Gas Extraction Innovation: Rory Harbinson in photo, making a pipe joint during pilot-testing

Revolutionary Gas Extraction Climate Solutions: Hydragas’ Journey

Philip Morkel portrait

Philip Morkel, Founder & CEO, Hydragas’ Climate Solutions

Introduction: Philip Morkel: Climate Solutions Innovator, Founder

Philip Morkel is the visionary behind Hydragas Technology’s Climate Solutions journey, a groundbreaking approach to gas extraction that holds tremendous promise for Climate Impact.

The Genesis of an Idea – Inception of Hydragas:

On a fateful day in December 2001, Philip Morkel stood on the shores of Lake Kivu, gazing out at its vast expanse. His eyes fixed on the distant volcanoes and the lake’s tranquil surface, Philip’s mind was captivated by the potential locked beneath the waters.

The Original Inspiration – A Rusty Relic of the Past:

His inspiration was ignited by a rusty gas extraction plant on Cap Rubone. In fact this unit, despite its age, continued to function, albeit in a basic form. The facility, built by UCC of Belgium in 1965, showcased a crude gas extraction method that lacked climate impact considerations. The dedicated crew that operated it daily, often enduring the toxic fumes, intrigued Philip.

A Revelation at the Water’s Edge – The Eureka Moment:

As Philip stood on the lakeshore, an innovative idea emerged—a revolutionary underwater concept for gas extraction. This novel approach promised not only enhanced climate impact but also improved performance by triggering deeper degassing and employing higher-pressure cleaning methods.

Forging Connections – Collaborative Pathways:

Philip’s journey took a fortuitous turn when he connected again with Mike Sterne. Indeed, Mike had been a former colleague, and co-CEO of Fluor Corporation in South Africa. So therefore, this new partnering extended beyond technical expertise. It encompassed experience and insights gained from leading Fluor’s Oil & Gas business in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He joined Dr. Howard Roberts, former CEO of South Africa’s Central Energy Fund. They embarked on a mission that aligned private investment, governmental interest, and a commitment to scalable, Climate Solutions.

Dr Howard Roberts at Cap Rubone Facility 2001
Dr. Howard Roberts at Cap Rubone, Lake Kivu
A Bold Proposal – Advancing the Vision:

Post their Rwanda visit, a proposal for a pre-feasibility study took shape—an assessment of the novel idea’s viability versus the dated 1965 technology. With the aim of significantly increasing energy output, the proposal aimed to address the pressing need for power generation in a region plagued by frequent blackouts

A Journey of Evolution – From Concept to Reality

By 2002, Philip had fully developed the gas extraction concept for Lake Kivu. This innovative design underwent rigorous evaluation, revealing substantial performance improvements compared to the existing 1965 unit. The evaluation, based on a pre-feasibility study and model simulation, highlighted a departure from the legacy extraction methods, marking a pivotal advancement in gas extraction technology.

A Successful Trial: Pioneering Progress

In 2004, the groundbreaking concept underwent successful pilot testing, captivating the Rwandan Ministry of Energy and investors. The World Congress of Chemical Engineering recognized Philip’s contributions with an invitation to present his innovative approach in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2005. This presentation delved into the physics, design concept, and promising results from the field pilot tests.

Bridging Expertise and Impact: From Expert Advisor to Climate Champion

Philip’s evolution continued. It  from an expert advisor on Lake Kivu gas extraction to a passionate advocate for both climate impact and economic viability. His expertise was a bridge connecting legacy designs with innovative solutions that addressed limitations and unlocked untapped potential. His contributions included co-authoring and shaping the Management Prescriptions for Lake Kivu Development, a cornerstone of regulatory guidelines issued to governments in 2009.

Incoming Gas-Liquid SeparationSo

The novel concept showed a sharp departure from current variations of the “legacy” extraction concept. Those were first developed by Union Chimique de Belge in 1962-65. It remains quite distinct from other successor projects, which have stuck with the basic premise from 1965.

Hydragas pilot-tested this new concept successfully in 2004, with demonstration runs for the Rwandan Ministry of Energy and investors. The World Congress of Chemical Engineering invited Philip to present a paper in Glasgow, Scotland in 2005. It described the physics, design concept, and field pilot-test results.

The need to transition from legacy to novel gas extraction on Lake Kivu

Philip eventually became a leading expert advisor on the subject of Lake Kivu gas extraction, for climate solutions and better economics. He contributed as co-author and scribe of the defining body of work, the Management Prescriptions for Lake Kivu Development. The MPs were recognized in law by the DRC and Rwandan governments in 2010. He became a member of the Expert Advisory Group for Lake Kivu.

A Nexus of Expertise: Confluence of Knowledge

Philip’s commitment to the cause was underscored by his role in updating the knowledge base of Lake Kivu. His collaboration with Dr. Finn Hirslund resulted in a 2019 paper that analyzed observed changes in the lake since 2009 and identified looming threats. Their concerns echoed through the scientific community, urging a reevaluation of gas extraction strategies to mitigate potential environmental and human hazards.

Dominant Strengths and Advantages: Empowering a New Paradigm

What sets Hydragas apart is its unparalleled advantages. It boasts higher gas recovery rates and five to seven times the net power output compared to traditional methods. This translates into projects that offer clieconomic returns up to ten times better than competitors. But the significance goes beyond numbers – Hydragas contributes significantly to host country economies, offering superior methane recovery that benefits both economies and ecosystems.

