Commercial opportunities

The product and market placement

The technology used in the production of the Hydra-Pak creates a number of commercial opportunities for the use of hydrogen as an energy source. The key to this is the selection of the most appropriate PMHs and the treatment process designed.

Below is a list of potential markets that the changing technology could be applied to, offering zero emissions and lower costs as the technology develops. 

Each of the above is a global market within itself worth hundreds of billions of US dollars.

The new technology has the capability to bring about, change, disruption and improvement to the current way that each of the above is delivered.

Within all of the above markets there is some of either, inefficiency or harmful emissions of GHGs.

The application of hydrogen storage is able to address the inefficiency and remove the requirement for more harmful gases.

Hydrogen refuelling infrastructure

Storage of hydrogen is a rapidly growing multi-billion dollar industry: Everywhere new markets are opening up; Diesel and gasoline vehicles are nearing the end of their life cycle and auto manufacturers are producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCV); in turn this has created a growing a demand for a safe hydrogen vehicle refuelling infrastructure.

On board storage for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Vehicle manufactures will require, safe; low pressure, high capacity on board storage system to replace the current large and cumbersome hydrogen tanks. A Hydra-Pak for on board vehicle hydrogen storage would provide the ideal solution. The shape of the Hydra-Pak vessel can be designed to suit the ergonomics of the vehicle and space available. 

Mini Hydra-Pak cartridges that can be easily exchanged without the need for specialised personnel, low pressure Hydra-Pak cartridges could be made available everywhere (such as existent fuel stations) without specific infrastructure and would enable the rescue of stranded (out of gas) vehicles.

The initial applications for both stationary bulk storage and on board vehicle could involve captive fleets as these can be fed by dedicated infrastructures.

The technical and economic challenges can be overcome, thus enabling vehicles equipped with fuel cells to be commercially deployed for local governments and private consumers.

Refrigeration

We are currently engaged in a home delivery vehicle refrigeration project in the UK for an International supermarket chain. They currently have a fleet of some 2,000 home delivery vehicles. The system removes the requirement for harmful CFC gases and as the existing cooling units are powered from the vehicle engine will reduce fuel consumption by up to 18% per vehicle. Their fleet have identified savings of up to £2.7m per annum in fuel savings. The refrigeration cooling effect is created through the rapid transfer of PMHs from heat to cold allowing the Hydra-Pak to reach temperatures of up to -10oC.

The small vehicle home delivery market within the UK and Europe is growing at 15% per year. Nationally the home delivery market has some 130,000 vehicles. 

This is a very large market and there is no need to wait for the PMH-AC for vehicles to become available: stationary PMH air conditioners for the non-vehicular market can also work from solar heat and other low quality waste heat.

  • Cooling of electronic equipment: data centres from component to system level
  • Hospitality sector: cooling drinks and storing of food
  • Convenience stores: food and drink cabinets, air conditioning using solar power
  • Vehicle AC (cars, buses, trains) and vehicle refrigeration
Air conditioning

HVAC systems consist of air conditioners, heat pumps, rooftop units, chillers and heating boilers as well as associated air handlers and ductwork. HVAC systems represent a significant portion of a building’s overall energy use. Improvements in efficiency derive from various subsystems technological innovations, such as variable speed drives (which reduce electricity use by electric motors) and increased heat exchanger surface area (which increase overall energy transfer from the fuel to the conditioned space). More advanced HVAC systems also have ‘smart’ sensors and controls that communicate with energy management systems and other intelligent controls to further reduce energy usage. 

HVAC systems are major capital items and have long service lives (>20 years), which can slow the deployment of high-efficiency alternatives; high-efficiency alternatives are usually considered within normal equipment replacement cycles. Nevertheless, they can result in major energy use reductions, and are in wide use today at the commercial, industrial, and residential levels. For instance, Emory University installed two high-efficiency chillers, which helped to lower energy use for space cooling by nearly 50%. 

Additionally it reduced energy use by their conventional pump system, which controls temperature in HVAC systems, by 40% by installing high-efficiency and variable-speed pumps.

Heating and cooling is the largest single source of energy consumption in the residential and commercial sectors, accounting for roughly 50% of energy consumed by a typical U.S. home and 40% in commercial buildings. 61,62 chillers alone can account for 35-50% of a commercial building’s energy use.

The International Energy Agency estimated that replacement of inefficient HVAC systems could reduce global CO2 emissions by as much as 2 gigatons by 2050, representing a 25% reduction in current building emissions.

Heat pumps

A ground-source heat pump is a heating and cooling system that exchanges heat between the earth and the interior of a building.

The Hydra-Pak could provide heat exchangers with high heat conductivity that will allow hydride materials to be used extremely efficiently to operate PMH heat pumps. 

Hydrogen is the active agent; it is not consumed, but used for rapid thermal transfer.

All heat pumps make use of the fact that ground temperatures tend to be constant throughout the year – this allows it to achieve higher efficiencies than air-source heat pumps, and also makes it suitable for any climate. In the winter, Hydra-Paks transfer heat stored in the ground into a building, and in the summer, the Hydra-Pak system works like an air conditioner, transferring heat out of a building and into the ground.

