When people talk about hydrogen these days, they almost always mention transportation. I get it: people are used to filling up tanks, not charging cars. But from a practical perspective, transportation is not a great use for hydrogen.
“Hydrogen is really terrible to store and to transport,” said Chad Mason, founder and CEO of Advanced Ionics.
Which is why Advanced Ionics is a hydrogen company that has nothing to do with transportation. Instead, the startup is focused on heavy industry, which represents about a third of global emissions.
“Hydrogen is one of the main feedstocks for a vast majority of industrial processes,” Mason told TechCrunch+. It’s essential for the ammonia used to make fertilizers and for many petrochemical processes used to make everything from plastics to synthetic rubber and lubricants. Even steel and glass production could benefit from a decarbonized source of hydrogen.
Amid the crowd of hydrogen companies hoping to elbow their way into these markets, Advanced Ionics hopes its more efficient approach to using electrolysis will give it an unfair advantage in producing hydrogen.
Today, much of the world’s hydrogen supply comes from what’s called steam-reformed methane. Basically, steam is mixed with methane gas, producing hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Electrolyzers, on the other hand, use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. If they’re powered by renewable energy, then the process can be carbon-free.
But they’re not perfect.
Most efforts to produce hydrogen work at either relatively low temperatures or high temperatures. Advanced Ionics’ electrolyzers, though, work at temperatures that are not too high or low, basically the same range at which many industrial processes already take place. That means the heat requirements for the startup’s equipment are the same as what’s already available at those sites.