, indispensable for human life, and inflation, including energy and especially, natural gas. For this reason, the European Commission has created a strategy featuring measures to move towards an ecological transition and to achieve climate neutrality in the European Union by 2050.

ZEPPELIN project, funded by Centre for Technological and Industrial Development (Ministry of Science and Innovation) through Missions program, aims to offer industry solutions that address both the high price of energy and climate change. Specifically, a set of new green hydrogen production technologies are being investigated, that are alternative to water electrolysis and that promote the circular economy through the recovery of waste and by-products from different sectors (agri-food, textiles, WWTPs, refineries, etc.).

In addition, project is developing new green hydrogen storage materials and modelling tools for these technologies. All of this, with ultimate goal is to reduce the energy, economic and environmental costs derived from the current production of hydrogen and thus it achieves to promotion of safe, efficient and clean energy.

A leading industries consortium led by AQUALIA is working on this ambitious initiative, featuring CETIM’s collaboration as technical office coordinator, together with REPSOL, NATURGY, TÉCNICAS REUNIDAS, REDEXIS, REGANOSA, PERSEO and NORVENTO.

Innovation and new technologies

ZEPPELIN establishes new green hydrogen production models, complementary to water electrolysis and as well as it dissociated from the use of high-quality water and integrated into a decarbonised energy model under the principles of circular economy and digitalisation. Similarly, the project addresses different technological challenges related to biogas and bioethanol reforming, dark fermentation, microbial electrolysis, gasification and hydrogen storage.

Specifically, at CETIM we are currently researching the hydrogen production with two main technologies use: dark fermentation and microbial electrolysis. In the first case, we are studying production of this chemical element from agri-food sector waste (such as dairy waste, prunings or sewage sludge), we are using a microorganisms mixed culture. As for microbial electrolysis technology, we combine biological and electrochemical mechanisms to produce hydrogen through organic matter in an aqueous effluent oxidation thanks to electrogenic bacteria. In this last process, besides we are obtaining H2, we manage to treat wastewater.

Likewise, in the initiative we will analyse the storage processes of this renewable gas and it seek the integration of alternative processes for its production as a key energy vector to achieve the decarbonisation of our industry and society. In this way, it is hoped to meet the commitments set by the European Commission for 2050 in the fight against climate change.

Our technical research partner, Alba Mallo, carrying out the chromatographic analysis of the gas samples obtained.

ZEPPELIN’s impact

ZEPPELIN will provide an innovative technologies wide range that will open up hydrogen production possibilities to the entire national territory, its production is separating from the availability of water. Consequently, production costs and energy consumption will be reduced, and both the environmental impact and carbon footprint will be lower.

Regarding of production costs, and thanks to the disruptive technologies developed in the project, by 2040 costs will be reduced by at least 30% compared to current hydrogen production processes. Along the same lines, it is estimated that ZEPPELIN’s production capacity will exceed the production required to meet the industrial green H2 consumption targets for 2030, it set out in Spain’s Hydrogen Roadmap, a government initiative to promote the deployment of this sustainable energy vector.

In relation to environmental impact, new technologies employed in the initiative will contribute to the circular economy and it will use renewable sources, thus it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would improve water efficiency and it would reduce to use of raw materials and waste generated.

In this way, ZEPPELIN aims to avoid problems such as the shortage of water for electrolysis, or the lack of sufficient hydrogen production to cover the future demand for this gas in areas such as mobility and transport of goods or energy.  It will also improve the current situation thanks to the efficient revalorisation of waste such as agri-food waste, sludge from wastewater treatment plants, municipal wastewater, textiles, etc.


ZEPPELIN project has been subsidised by the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDIT), within the framework of the 2021 call of the MISSIONS SCIENCE AND INNOVATION Programme (Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan), and is supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The aid granted to the project is financed by the European Union through the Next GenerationEU Fund.