Insights

The Oil Trick with Hydrogen

Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies GmbH has developed a technology that binds highly volatile hydrogen gas with oil. This achievement led to the company being nominated for a 2021 German Entrepreneurial Award (Deutscher Gründerpreis). Porsche Consulting will be supporting Hydrogenious's efforts to further scale up its activities.

09/2021

Hydrogenious concept model: hydrogen stored in oil can be transported from the production facility to places of use in multiple economical ways. Hydrogenious

Green hydro­gen is con­sid­ered one of the most impor­tant com­po­nents of the ener­gy tran­si­tion sought the world over. Gen­er­at­ed via elec­trol­y­sis from renew­able ener­gies like wind or solar power with­out emit­ting green­house gases, it will play an essen­tial trans­for­ma­tive role in many areas of the economy—from the steel indus­try to glass pro­duc­tion. One chal­lenge is how to make suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of green hydro­gen avail­able in eco­nom­i­cal­ly viable ways. A key role is there­fore played by imports from regions such as Spain, the Mid­dle East, Africa, and Aus­tralia. How­ev­er, stor­age and trans­port of this high­ly volatile gas have thus far proved dif­fi­cult. The Hydro­ge­nious LOHC Tech­nolo­gies com­pa­ny, based in the north­ern Bavar­i­an city of Erlan­gen, offers a solu­tion: a process it has devel­oped by which green hydro­gen is bound to an oil. “Packed in oil,” the gas can be stored and trans­port­ed under ambi­ent con­di­tions. It is then released and the oil is reused for the next load.

The road to suc­cess was long. Dr. Daniel Teich­mann, a chem­i­cal engi­neer, found­ed Hydro­ge­nious LOHC Tech­nolo­gies GmbH in 2013. The four cap­i­tal let­ters in the company’s name stand for “liq­uid organ­ic hydro­gen car­ri­ers.” Know­ing that organ­ic com­pounds can absorb and release hydro­gen in chem­i­cal reac­tions, Teich­mann arrived at the idea of using them to store and trans­port the gas. He refined this approach in the course of a research pro­gram at the Friedrich Alexan­der Uni­ver­si­ty Erlan­gen-Nürn­berg (FAU). This south­ern Ger­man uni­ver­si­ty has held a sin­gle-digit share of the spin-off since 2014. In return, it has trans­ferred 15 patents to Hydro­ge­nious. The high stor­age den­si­ty of the LOHC process enables it to han­dle five times as much hydro­gen as com­pres­sion process­es, for exam­ple. Teich­mann found that a heat-trans­fer­ring ben­zyl­toluene oil is superbly suit­ed for this pur­pose, and Hydro­ge­nious has patent­ed the process.

Plans for a hydrogen release plant: 1.5 tons of hydrogen can be made available every day—at industrial sites or fueling stations. The system should be ready in 2024. Hydrogenious

Dr. Andreas Lehmann, the company’s head of strat­e­gy, high­lights a poten­tial trump card for com­mer­cial­iz­ing the tech­nol­o­gy. “We can use all the infra­struc­ture instru­ments that already exist for con­ven­tion­al fuels like diesel, includ­ing oil tankers, pumps, and tanker trucks.” More­over, the oil is exceed­ing­ly sta­ble and secure because it can be han­dled and stored under nor­mal con­di­tions. It is not explo­sive or volatile, and emits no toxic cor­ro­sive vapors such as ammo­nia. The process is cur­rent­ly being test­ed at mul­ti­ple demon­stra­tion facil­i­ties. The largest is planned for CHEMPARK in the town of Dor­ma­gen, with an antic­i­pat­ed stor­age capac­i­ty of five tons a day. “That means we’ve reached an indus­tri­al scale,” Lehmann notes.

The man­agers of the Erlan­gen-based com­pa­ny are cer­tain that not only indus­tri­al sec­tors but also “trans­port will ben­e­fit from hydro­gen drive sys­tems and there­fore from our LOHC appli­ca­tion.” Lehmann goes on to explain that LOHC enables safe infra­struc­ture for instal­la­tions such as fuel­ing sta­tions. The process could also soon be used at sea. In July of this year the com­pa­ny, which now holds 45 patents and employs 125 peo­ple, entered a joint ven­ture with the Scan­di­na­vian ship­ping enter­prise Johannes Østen­sjø dy AS. The Hydro­ge­nious LOHC Mar­itime AS joint sub­sidiary is expect­ed to devel­op and mar­ket an inno­v­a­tive emis­sion-free LOHC-based appli­ca­tion for the ship­ping sec­tor. The first freighter equipped with the novel tech­nol­o­gy “devel­oped in Erlan­gen” could set off as early as 2024.

