Lane hydrogen producer

The Lane hydrogen producer was an apparatus for hydrogen production based on the steam-iron process and water gas[1] invented in 1903[2] by British engineer, Howard Lane.


The first commercial Lane hydrogen producer was commissioned in 1904. By 1913, 850,000,000 cubic feet (24,000,000 m3) of hydrogen was manufactured annually by this process.[3]

In the early-part of the 20th century, the process found some use as a means of producing hydrogen lifting gas for airships, as it could produce large volumes of gas cheaply. Lane producers were installed at some British airship stations so the gas could be manufactured on-site. To work efficiently however, the plant required skilled operators and to be running as a quasi-continuous process. A competing process, referred to as the Silicol Process, reacted Ferrosilicon with a strong Sodium hydroxide solution and had the advantage of flexibility.[4]

In the 1940s the Lane process was superseded by cheaper methods of hydrogen production that used oil or natural gas as a feedstock.[3]

Process description

Where hydrogen was commonly produced with the single retort like the Messerschmitt[5] and the Bamag type, Lane introduced the multiple retort type. In the Lane generator water gas was used to heat the retorts up to 600-800 °C after which water gas-air was used in the retorts. In the steam-iron process the iron oxidizes and has to be replaced with fresh metal, in the Lane hydrogen producer the iron is reduced with water gas back to its metallic condition, after which the process restarts.

The chemical reactions are[3]

3Fe+ 4H2O → Fe3O4 + 4H2
Fe3O4+ 4CO → 3Fe + 4CO2

The net chemical reaction is:

CO + H2O → CO2 + H2

See also


  1. "1909 - The Lane hydrogen producer".
  2. Hurst, S. (1939). "Production of hydrogen by the steam-iron method". Oil & Soap. 16 (2): 29. doi:10.1007/BF02543209.
  3. Fan, Liang-Shih (2011). Chemical Looping Systems for Fossil Energy. John Wiley & Sons. p. 36. ISBN 1118063139.
  4. Burgess, A.M. "Hydrogen for Airships". Nevil Shute Norway Foundation. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  5. Taylor, Hugh S. (2008). "Hydrogen from Steam (Single retort)". Industrial Hydrogen. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4097-2892-4.
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