Recognising 1000 Solutions
A Cleantech Accelerator prompted me to seek recognition for Hydragas. In fact I had to read up on who qualifies for this label, awarded in recognition for top renewable energy solutions. It is a global recognition judged by the Solar Impulse Foundation (SIF) in Switzerland. To qualify, SIF must find you worthy of inclusion in their list. Their search ends when they find 1000 Solutions that are worthy enough to help save the planet.
The label is inspired by Bertrand Piccard’s historic flight of the SolarImpulse. As with his flight, circumnavigating the globe under solar power only, it’s an ongoing process that has a worthy cause and a mission. It demonstrates the sort of commitment that characterised his approach to that venture. As a legacy, the SolarImpulse Foundation will recognise hard work, innovation and commitment to the same cause.
“Bertrand dedicates his life to demonstrate the opportunities lying in sustainable development and to raise interest in profitable solutions to protect the environment. He is a pioneer of new ways of thinking that reconcile ecology and economy, and uses his exploration feats to motivate governments and industries to take action.“
Does the Foundation seek out your Solution?
Chances are the SolarImpulse Foundation wouldn’t be able to find you. So who discovers who qualifies for this label? Likely as not, you’re in an under-funded start-up, with a PR budget of zero. But by contrast, listed Solution owners include giant corporations. If it is a concern that big players dominate the list, the foundation appears to take care of that.
But it’s clearly not enough to just ask for or expect this recognition. Indeed, there is a prescribed application process to follow. It filters through a process to see if one created a solution of interest. If this meets their criteria, it is still further verified by their experts in the field.
The adjudication process follows your completed application. This starts with information, detailed data, reports, publications and references by request. Then the selected experts scrutinise your submission of scientific material, based on their broader knowledge and category expertise. These scientists eventually get their opportunity to interrogate your submittal. It’s akin to defending your academic thesis.
I expect that their inquiry will be challenging. I say that, even with 10,000 hours of R&D on this topic under my belt. We know that the science is really complex, often in dispute. In fact, it’s certainly not settled science. It’s a fast-changing field, with few subject-matter experts and many opinions. There is too little global experience on lakes like this one. More specific than that, Lake Kivu may just be the only one like this on Earth.
Can we be one who qualifies for this label?
“Our Solar Impulse Label awards efficient, clean and profitable solutions with a positive impact on environment and quality of life.“
We sincerely hope that it is us who qualifies for this label. Indeed, the Foundation’s recognition of this as one of 1000 Solutions would give us a right to display this valuable, aspirational label. Therefore we might expect it to give us a credible platform. This helps to attract funding or convince investors. It may also be helpful for governments to assess competitors. Here we can say real experts have checked our claims and validated them. We would wear the label with considerable pride, being part of a select groupthat takes care of our planet.
But the recognition for us is what the Solution can do for all stakeholders. For many, these impacts have broader significance. It would be more than Hydragas’ biogas recovery and power generation on Lake Kivu. Indeed these stakeholders are the communities, the countries’ governments. They also include the users of the energy, our future investors and the people in our organisation. But what are the positives of these claims? Can we back them up? Are there any negatives?
How do we measure a meaningful difference?
Rwanda’s head of the Lake Kivu Monitoring Program, the LKMP, asked this question. This was our role in the expert advisory group that we offered. I had to illustrate the differences that alternate gas extraction methods make to positive engineering and economic outcomes. One has to examine each step of the process of turning resource into useful energy. It gives clarity on how seemingly minor losses cascade into a huge energy loss overall.
Take the five steps in the above diagram for example:
- Gas recoverability by Depth Zone: from 5 distinct zones, 2 have recoverable gas, one has future potential. Most developers plan to use one, or just half a zone. Hydragas can develop 2, potentially a 3rd. CH4 capture ranges from 46% to 100% of total harvestable potential.
- Gas Plant Recoverability: The diagram shows how CH4 extracted splits up into six different destinations. Only one of them is useful energy. Hydragas’ multi-stage process gets 89% out as useful energy.
- Parasitic Power Losses: Legacy extraction processes use much of their gas output to generate on-board power. This powers pumps and compressors, requiring 25-50% parasitic gas. In contrast, Hydragas’ submerged extraction process uses just 2-6% parasitic power.
- Generation Losses: Gas quality and pressure dictate which type of generation equipment to deploy. Quality also determines efficiency. Legacy plants produce low quality gas, requiring engines that can only operate at 33-41% efficiency. But our high quality, 100 methane-number gas allows engines and turbines to achieve 45-61% power efficiency.
- Resource Degradation: A time-dependent impact comes from break-down of the lake density structure. This breakdown cuts the harvest period from 50 years, by up to 50%. The lake’s ability to trap gas drops over time. A weaker trap allows the gas resource to escape into shallow strata. Gas in shallow strata is unrecoverable.
- Total Losses Impact: Each calculated outcome in this series of five steps seems modestly impactful. But multiplying them out shows our best competitor can only deliver 10% of in-situ energy as power. Hydragas can deliver either 35% (gas engines) or 51% (combined-cycle gas turbines) if selected as power units.
Positive impacts: will they make the list of who qualifies for this Label?
Our view is that real positive impacts can decide who qualifies for this label. We list 11 impacts on Lake Kivu:
- Our 89% recovery is higher than the net CH4 output of any competitor. We capture CH4 that others waste, by rejecting it into shallow water or as parasitic energy;
- Extracting this much methane reduces the lake’s risk of a major limnic eruption by 99% within 20 years, and by >99.9% over 50 years;
- De-risking the current worst-case eruption scenario, which would release of 2 Gt of Carbon(eq) to atmosphere in one day if triggered;
- Preventing an eruption is the most positive impact. It stops a full-scale eruption that puts 2-3 million lives at risk. We know how to prevent it;
- Higher (90%) methane removal cuts risk now but, after 50 years of gas harvesting, it also delays future gas build-up and eruption by centuries;
- Methane removal increases the carbon capture and storage (CCS) capacity of the lake. CO2’s safe storage capacity increases by 4 – 5 x;
- Generates 3 – 4 x more net power output than any competitor;
- Our gas extraction is 100% MPs compliant (the rules for safe gas recovery). In fact competitors have many dangerous non-compliances;
- Reduces cost of power 50% to grid, compared to displaced diesel power. This makes it a low-cost, base-load option for grid power;
- The region’s total fossil fuel imports can be cut by about 50%. This cut is by eliminating diesel and HFO imports for power supply;
- Equatorial deforestation can be reversed. Indeed gas can replace most woodfuel or charcoal use, supplying it by pipeline. See the NASA picture below for what used to be equatorial forest;
- The value of energy produced from Lake Kivu increases by 400%, to $50 B over 50 years, comparing alternatives;
- Per capita GDP impact, for 20 M people regionally, may improve 10-20%.
NASA Satellite view of Lake Kivu. Deforestation has decimated the equatorial forest in search of energy.