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BC hydrogen startup Ekona Power gets $1M from Ottawa

BC hydrogen startup Ekona Power gets M from Ottawa
BC hydrogen startup Ekona Power gets M from Ottawa

Ekona Power, the British Columbia company developing technology to produce turquoise hydrogen, is getting a $1 million boost from the federal government.

The funding, which falls under the federal government’s Clean Fuels and Industrial Fuel Switching program, was announced Tuesday at the Ekona plant in Burnaby, where a methane pyrolysis process has been developed to produce hydrogen and solid carbon from natural gas.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the federal funding is intended to help Ekona scale up its technology.

Hydrogen is seen as essential for achieving net zero targets because it can be a flexible, low- or zero-emissions fuel suitable for hard-to-abate sectors, such as long-haul freight.

The two main ways to make low- or zero-carbon hydrogen are from water and renewable electricity (green), or from natural gas, with carbon capture and storage (blue).

Electrolysis is expensive because of the huge energy input required. And while CCS is a good option for producing emission-reduced hydrogen from natural gas, it has limitations due to geology. CCS requires significant geological storage potential nearby, which is not available in all regions of the world.

The methane pyrolysis technology that Ekona is refining also produces hydrogen from natural gas, but without the need for carbon capture and sequestration.

Ekona’s xCaliber reactor produces hydrogen and solid carbon, which can be sold for various industrial applications. Hydrogen produced this way is called “turquoise”.

“Essentially, we are working to deliver low-carbon hydrogen that is affordable,” Gary Schubak, Ekona’s Chief Commercial Officer, said at last month’s Hy-Fcell Canada conference.

“There are many investors who have invested in our company because they see it as a very interesting alternative for CO2 capture.”

In 2022, Ekona raised $79 million in a Series A venture capital round.

Later this year, Ekona will begin construction of its first demonstration reactor in partnership with Arc Resources (TSX:ARX) at Arc’s Gold Creek natural gas facility. Ekona plans to begin construction of the new demonstration plant later this year, with a planned commissioning date of mid-2025.

“Ekona is a very interesting company with a very interesting technology. Assuming they can scale it up and make it work in a cost-effective way (and they obviously have some work to do to get to that point), then we can use existing natural gas infrastructure in a way that no other hydrogen production technology can,” Wilkinson told BIV News.

“You don’t have to capture the carbon, you don’t have to sequester the carbon — it comes out as a solid. For example, you could have a pyrolysis and Ekona system in Japan that uses natural gas and actually produces ultra-low carbon hydrogen, which you can’t do now.”

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