Full steam ahead for hydrogen

By Amanda Bryan

25 August, 2022 

Could this new hydrogen heat catalyst replace the coal in coal-fired power plants?

A ‘proprietary catalyst’ that can create zero-emission steam when combined with green hydrogen and oxygen could provide the missing link for coal-fired power plants and other industries.

Its developers hope hydrogen could potentially replace the fossil fuel as a source of heat without the need to build new power generation infrastructure.

Australian company Star Scientific has been developing the catalyst which has been shown to react with hydrogen and oxygen to create heat without combustion. According to the company, until now, the only way until now to create heat from hydrogen has been to burn it.

Now the company is in the process of scaling up and commercialising its breakthrough which is described as a hydrogen energy release optimiser – or HERO for short.

HERO produces heat – as high as 700 degrees Celsius (1,292 Fahrenheit) – when a gaseous mix of hydrogen and oxygen flows over its patented catalytic coating.

In 2020, the company won emerging technology of the year at S&P Global’s Platts Global Energy Awards. A year later it won in the New Economy category at the 24th annual South By Southwest Innovation Awards in Austin, Texas. This year at SXSW 2022, the HERO tech was named as a finalist in the Innovation category.

We think there are a lot of opportunities in existing steam turbines that have some longevity

Andrew Horvath

group chairman | star scientific

Andrew Horvath
image source: Star Scientific

Coal-fired power stations are considered a key future market and many other commercial operators would also benefit from emission-free heat, with interest from food and beverage processors as well as from water treatment and desalination operators, according to Star Scientific.

“There’s so much demand, the market’s coming to us,” group chairman Andrew Horvath recently told US business title Bloomberg.

In January last year, Star Scientific forged an agreement with the Philippines government to study retrofitting the country’s coal fired power plants. 

A pilot project to test the system is also planned at a local Mars Inc factory once the project gains approval next year, providing the manufacturer heat without combustion and zero emissions.

“We think there are a lot of opportunities in existing steam turbines that have some longevity,” Horvath told Bloomberg.

According to Horwath, in Japan 70 per cent of the country’s turbines still have 40 years of life left. “Why would you throw them away? They’re already connected to the grid.”

The tech:

Star Scientific was founded 25 years ago to commercialise nuclear fusion work. During this research, the team unexpectedly discovered a way to convert hydrogen into heat without burning it and this work led to the creation of a catalyst that reacts with hydrogen and oxygen to create enough heat to spin turbines that’s been dubbed a hydrogen energy release optimiser – or HERO for short. HERO produces industrial-scale heat when a gaseous mix of hydrogen and oxygen flows over its patented catalytic coating with water the only by-product.  Scaled up, the globally-patented technology could be used in many ways such as energy generation through a turbine or for thermal heating.

Who funds it:

Star Scientific is a public unlisted company backed by philanthropists and scientists who have jointly invested $100 million in R&D.

Is it ready to roll:

The technology is being pilot tested next year by Mars Inc in Australia and is being studied by the Philippines government as a way to retrofit its coal-fired power plants.
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source: Star Scientific
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