The University of Regina has become the first university in the world to develop “appliance size,” environmentally sustainable processes for producing ultra-pure hydrogen for fuel cell applications from hydrocarbons and oxygenated hydrocarbons.
Based in the $13-million Greenhouse Gas Technology Centre, researchers developed a stable catalytic process for hydrogen production by dry-reforming gas and liquid fossil fuels. The university was also the first to economically produce hydrogen from crude ethanol. Work on the small-sized fuel cell began in 2003 as a collaborative effort between the University of Regina and Hydrogen Thermochem Corp., a local company; the objective was to build reformers the size of a filing cabinet to produce hydrogen for fuel cell use. Fuel cells are devices that produce electric power and heat; because the feed to the fuel cell is hydrogen, the by-product of power production is water instead of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The reformer needed to be able to supply sufficient hydrogen to a household for its electricity and heating needs, as well as a hydrogen refueling station for electric cars: this is how the description “appliance size” originated. Commercialization of the hydrogen fuel cell is expected to be a natural progression of the project once intellectual property protection is obtained and fine tuning has been completed.