Investors are con­fi­dent about the young tech­nol­o­gy experts’ prospects. AP Ven­tures, the ven­ture-cap­i­tal man­age­ment com­pa­ny for Anglo Amer­i­can Plat­inum, and South Africa’s Pub­lic Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, quick­ly came on board. They were fol­lowed by oil-ter­mi­nal oper­a­tor Vopak, the Winkel­mann Group, the Mit­subishi cor­po­ra­tion, the Cove­stro chem­i­cal group, and Hyundai Motor Com­pa­ny. In the lat­est round of fund­ing, these six investors were joined by four more: Jera, Japan’s largest power com­pa­ny, Teme­sek, the cap­i­tal hold­ing com­pa­ny for the gov­ern­ment of Sin­ga­pore, Chevron Oil Cor­po­ra­tion, and the Pavil­ion Cap­i­tal ven­ture investor. “That gives our growth plans a very strong finan­cial and strate­gic foun­da­tion,” says Lehmann.

Hydrogenious is testing this small hydrogen release plant at its headquarters. It fits in a container and will be used in a pilot project at an Erlangen gas station. Hydrogenious

Hydrogenious’s inno­v­a­tive power and pio­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy were hon­ored at this year’s Ger­man Entre­pre­neur­ial Awards (Deutsch­er Grün­der­preis). The jury, with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from DG’s part­ners and spon­sors includ­ing Stern mag­a­zine, the Sparkasse sav­ings and loan insti­tu­tions, ZDF tele­vi­sion, and Porsche, praised its devel­op­ment of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary stor­age and trans­port tech­nol­o­gy that can facil­i­tate hydrogen’s break­through as an ener­gy vec­tor in the 21st cen­tu­ry. Hydro­ge­nious was nom­i­nat­ed in the “Up and Com­ing” cat­e­go­ry. Like the other final­ists, it will receive four weeks of indi­vid­ual and cus­tomized atten­tion by the Porsche Con­sult­ing man­age­ment con­sul­tan­cy. “We want to work with the con­sul­tants to refine our strat­e­gy for the com­ing years as we tran­si­tion from devel­op­ment work to a ser­vice and com­mer­cial enter­prise,” says Lehmann. “Porsche Consulting’s ideas and expe­ri­ence in the mobil­i­ty sec­tor will be help­ful, as will its con­sul­tants’ exper­tise in bring­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices onto the mar­ket.” Michael Tribus, Senior Part­ner at Porsche Con­sult­ing, adds that “Hydro­ge­nious com­mands pre­cise­ly the tech­nol­o­gy that can make hydro­gen a suc­cess. We want to help the com­pa­ny become an eco­nom­ic suc­cess as well.”

German Entrepreneurial Awards—The Finalists


Since 2002, the German Entrepreneurial Awards (Deutscher Gründerpreis) have been honoring those who despite risks have not shied away from developing visions into business plans. And transforming ideas into companies. Alongside Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies GmbH, there are five more nominees in the "StartUp" and "Up and Coming" categories for the final round and awards ceremony on September 14 in Berlin.
WINNER
Light and easy  Making laboratory tests in microgravity simpler, faster, and more economical—on parabolic flights or on the International Space Station (ISS). Three aviation engineers, one industrial engineer, and their Yuri GmbH in the southern German town of Meckenbeuren have declared the "democratization of weightlessness" to be their business model. Yuri's core products are currently miniature labs that are sent into space for pharmaceutical companies or research institutes. Yuri's future plans are to make the transition from service provider to biotech company and to produce biological material or entire organs in space. WINNER
Wild and free  The young Wildling Shoes GmbH company from the western German town of Engelskirchen wants to give feet as much freedom as possible. The use of Japanese washi fabric instead of leather is one reason the "barefoot summer shoes" by designers Anna and Ran Yona are so comfortable they're barely noticeable. The Yonas got the idea from their children, whom they allowed to run barefoot while living in Israel. The children later asked for shoes that would never constrict their feet—a wish shared by an ever increasing number of customers. NOMINEE
Phishing prohibited  Cologne-based SoSafe GmbH uses a training platform to help companies and organizations turn their employees into "human firewalls" in the fight against cyber crime. Around 3.4 billion phishing e-mails are sent every day, and more than 600 million of these evade spam filters. Half of them are opened. The three SoSafe founders and their team have developed an e-learning platform with realistic simulations that raise employee awareness and thereby help to prevent online errors. Non-commercial users can try a free version at phish-test.de. NOMINEE
An app a day  Treating anxiety disorders digitally via smartphone—this is what the Invirto app from Hamburg-based Sympatient GmbH promises. Developed by Julian Angern, a young neuroscientist, it puts virtual reality to use for psychotherapeutic purposes. Invirto requires a prescription and is approved by insurance companies. According to Sympatient, the treatment is now completely reimbursed by all public health insurance companies in Germany. NOMINEE
Your ID, please  Confirming your identity online is now easier with the Selfie-Ident app from Hamburg-based Nect GmbH. Users take videos of their faces and ID cards. Artificial intelligence is used to verify the images quickly and easily on mobile end devices. Many insurance companies, Deutsche Telekom, the ADAC automobile association, and even the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (federal labor agency) are already using this customer-friendly process—for example, to promptly evaluate applications for unemployment benefits.
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