Advanced Technology For Hydrogen Production

Governments worldwide are investing in hydrogen production as a way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and help decarbonize the energy sector.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy last year published its U.S. National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, highlighting the need for collaboration across multiple agencies to push national decarbonization goals. The European Commission in 2022 unveiled its REPowerEU Plan, which outlined several initiatives, including how hydrogen could support the European Union’s (EU’s) decarbonization targets.

Officials in both the EU and the U.S. agree that deployment of hydrogen production systems must be accelerated, and innovation must be supported, particularly the commercialization of new production technology. Among the companies involved with researching and developing that new technology is Q Hydrogen, a Park City, Utah-based group using what it calls “proprietary science” to allow “for the production of Clear Hydrogen.” The company said its production methods use “less space, less energy, and are lower cost compared to natural gas, fossil fuel, and existing hydrogen production methods. Our ambition is to make hydrogen energy affordable, accessible and simple for all industries to use.”

Whitaker Irvin Jr., president and CEO of Q Hydrogen since the company’s founding in 2013, has a background in several industries including finance, aerospace/defense, and energy. He has worked at companies known for their high-tech innovation, including including Raytheon, where he managed technology deployment for the U.S. Northeast.

Whitaker Irvin Jr.

Irvin’s family has been in the oil and gas sector for five generations. In 2010, he left Raytheon to guide the development and commercialization of carbon-free hydrogen production technologies invented by his father, Whitaker B. Irvin Sr. He is responsible for crafting Q Hydrogen’s commercialization strategies and is known for his relationships within the commercial and equity communities.

Irvin Jr. recently provided POWER with insight into his company’s technology and the challenges and opportunities for groups involved in hydrogen production.

POWER: What makes Q Hydrogen different from other hydrogen producers?

Irvin Jr.: Q Hydrogen is the first hydrogen company with a proprietary new method to produce clean and renewable hydrogen cost-effectively. We are actively involved in clean energy production involving hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel source that, depending on the method of use, only emits water or water vapor. Our company can produce hydrogen without electrolysis by using a proprietary electromechanical turbine to separate hydrogen from water, keeping costs much lower than other clean hydrogen providers.

POWER: What are the potential applications of Q Hydrogen? What industries can benefit from Q Hydrogen’s products and technology?

Irvin Jr.: Q Hydrogen’s products and technology can benefit a wide range of industries, including:

  • Transportation: Q Hydrogen’s technology can support the development and deployment of hydrogen fueling infrastructure and fuel cell systems for transportation applications. Q Hydrogen can offer transportation solutions for passenger and commercial vehicles, including cars, buses, trucks, and trains.
  • Energy: Q Hydrogen’s products and technology can enable the integration of hydrogen into the overall energy mix, supporting grid stability, renewable energy integration, and decarbonization efforts.
  • Industrial processes: Q Hydrogen’s technology can provide cost-effective and sustainable solutions for hydrogen production, storage, and distribution, helping industries reduce their carbon footprint and comply with emissions regulations. Hydrogen technology can be widely used in various industrial processes, such as ammonia production, petroleum refining, and metal processing.
  • Chemicals and materials: Q Hydrogen’s products and technology can enable the transition to green hydrogen production methods, reducing the environmental impact of these industries and promoting sustainable manufacturing practices to produce various chemicals and materials, including fertilizers, plastics, and steel.
  • Aerospace and maritime: Q Hydrogen’s technology has the potential to power aircraft, ships, and other aerospace and maritime vehicles, offering zero-emission alternatives to traditional fossil fuel propulsion systems.

Overall, Q Hydrogen’s products and technology have the potential to play a significant role in advancing the hydrogen economy across various industries, driving innovation, sustainability, and economic growth.

POWER: Will your hydrogen mean the industry must convert its infrastructure to handle the hydrogen?

