Saturday, June 02, 2007

Russian Hydrogen and Nanotechnology investment fund will be world #1 energy organisation

As was signaled by the Russian Government last year at the G8 energy conference with its $500 million investment in research and development for the innovative technologies of Hydrogen fuel cells and nanotechnology the creation of the worlds largest energy investment fund moves the technology into cyber drive.

Russia’s tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov has created a new private investment fund based on his assets. The undertaking, Onexim Group, will have over $17 billion in assets based on Prokhorov’s stakes in Norilsk Nickel (22 percent), Interros (50 percent), Polus Zoloto (22 percent).

Once the Interros assets are split pari passu, Onexim Group will further widen by Prokhorov’s stakes in subsidiaries of the holding. The owners will divide 50/50 all assets of Interros, including Profmedia (100 percent), Otkrytye Investitsii (Open Investments; 58 percent), Silovye Mashiny (Power Machines; 30 percent), Norilsk Nickel (8 percent), Polus Zoloto (7 percent), Rosbank (69 percent), Soglasie Insurer (88 percent), RUSIA (26 percent), Plug Power (17.5 percent).

Onexim Group will focus on innovation projects related to traditional and hydrogen power engineering, nano-technologies and mining. The fund is targeted at investment projects with budgets starting from $1 billion.

Prokhorov has become Onexim Group’s president, and Dmitry Razumov has taken the GD office. Razumov was Norilsk Nickel’s deputy general director for takeover/merger strategy from 2000 to 2005.

”We stake on the projects, where Russia has objective competitive advantage. Our experience, analysis of the market and of development trends of Russia’s and world economies convince us that innovation and high-tech projects are the most promising,” Prokhorov said when presenting Onexim Group.

Norilsk Nickel the worlds largest nickel producer signaled this last year with investments in Anode manufacturers and technology manufacturers world wide.

One of the first Russian publications in the fuel cell field dating back to 1941 was about hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells. In the early 1960s, investigations on fuel cells were under way in different institutes. The subjects studied amongst others included hydrogen production, storage, transportation and dispensing. The team of Russian scientists and engineers from Kurchatov Institute of Hydrogen Energy and Plasma Technology, Kvant and other organisations worked on various Development programmes ranging from fundamental research to the manufacturing of 130 kW and 280 kW fuel cell generators and power plants for specific naval and terrestrial applications.

Alkaline is the most studied fuel cell technology in Russia and was employed by the Soviet and later by the Russian Space Corporation in the BURAN spacecraft to power electrical systems similar to NASA’s Apollo and space shuttle programmes. The unit consisted of four 10 kW Photon fuel cells.

In 2003 Norilsk Nickel signed an agreement with the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) to finance a three year fuel cell and hydrogen programme spending US$ 120 million over this period. The first part of the programme is to develop PEM and solid oxide fuel cells as well as reformers. Another side of the project to develop key infrastructure elements of the hydrogen economy like hydrogen production and storage devices as well as a delivery network. At the beginning of this project RAS Vice President Gennadiy Mesyats said that in the next four to five years the parties expect to have ‘commercial’5 -25 kW fuel cells as well as new technologies for
palladium catalysts.The latter is the main reason why the company is single-handedly investing a large sum of money into fuel cell research. As many may be aware, Norilsk Nickel is the largest palladium producer in the world, so provided this project is successful and the technology is licensed to other international companies the company will directly benefit from securing palladium demand.

The Energia Rocket and Space Corporation is famous for its work on Mir and Salyut orbital stations, as well as Soyuz aircraft. It designed and built the Russian fuel cell modules for the station. The company began PAFC design work in 1966 in preparation for a proposed Russian lunar landing. Since 1987 Energia has manufactured about 100 Photon fuel cell modules. In test programmes and during actual missions, these cells have accumulated a total of 80,000 hours of operational experience. In the early 1990s, it started research on fuel cells for submarine applications. In this field the company is working with the Central Construction Bureau of Navy Equipment Rubin and international partnerships are being considered especially with China and India. Energia has not conducted significant research on terrestrially based fuel cell systems, although it has signed an agreement with the US-based Power Technologies Corporation to commercialize fuel cells for stationary and mobile applications

The Keldysh Research Centre is the leading enterprise of the Russian Aerospace Agency in research and development on rocket engines and space-based power generation. The centre undertakes scientific research into rocket engineering and space propulsion; space rocket technologies, fuels and materials; development of advanced ignition systems and other technologies. In the fuel cell field, the centre is researching technology to develop fuel cells of up to 50 kW with a cost of less than US$500/kW. Some research was done on MEA’s base parameters in comparison to existing Nafion and MF-4SK. There is also some work being done on reformer development.

As can be seen from the selection of one of this Years global energy prize Laureates Doctor Thorsteinn Sigfusson (Iceland) the technology and the objective of Iceland to become the worlds first hydrogen economy.

Geothermal energy originates from geonuclear activity in the Earth’s core. In Iceland, this energy manifests itself on the Earth’s surface in the form of geysers. All told, geothermal energy provides the inhabitants of Iceland with more than 90% of their heating needs and accounts for more than 20% of the country’s electricity generation, greatly reducing pollution and dependence on imported fossil fuels. A paper presented to the German International Energy Conference in Essen last year argues that communities around the world can, like Iceland, benefit from linking their geothermal resources to the development of a hydrogen economy. According to the authors, Bragi Arnason and Thorsteinn Sigfusson from the University of Iceland, geothermal gas-vent sampling in Iceland shows that hydrogen gas makes it to the Earth’s surface in technically recoverable concentrations.The origin of this direct geothermal hydrogen is thought to be contact between magma (molten rock) and water in the Earth’s crust. In the Krafla geothermal field of northern Iceland, for example, some experimental vents release around 50 tonnes of hydrogen gas annually. If hydrogen were to be extracted from hydrogen sulphide, which is also released from such vents, the amount of recoverable hydrogen could double. In fact, Sigfusson has devised a method to convert this emission directly into hydrogen, with current laboratory testing set to be extended to pilot-plant scale soon. In addition to direct hydrogen extraction, geothermal energy can be used to power the electrolysis of water to provide hydrogen. This can be done using alkaline electrolysis, polymer-electrolyte-membrane electrolysis or high-temperature steam electrolysis.

With potential resource in NZ of around 3,610 mw for hydro and around the same for geothermal will we see these resources optimized?


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