Creating cutting-edge technologies for the public sector to enhance the environmental sustainability of industrial processes, looking towards the new frontiers of renewable energy. The CAP Group, manager of the integrated water service for the Metropolitan City of Milan, has signed an agreement with RSE, Ricerca sul Sistema Elettrico, a public company controlled by the national grid operator (GSE) and specialised in research in the electricity sector, to develop a trial project for the production of green hydrogen, a renewable energy source for which the National Research Programme has also set aside a specific budget.
The three-year agreement aims to apply hydrogen production technologies to make the circular economy processes applied to the integrated water service in the 40 treatment plants managed by the Lombardy utility even more sustainable. This is an innovative project that was born in a totally public context: The CAP Group is in fact a utility owned by the municipalities of the Metropolitan City of Milan, while RSE is a company belonging to the GSE, which is fully controlled by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and is in charge of research projects financed by the Fund for the financing of research and development activities of general interest for the national electricity system.
The experimentation agreement between the CAP Group and RSE is aimed at innovating and improving the performance of the electricity system in terms of economy, safety and environmental compatibility, to the total benefit of end users. A circular economy project that aims to use CAP's existing water treatment processes to produce green hydrogen.
RSE's activity is aimed at developing technologies for the production of hydrogen in CAP-operated plants and at assessing the effectiveness and economic efficiency of green hydrogen production in order to make biorefineries and treatment plants even more circular and environmentally sustainable. By introducing hydrogen, produced from water, into the process of producing biomethane from sewage sludge, the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere is almost completely eliminated. But the challenge is to establish whether CAP can meet the energy requirements for electrolysis, the process of separating the hydrogen and oxygen present in water, by self-producing the energy from renewable sources (photovoltaics, thermoelectric power, etc.) and whether this production process can be replicated on an industrial scale at all the Lombardy utility's plants.
The synergy between the two public companies is not new: CAP and RSE enjoyed a fruitful collaboration in 2016, which led to the first Italian industrial-scale production of biomethane from sewage sludge. The pilot project, launched in 2016 at the Bresso-Niguarda treatment plant on the outskirts of Milan, involved another exceptional partner, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). The industrial symbiosis has allowed the public service operator to produce more than 341,000 kg of biomethane at full capacity at the Bresso site alone, and to start gradually converting the treatment plants into bio-refineries to produce biofuel, using the assets of the existing anaerobic operators to produce clean energy to be fed into the grid.