Hydron Energy Inc. is preparing for full-scale testing of its first-of-a-kind INTRUPTor I-Multi Mobile RNG Solution Centre — a gas upgrader designed to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) from biogas.
The INTRUPTor is an acronym for Intensified Regenerative Upgrading Platform Technology. It does not require feed compressors, vacuum pumps, feed gas drying units nor exhaust gas post-treatment systems to produce the RNG.
By separating carbon dioxide from the product gas, the platform can also produce blue and turquoise hydrogen, as well as green ammonia.
In July, Hydron joined seven other companies that together received $3.4 million in funding from the B.C. Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE). CICE was founded by the B.C. government and Shell, with support from the federal government.
With that funding, the North Vancouver-based Hydron plans to complete both phases of its mobile testing for the INTRUPTor. Once that is done, the company will travel with the mobile solution to farmers and agri-food waste producers in Canada and the U.S. to demonstrate the INTRUPTor’s capabilities.
“What we need to do is just a small demonstration, show the people (and) show the data,” said Soheil Khiavi, Hydron Energy’s co-founder, president and CEO. “The moment that you have the data and the small centre that can actually generate data, they can run it for weeks, for a month, get familiar with it. They can basically fall in love with this new product, and then order for the future.”
“The biogas producers, such as the hog farms, they are producing biogas but the quantity is not high enough to justify (conversion) and sometimes they just turn back to electricity, rather than actually turning it into renewable natural gas and using it.”
With its gas upgrader, however, Hydron says the system can reduce capital and operating costs by up to 50 per cent when compared with similar technologies.
The mobile centre
Khiavi first had the idea for the mobile centre when he worked at carbon capture solutions company Svante, where he was the company’s co-founder and CTO from 2007 to 2019.
He subsequently founded Hydron Energy in 2020.
The INTRUPTor will be ready by the end of the year, and Hydron Energy is looking to start demonstrations in early 2023.
While the company is looking at farms in Canada and the U.S. that may be interested, the first stop will be an Ontario farm selected with the assistance of Epcor Commercial Services Inc., which has been a project partner since June 2021.
Khiavi explained the company faced significant difficulty in convincing farmers to pilot the technology.
“There are several biogas producers here (in B.C.) and they’re not actually welcoming new technologies, probably because they have had bad experiences in the past,” Khiavi said. However, he described the reaction of U.S. farmers to the mobile centre as “welcoming with open arms.”
He said the second and third test sites will be in B.C. and Alberta, respectively.
The mobile centre presents an opportunity for farmers to reduce emissions from methane, a highly damaging greenhouse gas, produced on their farms while providing them with new revenue streams from the RNG.
Another advantage over traditional methods, according to Khiavi, is that the waste-to-fuel conversion can occur entirely on site, cutting down on transportation costs.
“There’s a real opportunity to do some education with the farmers to help them understand and see the impact it would have on their farming operations,” said Alison Cartier, Hydron Energy’s business development manager, who also worked with Khiavi at Svante.
“First and foremost, they are farmers generating renewable natural gas from their waste and manures.”
Hydron also boasts of the INTRUPTor’s lower carbon intensity score compared to other RNG processes. Specific scores would vary depending on the farm and feedstock, but Khiavi explained the gas upgrader would offer about a 20 per cent reduction in its carbon footprint by using 50 per cent less energy than other technologies.
Future of the INTRUPTor
Khiavi noted biogas companies are having difficulty keeping up with production requests and constructing the required reactors. There are also supply chain logistics issues in transporting these gases. He referred to this as a “big vacuum that has been created,” and that’s where the company plans to build.
This year, that involves raising the capital to build Hydron’s production plant, planned for 2025, although a location hasn’t been chosen. The current plant is in Vancouver.
The company plans to have its first commercial product on the market by 2024.
“Our model is, rather than vertical integration, is to go with a wide net, to take our core technology and cross deliver it to a lot of integrators (so) that they can take that and build the plants,” Khiavi explained. “This way we can go a little faster to the market and the customers.”
Currently, the Vancouver plant can deliver several units each year. By 2030, Khiavi and Hydron hope to produce around 10 to 20 large plants annually to customers that could cover about 20 per cent of the market, by his estimate.