Competitive Edge: Hydragas Energy

May 28, 2020 |

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

We founded Hydragas to develop a renewable gas recovery technology, to supply clean energy at country-scale. The roots of the technology developed were in addressing a compelling need to harvest biogas from a unique lake. Lake Kivu is one of the Great Lakes of Africa, also the world’s largest bio-digester. It contains about 12 tcf of biogas.

The problem is both complex and threatening. The lake has been accumulating gas for as much as 1000 years, but the rate is accelerating. In 70 years or less, saturating the gas carrying capacity of the lake will trigger a catastrophic eruption.

It can happen sooner as there are factors such as two nearby volcanoes and that Africa’s rift valley hosts the lake. But there is now a solution that can harvest and “de-fang” the gas eruption threat, by preventing a powerful limnic eruption. In doing so we can harvest the 2tcf of renewable natural gas. From this source we can power up two countries with carbon-negative energy to 15 million.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

We could be a technical service organization, based on the R&D and design skills we have committed to over 18 years. But we choose instead to be a project developer, deploying our IP in biogas recovery from deep water. We rely on nature, including archaea methanogens and other biota, to do the main work.

The reason is that the financial reward lies in the projects rather than the equipment or know-how. Our skills-set is built on deep knowledge of, and our innovations in the recovery of dissolved methane in water. This covers several types of water body, oceans, seas, lakes and aquifers. Each of them has a specific pathway to depositing methane, often with other gases.

Our products are process plants that produce gas. Any associated plant, including power generation, are co-packaged. Our ability to “farm” the biota can enhance the productivity of digesters, on which we depend, to be more productive. So we will deliverers of the energy and GHG reductions to the consumer.

Q: What stage of development are you?  Choose one:

Demonstration stage – proven at small, integrated scale, but not yet commercially available.

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

As conceived, the technology was to extract gas from water more efficiently, and with higher recovery, than any other. This was achieved by re-inventing the process; first by building extraction plant underwater, second by radically accelerating the separation of gas from water.

The innovation we introduced allowed us to drive the process more strongly, while also eliminating 90% of the energy consumed by process equipment. Parasitic energy use dropped to <2%, compared to ~20-30%.

In the field of accomplishment, we get into exceptionally important outcomes. The first application, described in (3) above, is to reduce the dire, impending threat of Lake Kivu erupting as gas nears saturation levels. A limnic eruption event has potential to kill 2-4 million people in a day. Averting that event is huge.

Allied to that is preventing 2 gigatons of carbon being emitted that day. These outcomes are achieved at the same time by our method that keeps the lake safe in perpetuity.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

There is literally a stack of competitive attributes that make the Hydragas technology stand out against its competitors. This varies from productivity factors, capital cost and qualitative performance in meeting a slate of exacting technical requirements.

Quantitatively, gas extraction has higher recovery (84% vs ~40%), efficiency (98% vs ~75%) net energy out, recoverability (84-100% vs 52%) of gas in situ.

As the capital cost of total Hydragas plant is lower ($4.3 M per MW, vs $8.25/MW) than its competitor, KivuWatt, so financial performance is twice as good before GHG emission reduction credits. With sales of credits able to double our revenues, financial performance is even better.

A complex sustainability target is met, ensuring the process is sustainable for centuries. All legacy methods of gas production are unsafe and unsustainable, constraining operations to <50 years and possibly causing a limnic eruption.

We are able to make Lake Kivu safe for centuries.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. In the prior three years of activity, Hydragas updated the feasibility study for the project based on performance data from the pilot project that we conducted in situ on Lake Kivu. We updated the extraction process from two to three-stage separation and gas clean-up.
  2. Over the same period, Hydragas was represented on the International Expert Advisory Group for Lake Kivu. The group completed the three-year program of study and research on the lake’s biology, hydrology, limnology, volcanology and seismology. The findings were fundamental in confirming the regulation needed to ensure safe gas extraction. The published Management Prescriptions for Lake Kivu Development (the “MPs”) define the regulation of gas exploitation.
  3. Hydragas has updated estimates, the financial model and assurances that the technical compliance requirements are fully met for safe production. The financial outcomes of the project are now well understood and lead the field.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?

  1. The next most important milestone is to close the $23 M funding of the demonstration project to be built 2020/21 on Lake Kivu. At completion, the project must undergo tests and underwater monitoring to ensure that gas is produced without disturbing the sensitive and vital lake density structure.
  2. Funding for the $215 M, first commercial gas and power generation project is the next milestone. It will allow the 18-20 month construction of a 50 MW facility. It is anticipated that commercial production can occur within three years, provided there are no undue delays in the funding stages.
  3. On commissioning of the first commercial project, we hope to have secured the necessary debt-funding and supplementary capital to proceed with a further eleven installations in Rwanda and DRC. Half of the resource is in each country and development will need to follow accordingly.

Where can I learn more about Hydragas Energy?

Click here to visit Hydragas Energy’s website.

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