Western Hydrogen Limited has announced that it will receive $1.45m in federal funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).
This funding, which is Western Hydrogen’s second grant from SDTC, will help the company continue piloting an innovative hydrogen production technology that is expected to have significant economic and environmental advantages over current hydrogen manufacturing.
“Our Government is doing its part to encourage innovation and the next wave of clean technologies to help protect our environment and create high-quality jobs,” said the Honourable Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources.
“Investment in projects such as these demonstrates our leadership in driving a vibrant clean technology industry in Canada.”
By commercialising the “Molten Salt Gasification” (MSG) process, Western Hydrogen believes it can create significant benefits for hydrogen users - especially those in the hydrogen-intensive oil sands business.
A major advantage of the Molten Salt Gasification technology is the ability to produce hydrogen from water and a variety of carbon feedstocks such as petroleum coke, asphaltenes, natural gas or even renewables like algae or glycerol. Conventional hydrogen production technologies require the injection of air (which creates NOx emissions) or oxygen (which requires expensive air separation equipment). The result of using MSG is a simpler process that emits fewer emissions relative to conventional hydrogen production technologies.
A second significant advantage is that the system produces a high-pressure stream of hydrogen that is easier to purify and use in other processes such as oil sands upgrading. Carbon dioxide is also produced at high pressure, which makes it easier to capture for sequestration.
“Coming from an oil sands background, I saw the potential of this technology right away,” says Neil Camarta, president and chief executive officer of Western Hydrogen. “Producing hydrogen is one of the most expensive and carbon-intensive parts of the oil sands business. If we can produce it more cheaply and cleanly - we’ll have a real winner.”
“Coming from a cleantech background, we also immediately saw the potential of this technology,” said Dr Vicky Sharpe, president and chief executive officer of SDTC. “MSG technology could significantly reduce the energy use in the oil sands processes, and reduce emissions. Innovation like this exemplifies how Canadian entrepreneurs will help address environmental concerns through market mechanisms.”
Western Hydrogen has constructed and is commissioning a pilot plant near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta to test the MSG process. Three phases are anticipated - each testing a different feedstock: asphaltenes, natural gas and a biomass such as glycerol. This pilot testing will build on six years of laboratory testing to date.
Looking further ahead, the potential applications for MSG technology go far beyond Alberta.
Countries such as Germany, Japan, Korea and the USA are currently developing low carbon “hydrogen economies” reliant on rapidly advancing fuel cell technologies. The potential for carbon-neutral hydrogen produced from the MSG process could play an important role in making the switch to a low-carbon energy future.
“The big dream here is to help meet the world’s growing demand for energy with hydrogen made from renewable feedstocks,” says Camarta. “That’s the holy grail we’re chasing.”