Safe Hydrogen--Storing Electricity as Hydrogen in a Magnesium Hydride Slurry

Kenneth Brown Wed, 2011-06-15 11:38

Kenneth Brown · Wed, 06/15/2011 - 11:38


Business Overview: 

Safe Hydrogen is doing testing and prototyping of a new technology enabling use of a fluid to store and discharge hydrogen in any location. This technology provides a substantially lower cost alternative to compressed or liquid hydrogen storage and transportation. Through electrolysis of water, the slurry can store electricity.

The technology solves three key problems of transporting and storing hydrogen – cost, density, and safety. The density of hydrogen is equal to that of liquid hydrogen. The slurry is nontoxic and safe to handle. The hydrogen is not released until needed and the slurry itself is stored and transported at normal temperatures and pressures. Cost is equivalent to $3/gal. gasoline. Because the slurry is a pumpable fluid, no new hydrogen distribution infrastructure is needed. Current rail cars, barges, tanker trucks and filling stations can be used for storage and distribution.

Project Type: 
Project Location: 
Lexington, MA, 02420
United States
What are your future milestones, and how much capital will you need to achieve each of the milestones outlined?: 

1. Scale to 50KW. $3,000,000
2. Scale to 1MW. $10,000,000
3. Scale to 50MW. $100,000,000

What is your total and operating cash burn (the amount you're spending) per month? : 

We are averaging for the first 6 months of 2011 $10,000 burn rate per month. We are only doing a small amount of testing and some design work on scaling up the technology.

How many future rounds of financing do you project? : 

One to two. The first and second scale up levels will result in a product that can be marketed. The third scale up will be funded by project financing and will be owned by the wind farm developer.

Services Desired: 
Management Consultant
Who is the Customer?: 

1. wind/solar farm developers
2. customers who desire long duration electrical backup
3. Electric utilities

What is the Customer Pain that you are solving?: 

1. The intergration of renewable power is increasingly a problem. Wind tends to blow more strongly at night and during the colder months of the year. Solar peak power does not co-inside with daily peak demand. Both technologies can vary widely in output. Storage of electricity is a clear answer to these issues.
2. Wind developers, as the percentage of wind power rises on the electrical grid, are facing curtailment when the wind blows during the "wrong" time of the day. For example, in West Texas, the wholesale price of electricity goes negative--producers must pay to put power on the grid--about 10% of the time.
3. Companies, hospitals, office buildings, etc. need backup systems but they stand idle almost all the time--particularly in places that restrict diesel generator operation. A low polution solution allows peak load shaving and the reduction in demand charges.

Names of any current or recent customers: 

We are currently working with a wind farm developer whom we are under a NDA to not disclose the name.

What is the Target Market?: 

1. The multi Billion $ utility sized battery market
The slurry allows the time and location shifting of electricity production. Power production by intermittent sources, such as wind, can be maximized. Revenue and margin increase for wind farms that otherwise would have to idle turbines during periods of low demand.

2. The multi Billion $ back up power market
Using hydrogen is less expensive than battery backups. A safe fuel storage system will allow greater backup site flexibility. Low pollution hydrogen will allow customers to take advantage of cost savings by peak load shaving.

How big is the Target Market in terms of Annual Sales?: 
Sales/Marketing Strategy: 

Sell directly to wind/solar farm developers. The contruction of storage would be part of their project.

Provide use cases : 

1. 600MW wind farm can be converted to a 200MW constant output base load plant.
2. 1.2GW wind farm can electrolyse water with all its output. All of the oxygen and 1/4 of the hydrogen can produce synthetic liquid fuels and 3/4 of the hydogen is stored for shipment to electrical generate offsite.