Irvin Jr.: Hydrogen has properties different from conventional fuels like gasoline or natural gas, requiring storage, transportation, and distribution system adjustments. With the use of our technology and fuel, there is a significant amount of pre-existing infrastructure that will remain applicable and can be repurposed. In some cases, new infrastructure development will likely need to support specific applications and effective use of hydrogen.

Utah-based Q Hydrogen has redeveloped a former paper mill in Groveton, New Hampshire, into a power plant that will burn the company’s clean hydrogen to produce power. Courtesy: Q Hydrogen

POWER: How has the industry changed to create an impactful, scalable transition to hydrogen fuel?

Irvin Jr.: The industry has invested in research and development to improve hydrogen production, storage, and utilization technologies. Additionally, collaborations between governments, industries, and research institutions have developed standards and regulations conducive to hydrogen adoption. Scaling production capacities and establishing supply chains are vital to creating a sustainable and interconnected hydrogen ecosystem.

POWER: Do you think that the cost and infrastructure required to expand hydrogen will minimize its role in the transition to green energy?

Irvin Jr.: The cost and infrastructure challenges associated with hydrogen expansion could initially slow down its adoption. However, technological advancements and economies of scale gradually reduce costs and improve infrastructure. With a hydrogen economy valued at $130 billion and estimated to grow 9.2% annually, production costs will decrease by 50% through 2030.  As a result, hydrogen’s role in the transition to green energy is expected to grow over time, especially as more countries commit to decarbonization efforts and seek versatile, low-carbon energy solutions. Innovative technologies being a part of this mix could significantly increase the speed of adoption and size of the industry.

POWER: Can you explain what makes the current hydrogen push different from the push 20 to 30 years ago?

Irvin Jr.: The current push for hydrogen differs from previous efforts primarily due to several factors:

  • Technological advancements: Significant advancements in hydrogen production, storage, and utilization technologies have made hydrogen more viable and cost-effective today.
  • Environmental imperatives: With growing concerns over climate change and air pollution, there is a more substantial global consensus on the need to transition to cleaner energy sources, driving renewed interest in hydrogen.
  • Policy support: Governments worldwide are implementing policies and regulations to support hydrogen deployment, providing incentives and funding for research, development, and infrastructure.
  • Market dynamics: There is increasing demand for clean energy solutions, particularly in sectors like transportation and industrial processes, where hydrogen can play a crucial role in decarbonization. Greater adoption is predicated on more applicable and financially viable solutions, such as what we will be providing.

POWER: Do you think the hydrogen market will change in time to support the transition to zero emissions?

Irvin Jr.: Yes, the hydrogen market is expected to evolve significantly to support the transition to zero emissions. As technology advances and costs decrease, hydrogen becomes increasingly competitive with conventional fossil fuels in various applications. Additionally, as more countries set ambitious carbon reduction targets, the demand for zero-emission solutions like hydrogen will grow, further driving market changes and innovations in the sector.

POWER: What policies and regulations are needed to support developing and deploying alternative green hydrogen production technologies? Are there any barriers or incentives that could hinder or accelerate their adoption?

Irvin Jr.: Policies and regulations that can support the development and deployment of green hydrogen production technologies include:

  • Financial incentives: Subsidies, tax credits, and grants can help reduce the initial costs of building hydrogen infrastructure and encourage investment in research and development.
  • Carbon pricing: Implementing a carbon pricing mechanism can make typical green hydrogen more competitive by internalizing the external costs of carbon emissions from conventional fuels.
  • Regulatory standards: Establishing regulatory standards for hydrogen production, storage, and distribution can ensure safety, reliability, and interoperability across different systems.
  • Infrastructure development: Governments and private industry can invest in building hydrogen infrastructure, such as refueling stations and pipelines, to support the widespread adoption of hydrogen technology.

Barriers to adoption include:

  • Cost: Clean hydrogen production is currently more expensive than conventional hydrogen production methods, making it less competitive in the market.
  • Infrastructure limitations: The lack of widespread hydrogen infrastructure, such as refueling stations and pipelines, can hinder the adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles and other applications.
  • Technological challenges: Further research and development are needed to improve efficiency and reduce the costs of green hydrogen production technologies.
  • Market uncertainty: Uncertainty about future demand and regulatory frameworks can deter investment in hydrogen technology development and deployment.

