Prof. Devinder Mahajan: Hydrogen, the smallest energy molecule, is pervasive in all sectors of the economy
Prof. Devinder Mahajan: Hydrogen, the smallest energy molecule, is pervasive in all sectors of the economy

Prof. Devinder Mahajan: Hydrogen, the smallest energy molecule, is pervasive in all sectors of the economy

H2 View’s North America Hydrogen Summit in San Francisco, California, is less than four weeks. Under the theme of Building Bridges: Hydrogen Hubs and Investment the summit will hear from some of the leading stakeholders and influencers in the industry.

Joining us in California is Prof. Devinder Mahajan, Director, Institute of Gas Innovation and Technology (I-GIT) at Stony Brook University, so we caught up with him ahead of the event to find out more about what we can expect from his presentation.

H2 View (H2V): Thank you for taking the time to talk to H2 View today. Firstly, for readers who may not be familiar with Stony Brook University, can you tell us more about the company and how it got into the hydrogen space?

Devinder Mahajan (DM): Stony Brook University (SBU) is a public university, part of the 64-campus State University of New York (SUNY) system and now is a designated flagship campus. The university serves nearly 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students who are taught by over 2,800 faculty and assisted by 15,000+ employees.

This gives you a glimpse of the role Stony Brook, as a research institution and one of the 65 members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, could play in training the next generation leaders in renewable technologies. SBU has an active R&D Park that houses two New York State Centres of Excellence, Centers of Excellence for Wireless information and Technology (CEWIT) and Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC).

In 2018, the university established a new institute, Institute of Gas Innovation and Technology (I-GIT) to address energy transition, specifically fossil natural gas. National Grid in partnership with AERTC is the founding member of I-GIT. However, now the I-GIT membership has expanded to multiple companies. The bulk of projects within I-GIT are focused on Hydrogen.

H2V: Devinder, you’re speaking at H2 View’s North American Hydrogen Summit 2022 in the Hydrogen Hubs: Emerging session. Can you give us a tease of what you’ll be discussing here?

DM: Hydrogen, the smallest energy molecule, is pervasive in all sectors of the economy, be it chemicals market (ammonia and methanol are two large volume commodity chemicals) or refineries that, for example, use hydrogen to upgrade crude petroleum to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.

The challenge now is two-fold: firstly, can the two large volume chemicals, methanol and ammonia- also serve as fuels or hydrogen carriers? Secondly, the safety lessons from multiple commercial uses of hydrogen can be used to expand the use of this molecule.

Offshore Long Island, New York is already committed 9.4GW offshore wind projects that could provide surplus power to run electrolysers and produce green hydrogen. According to National Renewable Energy Laboratory studies and Forbes projections, the demand for hydrogen in the US could reach as much as 41 million metric tonnes per year by 2050, a four-fold increase compared with the present and green hydrogen could supply up to 25% of the world’s energy needs by 2050 and become a US$10 trillion addressable market by 2050. Such massive expansion brings challenges for production and to engineer systems.

H2V: Can you tell us more about Stony Brook University’s role in the North American hydrogen market and some exciting projects the company is currently working on?

DM: Though multiple aspects of hydrogen related work were already underway at Stony Brook for over two decades, the activity was formalised with the establishment of I-GIT in 2018. I-GIT is funded by multiple member companies who have released their won blueprints of decarbonisation strategies and technology deployments leading up to 2050.

So, working side-by-side with industry and carrying out R&D with global implications is exciting for Stony Brook. Moreover, we are training our students (future leaders) who are getting hired by these companies.

H2V: What do you believe is the biggest driver for hydrogen in the North American market right now?

DM: The nation’s commitment to tackle climate change led to the Biden Administration’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that included an allocation of $9.5bn for hydrogen related activities. Specifically, a call for at least four hydrogen hubs with $8 billion cost-sharing sent a strong signal to the industry that the Government is ready to partner and push hydrogen to commercialisation on a large scale.

Read more: Announcement puts US Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs on the horizon

This U.S. DOE funding is the single most driver to bring hydrogen on the centre stage for decarbonisation. This Government commitment is encouraging all key companies developing their own business focused roadmaps to meet an ambitious goal of achieving Net Zero energy by 2050.

H2V: On the contrary, what do you think needs to be done in order to see increased investment and interest in the hydrogen industry?

DM: The massive infusion of public funds through the U.S. DOE for hydrogen-centric demonstration projects is intended to jump start the ‘hydrogen initiative’. These funds are intended to help bring down, for example, the cost of renewable hydrogen production from present $5-$7 now to $1 per Kg by 2031.

If achieved, this price at almost parity with base case fossil fuels will spur continued investment. I believe that the market forces will take over if the price reduction along the hydrogen value chain is incrementally achieved in the next 5-10 years.

H2V: Finally, what are you most looking forward to when we touch down in San Francisco in July?

DM: The H2 View team has put together a diverse group of speakers for this meeting and I look forward to interacting with them to learn more about their views around Hydrogen. Even more important, my hope is that the event attendees engage the panellists in a challenging discussion on the topic.

This way, we have an open dialog on hydrogen as we move forward to incorporate this molecule in the energy mix with to achieve the ultimate goal, a decarbonised economy.

North American Hydrogen Summit  

H2 View is taking its events platform to America’s original clean hydrogen hub of California. Together with the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), we will stage our North American Hydrogen Summit in San Francisco on July 14-15.

As our summit theme Building Bridges: Hydrogen hubs and investment suggests, the event will explore the $8bn of funding announced to create at least four regional hydrogen hubs in the US. These hubs will turbo-charge the nation’s progress toward heavy trucking and industrial sectors that run without producing carbon pollution – and they may just provide the path forward to a hydrogen-fuelled future.

With California and Texas vying to be America’s hydrogen capital today, where are the hubs of tomorrow? Further still, what can other states, and countries, learn from California’s success story? And how can we build bridges to a successful flow of international investment?

If you are a member of the CaFCP, be sure to grab your ticket at a discounted rate with a code that can be provided to you by the events team.

Full information about this event including attendance and sponsorship packages can be found here.

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