Western Hydrogen Achieves Major Milestone: Produces First Hydrogen From New Pilot Plant


CALGARY, ALBERTA - Western Hydrogen Limited has reached a major milestone in their piloting of an innovative hydrogen production technology called Molten Salt Gasification (MSG). On September 5, 2013 the first production of hydrogen was achieved from the company's new pilot plant in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

"By supporting advanced research and technology, our Government is investing in Canadian prosperity and a cleaner environment," said the Honourable Joe Oliver, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources. "Today's milestone demonstrates how these investments are successfully bringing innovative clean technologies from concept to reality."

"First Hydrogen is a significant milestone in the development of MSG technology since it's our first continuous hydrogen production outside of the lab," said Neil Camarta, Chief Executive Officer of Western Hydrogen. Following six years of extensive testing at the Idaho National Laboratory, the pilot plant was constructed to demonstrate the technology's reliability in a large scale production facility.

"As a key ingredient to convert oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude, hydrogen is an important component to Canada's sustainable and prosperous future," said Vicky Sharpe, President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which contributes funding to the project. "The innovative MSG technology reduces the overall footprint of oil sands production, something producers are striving for and consumers and export markets are increasingly demanding."

The MSG process uses a combination of molten sodium salts (sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide) to convert a carbon feedstock and water into hydrogen. The technology allows the production of high-pressure hydrogen without the need for compression and can use a variety of feedstocks, including renewables.

"High pressure and the favourable chemical kinetics of the reactions allow for the use of small reactors to generate large volumes of hydrogen continuously," Camarta explains. "The very high energy efficiency of the process results in a lower unit cost for the hydrogen produced and lower CO2 emissions overall."

By commercializing the Molten Salt Gasification process, Western Hydrogen believes it can create significant benefits for hydrogen users, especially those in the hydrogen-intensive oil sands business. Oil sands operators use Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) to produce hydrogen from natural gas. The MSG process can produce high pressure hydrogen from natural gas but it can also be switched to other feedstocks, such as petroleum coke or renewables, at a marginal cost.

"The new pilot plant will be used to prove the competitive advantages of the MSG technology -- and particularly the ability to run on different feedstocks with the same plant. You simply can't do that with an SMR."

Western Hydrogen is also targeting the renewable energy market. Countries such as Germany, Japan, Korea and the USA are currently developing low carbon "hydrogen economies" reliant on rapidly advancing fuel cell technologies.

After testing on a range of fossil fuels, the MSG pilot plant will be switched to a renewable feedstock and integrated with fuel cells to demonstrate the ability to produce renewable power. The large-scale MSG pilot plant is already "rightsized" for the renewable energy market making rapid roll-out possible.

"As a result of the successful first run, Western Hydrogen will be accelerating the development and commercialization of the MSG technology and engaging current and prospective partners, stakeholders and investors to assist in its commercialization," says Camarta.

Western Hydrogen Limited achieved the first hydrogen milestone in cooperation with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Aux Sable Canada and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). "This group has supported the development of the MSG technology over the past 6 years," says Camarta. "The Western Hydrogen team looks forward to continued work with our consortium partners as we continue towards the goal of commercializing Molten Salt Gasification."

About Western Hydrogen Limited

Western Hydrogen Limited is a privately owned company, formed in 2006. The company has exclusive rights to the Molten Salt Gasification (MSG) technology, which was developed and patented by the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory.

About SDTC

On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Canada helps commercialize Canadian clean technologies, readying them for growth and export markets. With a portfolio of companies under management valued at more than $2 billion, SDTC is positioning cleantech as a driver of jobs, productivity and economic prosperity.

SDTC operates two funds aimed at the development and demonstration of innovative technological solutions. The SD Tech Fund™ supports projects that address climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil. The NextGen Biofuels Fund™ supports the establishment of first-of-kind large demonstration-scale facilities for the production of next-generation renewable fuels.

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Michelle Chidley