AFC Energy and HiiROC agree terms to unlock natural gas as zero emission hydrogen fuel

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Read the original article by Rob Cockerill on H2View here.

AFC Energy, a leading provider of hydrogen power generation technologies, has entered into a binding Heads of Agreement with UK-based green hydrogen generation technology developer, HiiROC Limited.

The two companies will be working together to explore the supply of green hydrogen for fuelling fuel cell systems.

HiiROC’s plasma-based technology has proven its ability in early testing, to extract hydrogen from methane and biomethane, readily available from incumbent gas networks, without the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) or other harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The green hydrogen produced from this technique has the potential to fuel AFC Energy’s H-Power fuel cell systems, thereby opening up methane as a candidate carrier of green hydrogen for AFC Energy’s low-cost power generation.

Under this agreement, the two companies have agreed to enter into a Commercialisation Agreement that will see AFC Energy obtain global preferential rights to integrate HiiROC’s plasma-based technology with its proprietary H-Power fuel cell, including an initial reduction in hydrogen cost to AFC Energy derived from the system (cumulatively valued at £2m).

AFC Energy will also be granted exclusive rights to HiiROC’s technology in key regions, including the UK, Europe and Australia, in the field of electrified transportation – including electric vehicles.

AFC Energy: Exploring the opportunities for technology development

Further still, the agreement will see the integration of the HiiROC and AFC Energy technology platforms which, if successful, has the potential to unlock natural gas as a zero-emission, low cost hydrogen fuel carrier.

It is anticipated that the Commercialisation Agreement will contain full commercial terms and principles that the parties intend to be bound to based on ongoing development work conducted in 2020.

Reflecting on the agreement, AFC Energy CEO Adam Bond said, “Evaluation of low-cost hydrogen has been a key part of AFC Energy’s commercialisation strategy over recent years. HiiROC’s innovative new technology platform not only has the potential to open up new green hydrogen sources but could do so whilst utilising existing natural gas distribution infrastructure, making access to hydrogen fuel more readily available and affordable in developed and urban areas.”

“While we look forward to the results of prototyping our H-PowerTM system with that of HiiROC, we are also aware of several blue ribbon partners developing project opportunities with HiiROC which may leverage new opportunities for AFC Energy to open new markets reaffirming the future role of hydrogen as a key element of the world’s future energy mix.”

AFC Energy is investing £100,000, payable in AFC Energy shares, into HiiROC’s scaling up programme as part of the deal, which were allotted to HiiROC on 24th January 2020 conditional on admission to trading on AIM.

AFC Energy also intends to make up to £300,000 of ‘in-kind’ contribution to HiiROC over 12-18 months to support the development of a prototype unit.

It is intended that under the terms of the Commercialisation Agreement, AFC Energy will work alongside HiiROC to deliver a prototype unit through 2020.

Confirmed potential

Over recent years, AFC Energy has evaluated several emerging green, low cost hydrogen generation technologies for integration with its proprietary H-PowerTM fuel cell systems.

For the past nine months, the company has been in discussions with HiiROC regarding the potential for natural gas to be utilised as a clean, zero CO2 emission fuel, into the AFC Energy fuel cell through adoption of HiiROC’s unique plasma process. HiiROC’s plasma-based process acts to convert natural gas into a clean hydrogen stream for the fuel cell, alongside gaseous carbon that can then be quenched as a high value solid carbon (carbon black).

Independent analysis of gas samples derived from HiiROC’s plasma process in 2019 confirmed the potential for this technology, initiating plans for a strategic partnership between the two companies. With the objective of bringing to market a unique, natural gas fuelled, zero emission fuel cell system, successful scale up of the HiiROC process could allow AFC Energy and its customers to take advantage of low cost natural gas and existing distribution pipelines to access.