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BayoTech, NM Gas partner on potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions

One of BayoTech’s mobile generators, which the company will station in Albuquerque to demonstrate its fueling technology, pumps hydrogen into a car. (Courtesy of BayoTech Inc.)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque startup BayoTech Inc. and the New Mexico Gas Co. are jointly exploring ways to incorporate hydrogen into the fuel economy, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and potentially converting New Mexico into a hydrogen hub.

BayoTech has built the world’s first compact, mobile, hydrogen generators that can produce hydrogen anywhere and at a fraction of the cost of today’s massive, centralized facilities.

Stewart Stewart

NM Gas awarded a $200,000 grant this month to BayoTech to increase natural gas delivery at the company’s 15,000-square-foot facility in north Albuquerque, allowing it to run larger hydrogen generators there as it builds and demonstrates its technology, said BayoTech Chief Commercial Officer Stewart Stewart.

The partners are now reviewing joint projects to integrate hydrogen into the gas company’s operations, beginning with blending some hydrogen into the utility’s natural gas streams, said utility Vice President of Strategy and Business Development Gerald Weseen.

“We want to integrate some hydrogen into the current natural gas pipeline to see how much we can blend in,” Weseen said.

Other potential projects include new hydrogen fueling services for vehicles and for industrial customers who use natural gas. Piloting carbon capture technologies is another possibility.

“We want to work together to build the hydrogen economy in New Mexico,” Weseen said. “… As use of hydrogen evolves and changes, we want to make sure NM Gas is taking advantage of what’s being done to adapt best practices and move quickly on it.”

Many natural gas utilities are interested in hydrogen as the U.S. and other countries transition to a low-carbon, clean-energy future, Stewart said.

“Hydrogen offers opportunities to continue to deliver energy through natural gas utility infrastructure at lower cost and with lower emissions,” he said.

Hydrogen offers zero emissions when used in transportation, but deployment has been slow because it’s so expensive. BayoTech, however, says its mobile generators – which convert methane to hydrogen through a traditional steam methane reforming process – can offer hydrogen at just $2 per kilo, compared with $12 to $18 per kilo today from expensive, centralized plants.

Combined with carbon-capture technology, natural gas-based electric utilities could also potentially operate as low-carbon emitters in the future.

“Natural gas utilities across the world are thinking about one day becoming hydrogen utilities,” Stewart said.

The $200,000 NM Gas grant to BayoTech comes from a $5 million fund the utility’s parent firm, Emera Inc., set up under an agreement with the state Public Regulation Commission to construct a new pipeline for natural gas exports to Mexico. Low interest from potential Mexico-based partners in that project encouraged NM Gas to instead dedicate the $5 million fund to help local customers use natural gas more efficiently and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Weseen said. The PRC approved that change last fall.

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