Ground-source heat pumps require vertical wells or horizontal loop fields to be installed to enable the heat transfer to occur. Hydra-Pak ground-source heat pumps can also provide domestic hot water from super heaters, one of the heat pump’s components, and heat water for free in the summer.

Air-source heat pumps are more commonly used than ground-source heat pumps, and are another efficient heating and cooling technology that operates on the same principle, however the heat exchanges between indoor and outdoor air. Air-source heat pumps have predominately been utilized in warmer climates but advances in technology have recently made them more effective in cold climates.

Both technologies are currently used for cooling, space heating and water heating in residential and small- or medium-sized commercial buildings. For example, a net-zero school building in Irving, Texas, utilized geothermal heat pumps to meet its heating and cooling needs. Each year about 50,000 new geothermal heat pumps are installed across the U.S., with over a million ground-source heat pumps currently installed. The U.S. market for geothermal heat pumps was estimated at $115 million in 2013, up 9% from 2012.

Although ground source heat pumps tend to have higher purchase and installation costs than traditional heating and cooling systems, they significantly reduce energy costs, typically to 40%. Ground source heat pumps are particularly beneficial in the summer, as they can reduce peak electricity demand. Depending on available incentives and financing options, a residential or commercial user could recoup the initial cost of investment in two to 10 years.

Power to grid

Combined Heat and Power (CHP), also called cogeneration, generates both electricity and useful heat from the same fuel source. CHP typically involves dedicated equipment to generate electricity, this could be a mechanical generator working from a fossil fuel that produces kinetic energy (heat) from the operating process or maybe some other type of mechanical pumping system that is involved in a cooling process, typically cooling systems have a low side (cold) and a high side (hot) and this usable waste heat can be recovered; hydrogen fuel cells produce waste heat of varying degrees. Recovered exhaust/waste heat can be used in industrial processes, space heating, or water heating. 

Any fuel can be used for CHP. In certain industries, onsite ‘waste’ fuels are used for CHP, such as wood chips, bark and sawdust in forest products, blast furnace gases in steel mills, and various process gas streams in refining and petrochemicals. Because thermal energy (steam, hot water) is more difficult to transport than electricity, CHP systems are typically installed at or near a suitable thermal load. Most U.S. CHP capacity is installed at industrial sites, but it is also fairly common at college campuses, hospitals, military bases, and in district energy plants. Housing complexes and commercial buildings also use CHP.

So-called micro-CHP can be used in residences and small commercial buildings for water or space heating or for heating swimming pools. CCHP (combined cooling, heating, and power) is a variation of CHP that uses the waste heat to drive a cooling system (PMH air conditioning) in addition to generating heat and power. CCHP can make sense when heating loads are more seasonal and where there are large cooling requirements, resulting in higher overall utilization of waste heat than would be possible just with CHP.

Despite its long track record, CHP only makes up about 8% of U.S. generation capacity (about 80 GW), suggesting that there is ample opportunity for greater adoption. Hospitals and colleges are good candidates for CHP, as CHP systems can continue to generate power during grid outages. In the United States, average power plant efficiency is about 34%, i.e. roughly 2/3 of the fuel’s energy content is wasted. Best-in-class power plants have efficiencies of about 50% to 55%. By utilizing waste heat, CHP plants can typically achieve overall fuel efficiencies of 75% to 85%, and sometimes even higher. Overall, CHP reduces annual U.S. energy consumption by 1.8% and avoids CO2 emission of 248 million metric tons a year.

Transportation

Several technologies can be used to create energy on the electricity transmission and distribution grid. 

Electricity generated during peak hours by releasing, with storage playing a crucial role in modernizing the grid and incorporating renewable generation the industry is rapidly expanding, with new innovations entering the energy markets.

Energy storage systems can provide benefits to grid operations on three basic timescales: daily, hourly/sub-hourly, and seconds-minutes. 

A Hydra-Pak could provide two separate storage functions; low pressure bulk hydrogen and high-grade heat storage. Each storage solution has different strengths relative to these timescales. 

Daily applications include providing firm capacity reserves and system-wide peak shaving when demand is high. On the timescale of tens of minutes to a few hours, energy storage can help with load balancing (smoothing) and peak shaving, for example, to help smooth and firm the output of variable renewable power generation from wind and solar. Over timeframes of seconds to minutes, energy storage can help with frequency regulation, voltage support and reactive power. 

Hydrogen storage may be particularly good at these short duration applications because with fuel cells and power electronics it can respond quickly to changing grid conditions. In addition to these operational benefits, energy storage can help defer or avoid traditional investments in generation (peaking plants), transmission and distribution.

The emissions reductions benefits fall into three main categories: increased grid flexibility to allow for higher penetration of variable renewable generation; the offsetting of emissions from older, dirtier plants for meeting peak demand; and improving grid efficiency by relieving constraints when demand is high, since this is when transmission and distribution equipment losses are highest.

Bulk Hydra-Pak production flow
Raw materials (feed bunker)
Milling process (industrial fine milling of powders)
Furnaces x 2 (sintering processes in furnaces x 2)
Assembly of pellets into matrix
Assembly of individual Hydra-Pak
Assembly of BHP
20 tonne crane