Some of the most remarkable uses of science are the discoveries that not only solve an original problem – they bring the potential to solve a host of serendipitous and even bigger challenges, too.
This is the case for a new company in Boca Raton, Florida. Standard Hydrogen Company (www.StandardH2.com) began as a quest to solve the issue of the oil and gas refinery business. The ability to produce fossil fuels is an economic benefit, but the benefit is offset by the massive impact of greenhouse gasses (some 36.8 billion metric tons in 2019, according to Weather.com). Standard Hydrogen opened its business with a mechanism to convert the toxic hydrogen sulfide the refinery process creates into high purity hydrogen and sulfur. The pure hydrogen is a zero-emission fuel that can power automobiles, busses, transport vehicles, ships and electric motors of many kinds. Additionally – wait for it – the hydrogen output can power the company’s reactor itself, allowing the process to sustain itself without additional fossil fuel or electrical power.
So What’s Next?
The company’s patent in 2019 was a cause for celebration, as its solution to the problem of refinery waste could also address the growing demand for hydrogen fuel, which researchers anticipate could grow to $130 billion by 2050.
Then they made a related discovery. The same technology they’d created for refinery waste could address the problem created by garbage as well, and most especially the garbage comprised by fossil-fuel products like plastic and tires. Fortuitously, the same reactor technology that addresses refinery waste can convert solid waste – plastic, paper, tires and wood into hydrogen sulfide. From there, similar to the refinery process, the reactor produces pure hydrogen and sulfur and nonpolluting particles from the wood and cellulose waste.
Now the technology could solve the mounting problem of plastic and landfill waste throughout the world. With access to the reactor, communities from anywhere could gather the plastics that litter the ocean and convert it to hydrogen and sulfur to sell. Practitioners could pay landfills a small sum to collect the mountains of garbage and convert it to sellable fuel.
Like some of the best scientific developments, the solution to an initial problem can become the answer to multiple bigger issues as well or make a massive improvement to the ecology of the world.
For Standard Hydrogen, the next steps are additional research and development through mid 2020, according to CEO Alan Mintzer, while the company finalizes joint ventures and additional funding to proceed to technology rollout anticipated by 2021.