Q & A: Improving hydrogen storage, what is the answer?
Inspiratia sat down with Baruch Halpert, CEO of Electriq Global, to discuss the improving options for hydrogen storage
Electriq Global is an energy storage technology company that develops fuel solutions for the clean energy market. Incorporated in Australia, Electriq Global operates in the EU from the Netherlands, with its R&D centre in Israel.
The company's key development is a solid hydrogen carrier, in which hydrogen is stored in an energy-dense powder form, kept and transported in ambient conditions, and released into fuel cells via a compact and autonomous generation device.
Safer and with a higher energy density than other hydrogen carriers, the solution has begun to see deployment in various industries. For example, in 2021, it partnered with Dutch crane and lorry carrier RKB to convert their mobile overhead cranes to renewable electricity and hydrogen energy so that RKB can do construction work CO2 neutrally.
So what is the future for hydrogen storage and when will new solutions become mainstream?
What are some of the biggest problems the hydrogen sector must overcome for it to become mainstream?
Currently, hydrogen is mostly delivered in two forms, compressed and liquefied. These two methods are well-tested and well-known. However, if you want to extend its use to the broader public, you find that liquefied and compressed hydrogen cannot answer the needs of all applications.
I'll give you two examples. First, when you take compressed hydrogen and apply it to maritime vessels, you run into an issue of density. This is because the density of compressed hydrogen is too low to store an amount high enough to power the vessel whilst leaving room for passengers and or cargo.
A major concern in liquid hydrogen storage is minimising hydrogen losses from liquid boil-off. Because liquid hydrogen is stored as a cryogenic liquid that is at its boiling point, any heat transfer to the liquid causes some hydrogen to evaporate, causing boil-off and hydrogen losses of up to 30 percent leading to practicality issues.
Another bottleneck is the availability of green hydrogen. This is something that the world is addressing with various open projects to make solar farms and wind farms and install electrolysers to generate green hydrogen. I see an easing of this bottleneck in 2026-2028.
Therefore, you must look at the deployment of hydrogen as a fuel as a derivative of how fast you can deploy green hydrogen solutions in existing solar and wind farms, as well as adding additional capacity of solar and wind to allow for hydrogen en mass. This will be aided by expected improvements that the market expects to be delivered in the next 5-10 years, which will bring down the costs of generating 1kg of green hydrogen.
How do the solutions that Electriq Global is developing help to solve some of those problems – and how do the solutions differ from what has been done in the past?
Our solution alleviates these issues because we can provide more than double the energy density of compressed hydrogen. And in terms of safety profile and usage profile, we offer other advantages that liquefied hydrogen cannot give. For example, we provide hydrogen akin to detergent powder or cement, making it easily and safely storable.
The less evident bottleneck when considering hydrogen rollout is how you store and transport it. We look at compressed and liquified hydrogen as very good solutions for specific industries but not viable for all applications.
We believe that similar to fossil fuels, as hydrogen develops, you will have a range of forms of storage that companies will use. For us, it will be in the form of a solid, specifically, a powder.
How is powdered hydrogen released, and what applicability does it have for powering different appliances?
We target industries where compressed and liquefied hydrogen is not applicable. Instead, we see off-grid applications, namely generators, as most applicable to our solution.
We have only recently started applying our solution with companies such as RKB, who we teamed up with last year to power mobile cranes and construction sites with hydrogen. They began to implement hydrogen solutions on their construction sites but ran into issues with compressed hydrogens' applicability to their processes. In turn, they contacted us, and we were able to substitute their generator sets with ones run on our powdered hydrogen solution.
These generators are highly flexible and have applicability on construction sites, inland vessels and back-up systems for large applications like data centres. In all these cases, the powder is the form with which we bring the hydrogen from the renewable source to the consumer. Therefore, we can provide real solutions to varied issues as the solution is rather generic in the form of a generator set consumers can deploy on various industrial and commercial sites.
The rated power of the generator varies. In the project with RKB, we provided a 10KW rated system. However, in talks with other construction sites, they have requested up to 100KW sets and larger, demonstrating the broad range of generator sets we can offer. What we plan to do is roll out as many similar pieces in various sizes to the generator delivered to RKB, offering consumers a wide range of units.
How scalable is KBH4 for mass production and use?
I wouldn't say there are scaling limitations. The process has been known for many years and has never been optimised. So, we undertook the work with a process and optimised it. We have yet to develop the solution at a very large scale but don't see any practical limitations to scalability.
What we have done for the past four years is invest significant capital into the solution to the point we are happy with the technology, so now it's just a matter of execution, selecting the right sector and making sure the customers are satisfied and have an ample and reliable supply of the powder.
When we start to achieve market penetration, awareness of our product will increase, leading to a larger uptake of our systems in a broad range of sectors.
What power source does Electriq Global use to produce its hydrogen?
We can produce our form of hydrogen storage from any form of hydrogen, green, blue or grey, but the demand is for green hydrogen. So, we're dependent on the availability of green hydrogen. The mix is renewable electricity, which on the one hand, provides us with hydrogen and, on the other end, with the energy to store it.