By Jonathan Milke, fortsaskonline.com
On Thursday, the doors were thrown wide on a new industrial project in the Fort Saskatchewan area that could have huge effects around the world.
The Western Hydrogen Pilot Plant welcomed guests to come in a celebrate their successful efforts in pulling hydrogen out of waste stocks in a cleaner and more efficient way than has ever been done before.
Located near the Shell Scotford refinery, the facility uses an innovative new technique that involves injecting a carbon-based feedstock and water into a molten salt bath gasifier that produces hydrogen and carbon dioxide, the latter of which can be fed back into the system to assist with the processing.
Western Hydrogen president and CEO Neil Camarta simplified the explanation through a reference to the movie Back to the Future.
Camarta added Molten Salt Gasification was developed at the US Government's Idaho National Lab, which developed the non-nuclear reactor and process in laboratory conditions. From there, the technology needed a larger-scale facility to prove itself as a working method of hydrogen production.
Now that the process is proven, Camarta said the aim is to ensure there is a market for their product. They've already shown there's a market for what he termed "big hydrogen" in the petrochemical industry, but there may also be a market in carbon-neutral hydrogen for vehicles and other uses. Some German delegates were on hand at Thursday's event to see the process for themselves.
Ultimately, the facility could have a big effect on Fort Saskatchewan and the region. Camarta said the first pilot plant wasn't a big job creator, but if the technology is adopted, the opertion's scale will increase and leading to construct for the new facilities in the region.
Following the success of the pilot plant, Western Hydrogen intends to build a full-scale demonstration upgrader plant in the same location, and with its success would likely come calls for plants around the world.
Beyond that, Camarta said this facility's clean technology expertise would mark Fort Saskatchewan on the map, adding he'd like to see the region re-named "innovation alley."