It looks a bit like a water heater. But inside it hides a Norwegian technological breakthrough that not only produces clean hydrogen, but which can also play an important role in speeding up large-scale industry CO2 cuts.

The tank is in reality a separator, and a new Norwegian invention. If you pass a gas mixture through it, for example reformed natural gas, it releases pure hydrogen – at hyper speed.

This technology could be the start of a new Norwegian industrial adventure. Because a large market spanning many industrial sectors and aims could use this type of hydrogen technology.

Separating pure hydrogen from gas is a golden feature during an energy crisis, at a time when the world needs to radically change its energy mix to make tough, yet necessary emission cuts.


But first, let's rewind a few years: It’s 2018, on a cold February day in Trondheim, Norway. By the quiet and beautiful Nidelva river, in a traditional industrial area, the company Hydrogen Mem-Tech has its base.

Founder and CEO Thomas Reinertsen and his team of clever and curious minds have long worked to develop exciting research findings from SINTEF, one of Europe’s largest research institutes. By using an ultra-thin membrane made from the precious metal palladium, it’s possible to separate pure hydrogen from natural gases. However, the membrane is literally getting tangled up.

“For a long time we searched blindly for a way to solve this,” explains Reinertsen, now five years on.

“Our background is from the oil and gas world, where everything has always been about pipes. But our attempts to wrap palladium membranes around pipes just didn’t work.”

Reinertsen explains further: “It is tricky to make pipes completely straight when they’re longer than 50 centimetres. Then they start to bend slightly, creating a wrinkled membrane. Oval pipes and many connectors make the pipe vulnerable to vibrations over time, leading in turn to a leakage risk.

“But on this particular winter day in the office our eureka moment came: ‘We need to have a flat design!’"


Right there and then, Hydrogen Mem-Tech changed course. They let pipes be pipes, and arrived instead at today's solution: A separator that can produce pure hydrogen at record speeds. Today, the company defines itself more as a scale-up more than a start-up.

Its separators are being rolled out to the whole world from a newly renovated factory hall. Some deliveries are so secret that we’re not allowed to say who the clients are, or what kinds of exciting projects they might be involved in.

“We are a bit restless. The earth is spinning far too slowly right now. So we’re rigging up for maintaining higher speeds. It’s crucial for both industry and the planet that we pick up the pace of the green transition,” emphasises Thomas Reinertsen.


Simply explained, the separator cleans gas that is passed into it. It separates out pure hydrogen on the one hand, and residual components – including CO2, methane, CO, nitrogen and other things you’d rather not emit – on the other.

“Our technology is compact and light with no moving parts. It's all about the difference in pressure. The pressure pushes the gas through the palladium membrane. Because our design involves a fairly large palladium surface receiving the gas, we’re able to extract more hydrogen than competing technologies, and at a lower cost,” Reinertsen explains.

The palladium membrane looks like an extremely thin version of your regular kitchen aluminium foil. The separator itself is regulated by a heating cable that is incorporated into the shell, without the need for any pumps or valves. It's all about the pressure difference.

“It’s important to us that the separator should be easy to set up. Many similar hydrogen production technologies are time-consuming to build, and therefore also costly,” explains Thomas Reinertsen.

Extensive installation processes are a classic budget bomb, and can quickly lead to complex scenarios, such as at Norway’s Mongstad power plant.

“Hydrogen Mem-Tech's technology contributes to creating financial predictability. Nothing costs the customer more than an unplanned shutdown or downtime, while we can in practice quickly replace the separator if something should go wrong.”


Major industry players say the Hydrogen Mem-Tech separator is opening up new opportunities for solving pressing challenges linked to purifying gas and meeting strict emission requirements.

- It’s going to get expensive to emit at today’s levels – if emissions will be allowed at all. At the same time, we’re dependent on collaborating with this type of business in order to unlock the technology’s full potential,” reflects the Hydrogen Mem-Tech founder.

“This must be a joined-up research and development effort with many good forces behind it. Hydrogen has huge potential. Much of the infrastructure is already in place for replacing existing energy sources with pure hydrogen. While we’re humble in knowing that we ourselves don’t have all the answers, we’re also confident in the contribution our technology can make,” Reinertsen concludes.