Does Hydragas have a Top 1000 Climate Solution?
The back-and-forth process that it takes to apply for accrediation as a Top 1000 Climate Solution is lengthy. Inevitably there is a lot of checking of facts and assumptions. After a prior exchange on an experts opinion on whether the gas in Lake Kivu is “fossil” or “renewable”, the first call was that “it must be fossil”. Fortunately the point was conceded with further evidence we provided.
It is a concern, almost at an alarming level, how easily experts can torpedo an application for a start-up’s funding with VCs. Some admit to taking seconds to dismiss some applications. I have seen some risible bloopers, posting them in a rogue’s gallery I keep for posterity. I would say the level of due diligence for this organisation is a number of steps higher on the ladder, but not completely infallible.
There are quick and easy opinions out there that can snag a competition entry. Just the word “methane” invokes a negative reaction. As an Olympic sport it would attract the high-jumpers among the leaping-to-conclusions competitors. Fortunately, we’re over that obstacle, but more evaluators are waiting in ambush.
Another Batch of Questions
A couple of them arrived today in a follow-up.
“The two Experts saw a lot of merit in your Solution and highlighted both social and environmental benefits potentially arising from your Solution. They were very complementary of the level of detail and quantity of information which you had included in your application.
“However, several comments were raised by the Experts about some key uncertainties about the future of your Solution. In particular, this related to the plan for the re-injection of CO2 into the lake, and the re-use of the CO2. The Experts felt that more time is needed for your Solution to develop and grow, allowing for a plan for these two points to be developed and implemented. Points were also raised about the need for more clarity on the scalability of your Solution, given that this is applied in a very specific context and is still at an early stage in development.
Scalability of Solutions is a vital component of the Solar Impulse Label, as we seek Solutions which can be applied in multiple contexts and where a clear plan is in place to expand and grow Solutions beyond the region/country where they are from. Given the ambitious nature of your project, concerns were raised that the project needs to be further along in its development before certainty can be given about its suitability for the Label.”
How do you carefully respond to a high-stakes question?
In respect of the two areas of remaining concern to SIF, we are pursuing more detailed solutions to both concerns. While we accept that it may take some months to resolve more detail to those questions, we have developed concepts to deal with them. Here is a pair of answers I put forward, not in detail with proof, but an introductory summary of what will come:
Of all the experts that have been involved with the science and engineering of Kivu’s safety solution, Hydragas has paid more attention to the CO2 component than any others. You can’t resolve one without the other. We did a detailed mass balance of the CO2 within the lake during the extraction process and where it goes once extracted. Being a chemical engineer, I generally find that a thorough mass and energy balance exposes the deeper truths of what’s going on in an inarguable way.
It was on this basis that two of us, both chemical engineers on the Expert Group, convinced the rest of the group how the lake gas inventory should be managed more effectively.The two US-based developers now using and building on the lake now have solutions with potentially dire consequences for lake stability. They displace huge volumes of CO2 into shallow water and out of the lake with their produced gas, which is nearly 50% CO2. We correct those issues quite dramatically, consigning most of the CO2.
We are developing options to balance the CO2 in the lake over time by exporting CO2 to industries that convert it to protein or ethanol, or a new and efficient way to use it to accelerate plant growth in greenhouses. This graphic shows a summary of the complexity of potential CO2 disposition. It was done as part of my work with the Expert Group.
We wanted to show mass balance issues in removing gases from the lake occur when the method is problematic. We can resolve and optimize the solution to this issue very neatly with our know how. We aim to demonstrate that with the project we intend to build as soon as possible. Once we can fund a larger engineering team, the updates and data will be completed quickly and efficiently.
Carbon Dioxide Balance in Lake Kivu for an extraction method
Scalability of our Solution
I was discussing this very point with investors this morning. There should not be too much concern with TAM as a target for our scalability, mainly from one salient point:
The amount of methane dissolved in water globally (including methane in hydrates) exceeds the hydrocarbon energy content of all known (past and future) fossil fuels, including natural gas, oil and coal. The resource is enormous.
This was not my view, but that of the USGS and other research institutions. There is more data available on where all the CO2 in the world resides, showing a simple deduction:
A corollary is that the amount of CO2 dissolved in water exceeds the amount in gaseous form in the atmosphere by a huge margin too.
Both CH4 and CO2 are present in Lake Kivu, and in are present in millions of times greater quantities in other lakes and in the oceans. If exploited (this is not our aim, nor is it as economic to pursue scattered pockets of gas hydrates) gas from water bodies could dwarf the oil and gas industry.
So why are these dissolved gas issues not demanding huge amount of your attention? They are temporarily sequestrated in water, but how permanent is that as a solution? The warning signs are out, climate change is breaking the fragile stability. These hydrates and their gas content are liable to escape in certain locations as they are in the warming Arctic already, on land and from the oceans. 10,000 gigatons are at risk of emission with global warming, 5,000 times more than gas from Kivu.
Inasmuch as there virtually no known solutions like ours to manage the threat from dissolved gases effectively, we have a problem. These resources are present globally in quantities millions of times larger than Lake Kivu’s gas resource in-situ. If SIF wants to identify the availability of essential solutions for Climate Impact, then compare it to the many wind, solar and a host of energy efficiency and storage technologies. These all have a role to limit carbon impact but are readily available and abundant. SIF has recognised many of them as they have importance. They are mature solutions in many cases and optimizing.
But what of solutions for managing or stabilizing CH4 and CO2 emissions from water in the lakes and oceans? It’s a giant problem that’s barely getting any attention. It’s a new field. It’s part of why we seek recognition as a Top 1000 Climate Solution.
So to answer, do we have opportunity for scale-up and improving CO2 disposition? Are we a valid Top 1000 Climate Solution?
Yes, we do. Can we? Yes we can. Will we? That’s our mission, but it’s too big a problem to resolve on our own without funding and a large team, and hopefully SIF’s help too. Kivu is a microcosm of the problem, but its solutions provide a pathway to resolving much of that gigantic but unaddressed gas-in-water issue. The unfortunate thing is that it’s virtually and practically invisible out in the Arctic oceans and the tundra. It needs attention. We’re giving it all of ours.