A Lancaster company is developing a system to create clean hydrogen with no carbon byproduct.
Eric Schraud, founder and CEO of GenHydro, and his team of eight have created a power plant that converts aluminum scrap into hydrogen that is cost effective, scalable and distributes renewable clean energy.
While still in development, Schraud said he is refining contracts with 15 clients, with four in the final stages. While he said he can’t disclose yet who they are, he said they are household-named companies in the food, auto and tool industries.
He plans to have those contracts ready to go by the second quarter of next year and plants up and running within three years.
Sitting in a space toward the rear of the Burle Industrial Park, Schraud and his team are using a third-generation system to convert aluminum to hydrogen that he said will power his lab and the company next door within the coming month.
The process to convert aluminum scraps to hydrogen for clean energy also produces aluminum oxide, “which has a large commercial value for thermal insulation, sandpaper, hydraulic cement, and firefighting retardant,” Schraud said.
It also produces thermal energy that can be used to run steam turbines for electricity, he said. But most importantly, he said, it produces zero carbon.
The process starts with aluminum or alloy scraps. “Aluminum is reactively oxygen hungry,” Schraud said.
The aluminum scraps are milled down to micron-sized particles that are combined with GenHydro’s ‘special sauce,’ a chemical promoter. Schraud explained that when exposed to high temperature steam, the surface of the aluminum begins to corrode within milliseconds. That process takes oxygen from the steam, freeing the hydrogen.
“As the steam makes its way through the external cracks in the aluminum, hydrogen bubbles for under the surface,” he said.
As pressure builds, the hydrogen is freed, breaking the now oxidized aluminum into submicronic particles and releasing high levels of thermal energy.
Schraud said the process is completed, with a mix of hydrogen, aluminum oxide and excess steam exiting the reactor and going through a series of separation steps. Steam is recycled to keep the reaction going without the need for additional energy input, he said.
Schraud said hydrogen can be stored in a pressurized tank, which can be transported. That method, however, can be volatile, he said.
So, his team has found a way to reduce the hydrogen to a powder, which can be transported safely, taking up much less space.
GenHydo’s model, though, is to build the systems on-site so the entire process happens where the hydrogen is needed.
“We produce hydrogen and electricity simultaneously,” he said, “with zero carbon.”
In fact, the unit in his lab currently produces 4 kilograms of hydrogen per hour. With 60% electricity generation from hydrogen, he said it nets 80.64 kilowatt hours. That added to thermal energy generation of 145 kilowatt hours, equating to electrical energy of 116 kilowatt hours, the total electrical potential is 196.64 kilowatt hours.
In a 24-hour period, the unit will generate 4,719.36 kilowatts. The average home uses 29 kilowatts per day. “This means this system can power 162.73 homes per day,” Schraud said.
GenHydro got its start with investment money in 2020 after the G7 Summit showed them many countries were still investing in coal and other environmentally harmful processes.
“The focus was on moving toward hydrogen, it just wasn’t economically feasible,” he said. “So, we got our space and built the first reactor.”
Government subsidies, he said, make it feasible to move forward. “Hydrogen production isn’t economical right now, but we are working to make it so.’”
Schraud is the first to say he couldn’t have done this without his team, especially Dong Nguyen, chief engineer of R&D, who took Schraud’s initial system and “made it work.”
Three new employees will join the team next month.
It is the ‘secret sauce’ that makes the process work, he said. Other hydrogen-generating processes that use natural gas or solar power leave carbon behind. The carbon then must be stored somewhere, which Schraud said is not good for the environment.
“We were challenged to solve that,” he said.
The entire process, he said, is working. “We need no storage, no cooling (of the hydrogen for transport) and no tanks. We can ship the powder and put mini power plants on site.
“When the powder goes into the reactor with steam and special sauce, the chemical reaction occurs,” he said.
Plants that produce more hydrogen than a facility needs to operate can use the excess to fuel their equipment, he said.
“We hope to change the face of the electrical grid,” Schraud said. “We can’t do it all, but this can be a good kick start. It’s cost effective, scalable and distributes renewable clean energy.”