New Brunswick Power is trying to position itself as the world’s first hydrogen-powered distributed electricity grid after investing C$13 million in what Greentech Media describes as a “mysterious hydrogen production technology” under development by Florida-based Joi Scientific.
“The deployment of hydrogen production stations on the NB Power grid is dependent on Joi Scientific being able to scale up its technology, which is still in the laboratory phase,” Greentech reports. That prompted provincial Green leader David Coon to argue that NB Power has no mandate “to be acting like an angel investor in someone’s project in Florida,” adding that the technology Joi Scientific plans to use “remains a mystery”.
Both companies said NB Power conducted “exhaustive due diligence” before signing the deal, Greentech states.
Joi Scientific CEO Traver Kennedy said his company holds six U.S. patents, raised nearly US$5 million in investment capital in 2016, and will be publishing scientific papers on its process “perhaps as early as next year”. Meanwhile, “we’re specifically not talking about how the technology works because there is additional work we are doing,” he said.
NB Power President and CEO Gaëtan Thomas said the technology involved “a nanopulse-driven signal that basically allows [us] to get hydrogen out of saltwater. It’s almost mind-boggling how it works.”
Citing Kennedy, Greentech describes the design as a “modular hydrogen production unit or system that could provide fuel to drive engines or fuel cells. The units would be housed in containers resembling server racks.” Joi Scientific’s website said the process is not based on electrolysis and has no negative environmental impact. Kennedy said the approach uses seawater rather than pure water.
And Thomas saw the prospect of a scaled-up production facility competing with fossil fuels, at an all-in cost of 5.0 to 8.0¢/kWh.
If it works, “NB Power is hoping to use the technology to decarbonize its generation portfolio,” Greentech notes. A key focus is the utility’s 467-MW Belledune coal plant, which accounts for about 20% of its carbon footprint.
Kennedy said hydrogen could also boost the resilience of the provincial grid. “By locating up to 30 hydrogen production stations ranging from 500 kilowatts to two megawatts around the electricity network, the utility would be able to guard against blackouts caused by transmission line failures,” Greentech writes.