The Compliance Imperative: Guided by Responsibility

A standout feature of Hydragas is its unwavering commitment to compliance with the Management Prescriptions for Lake Kivu Development (MPs). This unique capability ensures long-term, safe, and secure utilization of the lake’s resources. By adhering to these guidelines, Hydragas not only secures the well-being of the population and the environment but also reaps substantial productivity gains from innovative gas extraction practices.

Pioneering High-Impact Climate Solutions: Unveiling a Universe of Possibilities

Hydragas stands on the threshold of a new era in carbon emissions mitigation. It’s poised to lead in an untapped market for carbon reduction and the earnings that should flow. With its extensive reach spanning submerged permafrost, methane hydrate deposits, and methane-rich aquifer reservoirs, Hydragas promises to redefine the way we approach hydrocarbon sources, transforming uncontrollable emissions into climate-conscious opportunities.

Identified Targets Under Investigation: Uncovering Hidden Potential

Hydragas envisions tackling multiple fronts, including submerged permafrost in the Arctic Sea, methane hydrate deposits around the globe, vast reservoirs like the Black Sea, and abundant aquifer-borne methane. While not all these resources are renewable, Hydragas aims to harness their potential to counteract carbon emissions. By strategically applying the gas extraction plant concept, Hydragas seeks to address diverse carbon sources and contribute significantly to emission reduction.

De-risking a threatened community and enabling environmental safety

But two potential catastrophes are caused by a single event. Their impact should drive us much further to improve the use and management of Lake Kivu and its resource. The potential major climate event comes from renewable natural gas and CO2 accumulation in the lake. Reaching gas saturation will result in a limnic eruption of Lake Kivu. What would happen is two outsize impacts. (1) The eruption will emit between 2 – 6 gigatons of carbon in one day. (2) As the heavy cloud emitted has 2000 ppm of H2S, it makes it deadly toxic to between 2-5 million residents. All who fail to escape to hundreds of metres above lake level, within minutes to a few hours depending on their distance from the eruption, will die from toxic asphyxiation.

This catastrophic risk has been evaluated and reported by many authors. Indeed, on this site, there are papers in journals such as Nature, by Nicole Jones. There is a paper in the Journal of African Earth Sciences by Dr. F Hirslund and P Morkel. Other articles and videos are on this page. The timing of an eruption has been revisited several times, as data accumulated in different measurement surveys over time. We know that recent data shows an apparent slower rate of new gas accumulation. Additionally, several other physical trends in the lake indicate there are several possible triggers for an eruption. We know this to be one of the most avoidable catastrophes. We have the tools but collectively must choose and implement the correct one to avert disaster.

Dominant strengths and advantages

Locally, the Rwandan subsidiary, Kivugas Energy Limited, can form the core of a project investment platform to pursue all available concessions. It has the leading bankability. Other operators can be bought out or convert their concessions to Hydragas designs. Through that, we can earn further fees from licensing, with other support fees for the value-added services. The company could offer these services to any operations on the lake that rebuild their gas extraction to our IP’s standards.

The Compliance Imperative

Having 100% compliance with the lake usage rules, the Management Prescriptions for Lake Kivu Development (MPs), is a unique capability among developers. These MPs govern the technical requirements for long-term, safe use of the lake and its resources. These benefits and the climate immpact are principally for the benefit of the population, its safety, and the environment. These upgrades achieve huge gains in productivity from the outcomes of using gas extraction innovation.

Both Rwanda and DRC recognize the 2010 version of the MPs, as adopted, as the authoritative basis for the regulation of Lake Kivu. In 2019 a review process was commenced to consider updates to the MPs on the 10th anniversary of their publication.

Hydragas Technology – Contributing to further high-impact climate solutions

Hydragas is an emerging leader in a new, unserved carbon emissions market. It can become the sole technology supplier for gas production plants on Lake Kivu and well beyond. Methane gas, dissolved in water, is the largest remaining hydrocarbon source on the planet. In seas and oceans, the hydrocarbon content reputedly exceeds all other known oil, gas, and coal content.

Identified targets under investigation

These include:

  1. Seas and oceans with submerged Arctic Permafrost containing methane, such as the Arctic Sea need climate solutions, with resources estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 gigatons
  2. Methane hydrate deposits around the globe, concentrated near subduction faults, and estimated quantities of 6,000,000 tcf
  3. The Black Sea with its fresh and saltwater density interface, traps methane and H2S gases below 90m depth, hundreds of times larger than Kivu
  4. Coal seam gas and similar aquifer-borne methane, with high volumes present in Queensland and NSW in Australia also needing alternatives with better climate solutions.

While not all these resources are renewable, like Lake Kivu’s biomethane, they are all sources requiring climate solutions to avert uncontrollable carbon emissions. We can avert emissions from those sources. They are vulnerable to global warming, especially shallow, submerged permafrosts. The total emissions potential of all water-borne sources dwarfs other carbon emissions sources. No other climate solutions address this problem. We apply the gas extraction plant concept for to all these opportunities. We require, for each opportunity, a different configuration and scale.  The process design has the key advantage of an ability to operate remotely, with little maintenance or operator attention. For example, modules can operate under the Arctic ice cap where needed.

Conclusion: Charting a Path to Climate Impact

Philip Morkel’s journey is a testament to the power of innovation and commitment to climate solutions. From envisioning a revolutionary underwater gas extraction concept on the shores of Lake Kivu to spearheading climate-conscious projects worldwide, his leadership has redefined what’s possible. Hydragas is not just a technology—it’s a catalyst for change, demonstrating that sustainable solutions lie beneath the surface, waiting to be unlocked for the benefit of all.

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