Incentives that could accelerate adoption include:

  • Long-term policy commitments: Clear and consistent government policy signals can provide certainty for investors and encourage long-term investment in hydrogen technology.
  • Public-private partnerships: By pooling resources and expertise, collaboration between governments, industries, and research institutions can accelerate technology development and deployment.
  • Startups and private investment: Encouraging investment in startups will spur innovation and drive the development of new hydrogen technologies and solutions.
  • Demonstration projects: Investing in pilot projects and demonstration facilities can showcase the viability and scalability of hydrogen technology, encouraging further investment and adoption.
  • International cooperation: Cooperation between countries can facilitate knowledge sharing, technology transfer, and economies of scale, driving down costs and accelerating adoption globally.

POWER: Your company is developing projects outside of the U.S., in places such as Germany and Sweden. What are your thoughts about American hydrogen production vs. production in other countries?

Irvin Jr.: While the U.S. certainly has the potential to be a significant player in hydrogen production, it’s essential to recognize that the global landscape for hydrogen development is diverse and dynamic.

In places like Germany and Sweden, there has been significant investment and advancement in hydrogen technology, driven by ambitious renewable energy goals and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions. These countries have embraced hydrogen as a critical component of their energy transition strategies, leading to innovative projects and collaborations within the industry.

While the U.S. has made strides in hydrogen production, including promising developments in renewable hydrogen from sources like wind and solar power, there are still opportunities for growth and expansion. Factors such as policy frameworks, infrastructure development, and investment incentives play crucial roles in shaping the competitiveness of American hydrogen production on the global stage. Recent policy efforts within the Inflation Reduction Act expressly point to how the U.S. strives to make a meaningful impact on the worldwide stage regarding hydrogen.

Ultimately, Q Hydrogen is committed to leveraging our expertise and resources to contribute to the growth of hydrogen production both domestically and internationally. We believe in the importance of collaboration and knowledge-sharing across borders to drive innovation and accelerate the transition to a sustainable energy future.

POWER: Are you implementing this technology with both the public and private sectors?

Irvin Jr: Our mission at Q Hydrogen is to make clean hydrogen energy affordable, simple and readily available to the world for the first time. First efforts are private, with work toward public use shortly after.

We aim to make hydrogen energy affordable, accessible, and simple for all industries. Our proprietary science allows hydrogen production using less space and less energy at a lower cost than natural gas, fossil fuel, and existing hydrogen production methods. As the company scales, we will look to provide the technology throughout the private sector.

POWER: Can you explain how Q Hydrogen provides scalable solutions?

Irvin Jr.: Q Hydrogen delivers scalable solutions through our pioneering proprietary technology, which harnesses the power of a new complex turbine technology containing hyperbolic waveform geometry. It eliminates the need for electrolyzer technology—resulting in an innovative electromechanical turbine that produces hydrogen from water. This approach enables efficient hydrogen production from water.

By offering our advanced technology, reducing costs, improving accessibility, and facilitating rapid expansion through partnerships with public and private entities in sectors such as rail, global shipping, chemical production, and utilities, Q Hydrogen is poised to drive significant growth in the hydrogen industry.

POWER: Could you tell us about the opening of the Groveton, New Hampshire, commercial campus and why you built it?

Irvin Jr.: The Q Hydrogen Groveton facility was built to be a commercial operating facility, showcasing our technological achievements and a scientific and engineering review for companies and groups with which we are currently in discussions for use. Since our technology is so different, a significant commercial implementation was necessary to showcase that what we do actually works effectively. This has been done with private funding, and we look forward to revealing our achievements to the world later this year. When we open, we will be a power plant providing electricity directly to end users on our site. We hope to expand as the need grows to facilitate economic growth in northern New Hampshire.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).