Hydrogen is everywhere. It’s the most fundamental and abundant element in the universe, and a basic building block of our global energy systems. Pure hydrogen is very useful, but hard to get. It usually travels with its friends, like carbon and oxygen, and doesn’t like to fly solo. Over the past few decades, the market for pure hydrogen has grown steadily, hitting almost $150Bn in 2018.
Hydrogen feels like a “silver bullet” fuel as we look to tackle the global climate crisis. It burns cleanly, with the only emission being water vapour, and new techniques and technologies are making transporting it easier and easier. Hydrogen, though, has a dirty secret.
Over 96% of the world’s hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels. Breaking hydrogen out of coal and methane, it turns out, is cheap and easy. The problem is that, once free, the leftover carbon ends up in our atmosphere as CO2. Hydrogen production in 2018 was responsible for 830 million tonnes of CO2 emitted, more than the total emissions of all of Canada that year. In fact, hydrogen is usually more polluting than the diesel fuel it’s used to produce. We can make hydrogen cleanly, using renewable power and electricity, but it’s a lot more expensive – up to 5-6 times the cost of fossil hydrogen. That might be ok for eco-concious consumers looking to drive hydrogen powered cars, but it’s not going to make an impact on the global problem of dirty hydrogen.
Our solution turns this equation upside down. In markets that provide $ credits for reducing emissions and removing legacy CO2, the net cost of our product can be less than that of the dirty stuff while reversing CO2 emissions from H2 production and then some. This could allow PH’s H2 to take center stage in a new, superclean hydrogen economy. In the meantime, we need to be able to decarbonize our existing fuel systems, and that’s where our product shines.
As an added benefit, the output of our process is a mineral bicarbonate – a mildly basic substance that is a major constituent of seawater and which dominates natural carbon storage on the Earth’s surface. By adding this to our oceans, we are able to not only permanently store carbon, but we can also help to reduce the acidification caused by excess CO2. Think of it as an antacid for the ocean, providing benefits for shellfish, corals and the entire ocean ecosystem that is otherwise acidifying due to passive diffusion of excess atmospheric CO2 into the ocean.