Hydrogen on demand to arrive in Australia

The advantages of having a system that delivers hydrogen on demand exceed what hydrogen storage can offer. Reduced fuel consumption, carbon monoxide emissions and diesel particulate matter are just the beginning.

It is a breath of fresh air when an 11-year project that reduces diesel particulate matter from diesel-powered engines is finally being commercialised.

HYDI, derived from Hydrogen Direct Injection, has developed hydrogen injection units as a solution to help eliminate hydrocarbons emitted by heavy industries such as mining.

This is a ground-breaking accomplishment that no company in the world has been able to achieve, using only minimal water and power.

“It has been a long journey,” HYDI managing director, John Wilson tells Australian Mining.

“The inspiration behind this project comes from the benefits of hydrogen itself. Being able to deliver those with a safe, chemical free product was an incentive to maintain our research and development (R&D) and field testing over the last 11 years.

“What was previously a night-time/morning/weekend job turned into a full-time project once we had confirmed our technology was robust, reliable and marketable to a range of applications.”

The HYDI system is designed to generate hydrogen on demand to supplement fuel for diesel-powered engines.

“All we need is minimal power from the host engine to run the unit and a gas line into the air intake system,” Wilson continues.

“HYDI has a number of configurations to optimise packaging for retrofit on existing diesel engines and generators of all sizes and applications.

“Mining applications which require a customised solution to suit a specialised or significant volume application can be accommodated.”

The hydrogen is not stored, meaning that it poses no health or safety issues, including risks of explosion that are often linked to stored hydrogen.

University of South Australia’s (UniSA) science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) senior lecturer Saiful Bari also notes: “The risk of the storage of hydrogen/oxygen mixture is minimum as they are produced on-demand (i.e. no storage).”

Instead, a controlled amount of hydrogen produced is introduced into the air intake of a diesel engine, which provides a cleaner burn, and in turn reduces fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and diesel particulate matter (DPM).

Results from long-term field trials on heavy transport and initial data from independent testing on a 100 kVA diesel generator at UniSA show the hydrogen fuel supplementation has reduced diesel consumption in the range of 5–13 per cent, removed 7–25 per cent of carbon monoxide, and lowered DPM by 25–80 per cent. 

Independent testing and trials are continuing on other equipment, including a Scania public transport bus and large mining equipment.

Wilson says the statistics for deaths in Europe associated with asthma, lung and brain cancer purported to be linked to DPM was a motive to persist with the project, which is expected to gain international interest.

“Moreover, a significant cut in air pollution-generating activities caused by the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates how much clearer the air can be with a drop in emissions from heavy industry engines,” Wilson says.

According to HYDI chief executive Roger van der Lee, the primary motivation for HYDI’s innovation was to harness the environmental benefits of using hydrogen as a fuel because it has no environmental impacts at all on consumption.

“It’s particularly relevant to diesel because it’s got about three times the energy value when it’s combusted. So that’s where the fuel efficiency and economy comes from – because you get more power from less fuel,” van der Lee says.

“The intense burn consumes diesel fuel carbon, which would otherwise be emitted as DPM or end up in the crankcase oil.”

The benefits of hydrogen as a fuel are well known, as are the challenges in terms of capital cost, risk and lead time for hydrogen generation and distribution as a single fuel.

There is a persuasive case for HYDI’s system in terms of return on investment (ROI). Fuel savings alone offset the cost, while savings for reduced oil and filter servicing for a cleaner running engine are also predicted. 

“Aside from the economic incentive, any large consumer of diesel has the opportunity, many would say obligation, to reduce their carbon footprint. For every litre of diesel usage reduction, the planet benefits from 2.68 kilograms of carbon dioxide not being added to our climate,” van der Lee says.

There’s not much impact operation-wise, van der Lee adds. The HYDI system is a low maintenance unit, which only requires a demineralised water top up at long intervals and unit servicing once every six months.

HYDI has attracted interest from mobile equipment manufacturers that are looking to reduce the amount of DPM generated by a diesel power plant, used in collaboration with existing filter technology.

“In the meantime, one thing is certain. HYDI gives something to the world by introducing a system to suit existing assets that can reduce emissions dramatically in an economically sustainable way,” Wilson concludes.

This article also appears in the June edition of Australian Mining.

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