Pumped storage facilities: lower costs for electricity storage but limited in number of sites.
Compressed air storage: Potentially lower costs if suitable geological caverns can be used. The number of sites is limited.
Flywheels: Flywheels work well to maintain grid frequency control, but cannot store large amounts of electric power for reproduction later.
Flow batteries: Batteries are a good solution for use in conjunction with solar power to smooth over the dips that occur when clouds shield the sun from the panels. They are just too expensive for the time shifting of large amounts of electrical power
Ultracapacitors: They have long life, quick reversals, low cost per cycle, high charge rates, and high efficiency. They work best to assist the performance of batteries in electric cars. They do not work well to store and time shift electric power

Barriers for pumped and compressed air storage are limited sites
Barrier for other technologies is cost

One-line Pitch: 

Safe Hydrogen can store electricity to enable integration of renewable power to the grid.

Business Model: 

Safe Hydrogen will collect a royalty per metric ton of slurry charged with hydrogen.

Product/Services Overview (what does it do): 

Through electrolysis, electricity creates hydrogen which is loaded into a magnesium slurry that becomes a magnesium hydride slurry. At a time and place of the owner's chosing, hydrogen is liberatd from the magnesium hydride slurry leaving a magnesium slurry which then can be reloaded. The hydrogen is burned in a turbine-generator set to produce electricity.


What makes the technology/business unique and have a defendable competitive advantage?: 

Unlike our low cost competitors, pumped hydro and compressed air, our technology is site agnostic. Pumped hydro needs a hill and an upper and lower reservoir. Compressed air needs a cavern to provide large scale storage.
Our capital cost per kWh stored is less than $10--less than any competitor except pumped hydro.
Our storge size allows the continuation of output through the longest periods of low wind. Competitors can only have this duration at high cost.

Describe in detail the technology used in the Project - Address the innovation in significant detail : 

Hydrogen has traditionally been stored as compressed gas at thousands of psi or liquified to 20 degrees above absolute zero. Our technology stores hydrogen in a magnesium hydride slurry at ambient pressure and temperatures. The inovation is the ability to charge and discharge the slurry which is a liquid. In the past, the use of hydrides has been as powders. At reaction temperature, the slurry can be charged with 250psi hydrogen. After charging, the slurry can be discharged by heating to the decomposition temperature of the hydride which in this case is 350 degrees C. The magnesium and the oils that make it a slurry are not consumed. Over many cycles, the capital cost of the slurry is amortised to a low value. Thus the cost storage and transport approaches asymtotically the hydrogen production cost which on a gasoline gallon equivalent is less than $2.

What are the principles of the technology? : 

The principles are the well know ability of metals to absorbe hydrogen and become hydrides under certain conditions of temperature and pressure and their ability to give up the hydrogen at the hydride decomposition temperature.

What, if anything, has been proven (and how far is this from a commercial scale)? : 

We have accomplished the following:
1. Slurry
Created a slurry that consists of a stable suspension of magnesium/ magnesium hydride particles.

2. Reactors
Designed and constructed reactors to charge and discharge the hydrogen into and out of the slurry.

3. Cycling
Charged and discharged the slurry for 50 cycles to confirm the cost estimates.

4. Scale up
Scaled up from laboratory bench size to 2 kW.

5. Partnership
Partnering with a wind farm developer targeting Texas for a $3 billion project.

What challenges/risk does the technology face for commercialization?: 

The technology needs to be scaled up to the magawatt level. The risk is that some unforseen problem may occur at larger scale.

Patent Numbers (Filed/Approved): 

US Patent 7052671—Storage, Generation, and Use of Hydrogen May 30, 2006
US Patent 7,790,013 B2--Storing and Transporting Energy, September 7, 2010


Andrew McClaineCTO
David Bowen, EngineerOther
Edward Shapiro
Jim Dunn
Sigmar Tullmann
Thomas Hennessey
Current Investors: 
Quercus Trust


Amount Sought: 
If raising funds, what shall the funds be used for?: 

Scale up to 50 kW, Prototype backup power system, Marketing & Sales, Salaries, Working Capital

Pre-Money Valuation: 
Funding Received to Date: 
Amount invested by Founders: 
Funding Stage: 


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