Canadian utility New Brunswick Energy has invested tens of millions of to license a mysterious hydrogen manufacturing expertise being developed by the Florida-based firm Joi Scientific.
The 2 firms final month mentioned the deal would assist NB Energy develop the world’s first hydrogen-powered distributed electrical energy grid.
However the deployment of hydrogen manufacturing stations on the NB Energy grid depends on Joi Scientific with the ability to scale up its expertise, which remains to be within the laboratory part.
Executives at NB Energy and Joi Scientific refused to reveal the worth of the deal, however didn’t dispute a broadcast determine of CAD $13 million (USD $9.eight million).
The partnership was slammed by Canadian Inexperienced Celebration chief David Coon, who instructed the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) that NB Energy didn’t have a mandate “to be appearing like an angel investor in somebody’s undertaking in Florida.”
The expertise espoused by Joi Scientific “stays a thriller,” he mentioned.
Coon declined to remark additional for GTM. However CBC confirmed searches by scientists on the College of Moncton in New Brunswick had failed to show up papers referring to the method. The heads of Joi Scientific and NB Energy remained tight lipped over the main points.
“We’re particularly not speaking about how the expertise works as a result of there may be further work we’re doing,” mentioned Traver Kennedy, Joi Scientific’s CEO and the previous chief strategist at Citrix Methods, a expertise firm.
Gaëtan Thomas, NB Energy’s president and CEO, revealed the expertise concerned “a nanopulse-driven sign that principally permits [us] to get hydrogen out of salt water. It’s nearly mind-boggling the way it works.”
Joi Scientific, which in 2016 raised nearly $5 million from traders together with GoPro backer Dean Woodman, has six U.S. patents, Kennedy mentioned, and can be publishing scientific papers on the method “maybe as early as subsequent 12 months.”
Modular hydrogen manufacturing
The corporate describes its expertise as a modular hydrogen manufacturing unit or system that would present gas to drive engines or gas cells. The items can be housed in containers resembling server racks, mentioned Kennedy.
The manufacturing course of isn’t primarily based on electrolysis and has no adverse environmental influence, in response to Joi Scientific’s web site. Additionally, not like electrolysis, the method makes use of seawater as an alternative of pure water, Kennedy mentioned.
Nor does it contain a floor response, he revealed. “We’ve been capable of make our system smaller and smaller and but improve the manufacturing of hydrogen,” he commented.
Thomas mentioned he hoped that at scale the method would be capable to produce hydrogen at a price aggressive with fossil fuels. He cited an all-in levelized value of between 5 cents and eight cents per kilowatt-hour (four cents to six cents U.S.).
Each firms insisted NB Energy had carried out exhaustive due diligence on Joi Scientific’s hydrogen idea. The license signing adopted two years of scalability testing on the method, mentioned Kennedy.
A calculated danger
As a part of the settlement, NB Energy is working alongside Joi Scientific’s workforce on the Kennedy Area Middle in Florida to construct a scaled-up prototype for area trials on the utility’s grid, presumably inside a 12 months.
Commercialization of small hydrogen manufacturing items may take one or two years, mentioned Thomas at NB Energy. Finally, Joi Scientific helps to scale the method as much as vegetation with a capability of 100 megawatts. Thomas mentioned this might take three to 5 years.
NB Energy is hoping to make use of the expertise to decarbonize its era portfolio. A key objective is to make use of hydrogen to exchange coal at NB Energy’s 467-megawatt Belledune plant, which accounts for about 20 % of the corporate’s carbon footprint.
Hydrogen may additionally assist NB Energy to enhance grid resilience, Kennedy mentioned.
By finding as much as 30 hydrogen manufacturing stations of from 500 kilowatts to 2 megawatts across the electrical energy community, the utility would be capable to guard in opposition to blackouts brought on by transmission line failures, he mentioned.
Lastly, NB Energy may act as an agent for the expertise throughout North America. Thomas mentioned taking out the license with Joi Scientific was “a calculated danger.”
Confronted with resorting to new hydro or nuclear to exchange coal, “it’s a comparatively modest funding in comparison with the choices we’ve in our palms,” he mentioned. “It may truly maintain charges decrease and create new revenues. There’s loads of upside right here.”
NB Energy is the second firm to ink a license settlement with Joi Scientific. The primary, introduced final September, was with MarineMax, the world’s largest boat and yacht retailer, for on-board energy programs.