Cornelius von der Heydt: Hydrogenious
Hydrogen as a fuel for support vessels? “People worry about safety,” said Cornelius von der Heydt of German-based company Hydrogenious. However, there is a form “that’s even slightly easier to handle than diesel... and it’s liquid at room temperature” he told 'MJ'. No cryogenics, no 300bar tank necessary.
The answer, he explained, is binding hydrogen with a chemical – like toluene derivative DBT - by introducing a little pressure and heat. Once locked in, “it’s stable for years”, he said. Adding heat again releases it for use: a process that could take place onboard, especially “as you don’t need the safety zones necessary for compressed or liquefied hydrogen”. Moreover, after it’s used, the DBT can be reclaimed.
It’s a neat trick and one that fascinated Von der Heydt who became interested in Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) technology while working as a consultant for Anglo American, a global mining company interested in backing sustainable solutions. However, big business’ loss was innovation’s gain: “I soon realised that this could really make a difference.... so, I jumped across,” he said, landing as Hydrogenious’ first CCO. Interestingly, his original employer is still a partner in the venture, alongside Friedrich Alexander University.
The convincer, for him, was potential availability: “We know we need to switch to cleaner fuels – but we keep using diesel because it’s there,” he pointed out. However, hydrogen is a rising star: it’s can be created by electrolysis and windfarm providers (such as Siemens, Shell, TenneT and others) “are already considering hydrogen output” as a way of evening-out electrical production peaks and troughs.
It takes just one more step to create LOHC. This has a multitude of applications, but in Von der Heydt’s view, it could have particular significance for the renewables industry itself. Given a H2 supply and landside kit to bind it to the carrier, “and it could be used to propel the larger support vessels that serve the wind parks”, he explained.
So, the company has been working on a 2MW to 4MW solution for those with a duty cycle of a few weeks “which couldn’t work with traditional liquid or compressed hydrogen as it would take up too much space”. Admittedly, LOHC is not as energy dense as diesel, “but taking the higher efficiency of fuel cells into account, you arrive at a system that will give you around 1MWh net per m3”, he explained.
The idea is quickly gaining recognition. According to Von der Heydt, Hydrogenious’ energy concepts are already drawing interest “and things are moving pretty fast now”. This January saw the company making the prestigious Cleantech 100 list for a second year running.
While he admitted he “took a risk in stepping away from security” he concluded: “We have to change: I’m in this because I believe LOHC could be a realistic alternative.”
By Stevie Knight
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