U of R embracing hydrogen technology

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The University of Regina is hoping to develop hydrogen technology in Saskatchewan

Martin Weaver
News Editor

Bridging the gap between the laboratory and the real world is what the University of Regina is hoping to achieve with a new pilot project in hydrogen production.

Both the provincial and federal levels of government are teaming up to invest $2.7 million into a pilot project to develop sustainable ways to produce hydrogen on a commercial scale.

Hydrogen fuel could have practical applications in heating homes or powering cars. The only byproduct created when hydrogen is “burned” is water. The trouble with hydrogen is that it does not exist on earth on it’s own. It has to be separated from other substances like water.

“They’ve experimented with this technology in a lab setting and this will allow further testing in more of a life-sized situation,” said Barb Pollock, the university’s vice-president of external affairs. “It’s to test the commercial viability of using different ways to create hydrogen.”

The challenge in the entire process is making sure that the energy used to separate the hydrogen isn’t using non-renewable energy. Professors at the U of R believe they’ve developed a solution to this problem with a “unique catalyst” that will separate hydrogen from any hydrogen-containing substance that is inputted like water or fossil fuels.

The multi-million dollar investment will go towards both the design and the construction of the plant that will demonstrate that the hydrogen production can be done on a large commercial scale – something Saskatchewan would like to do.

"Our Government is committed to clean energy technology initiatives like the University of Regina's hydrogen pilot plant project," said MP for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre Tom Lukiwski in a statement dated June 27. "This investment will help promote a clean energy source that will benefit the environment and generate new economic opportunities for Saskatchewan."

The minister of government services, Laura Ross, agrees.

“By investing in hydrogen, we are investing in the future of our province," said Ross. "This is a new energy source with significant market and export potential, and Saskatchewan looks forward to being a leader in this area."

The research into the new hydrogen technology has been done on the U of R campus at the International Test Centre for CO2 Capture.

The end goal is to both and own and operate the plant that will utilize the technology already developed through research.

Pollock credits the work of the university professors in going out and getting the grants and the cash to take their research to the next level.

“They have good credible research projects and they’re getting a response. So, it isn’t just an increase in grants related to things like energy, there’s really solid work being done here in a lot of ways and it’s gaining recognition financially,” she said.

She also credited project leader Raphael Idem in particular.

“[The grant] speaks very well of him, and we [the university] get to be in the reflective glory of that.”

This grant in particular came from the Canada-Saskatchewan Western Economic Partnership Agreement which is a $50 million dollar agreement promoting economic activity in western Canada.

The plant is expected to open in January 2012, according to the U of R Engineering department’s website.

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