So this is somewhat in the line of a news item. And since it involves using coal to produce an alternative fuel source, I am sure there are bound to be many naysayers angry at me for even reporting it. But, here goes anyway.
ECOtality’s on-demand hydrogen production and storage technology, called Hydrality, has been tapped as part of a hydrogasification benchmarking project being undertaken by the Arizona Public Service (APS) utility company. APS has received $8.9 in funding for the project from the U.S. Department of Energy.
As explained in this article, hydrogasification is a process by which natural gas is produced from coal without releasing carbon dioxide. Or, at least, that's the theory. The process works by causing the coal to react with hydrogen in a high temperature, high pressure reaction process, producing methane. The testing is part of APS's Advanced Hydrogasification Project, “a big science experiment” that seeks to benchmark the economic and environmental feasibility of various approaches. The Hydrality technology, which stores and produces hydrogen on demand using magnesium and water, is one piece of the larger project. Aside from the APS and ECOtality, the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory is participating in the project.
When I talked to him about the deal last night, Jonathan Read, president and CEO of ECOtality, said the tests represent a new area of potential application for Hydrality. Until now, the technology has been mainly used for back-up power systems and other applications in the transportation sector (such as buses). Read hopes the test will lead to work with other utility companies.
Don Karner, the president of Electric Transportation Engineering who runs the Hydrality project, said the tests will be focused on exploring how to use hydrogasification on a production scale. The pilot is scheduled to start in early 2008; based on the results, the partners will figure out how to proceed from there.