The Hythane road to China

PERTH-based Eden Energy says Hythane – a proprietary blend of hydrogen and methane – could be the next big alternative fuel for high-pollution areas and is moving to set up demonstration programs of Hythane-powered vehicles in China, India and California.
The Hythane road to China The Hythane road to China The Hythane road to China The Hythane road to China The Hythane road to China

“Compared to methane, Hythane can cut carbon monoxide emissions by 30% and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 50%,” Eden Energy chairman Greg Solomon told

“The fuel can run in existing CNG [compressed natural gas] engines and be delivered from existing CNG fuelling stations. It is fully developed and immediately marketable.”

A Hythane mix of 7% hydrogen to 93% methane by energy (about 20% hydrogen by volume) gives the best combination of cost efficiency and energy reductions, according to Solomon.

Eden, a subsidiary of Tasman Resources, has taken a 35% stake in Irish company Brehon Energy, which bought the rights to Hythane from its Colorado-based developer and has assembled a strong hydrogen technology teams.

Over the past 18 months Brehon has lodged a series of patent applications for improvements to various technologies related to cryogenic storage, blending and use of hydrogen.

Eden also holds a 49% interest in Brehon Far East Pty Ltd, a joint venture marketing company with Brehon, which holds the marketing rights to all the Brehon technology in the Asia/Pacific region.

Solomon said Hythane was particularly attractive for countries with existing or developing natural gas infrastructure, particularly developing countries that were not already irrevocably committed to petrol-powered cars.

“Hythane rides on the back of natural gas,” he said.

“Wherever natural gas is being introduced we are trying to persuade the authorities to vary the specs to incorporate a small amount of hydrogen and adopt Hythane as a very low-emission variant of natural gas.”

The main driver for uptake of Hythane was the need to reduce NOx [nitrogen oxide] emissions. NOx is a very poweful greenhouse gas – almost 300 times more potent by volume than carbon dioxide and is also the main component in photo-chemical smog which is a major problem in many large cities.

“We’re going full-bore, actively marketing Hythane in China, India and California where they have serious air pollution problems,” Solomon said.

“In all these places, natural gas is anticipated to become a major vehicle fuel over the next five years. We believe Hythane is the logical low-emission blend which should be adopted as the national standard in each case."

“We’ve already converted a leading, low cost Chinese natural gas engine in Brehon’s Colorado Laboratory, recalibrating the software on their engine controller to operate on Hythane.

"We have brought them up to better than Euro 4 emissions standards and are reasonably confident that with further tweaking of the engines, we can get them up to Euro 5 standards. This is world's best emission levels.”

Eden and Brehon intend to return the engine to China soon and hope to complete a demonstration project in the first quarter of 2006.

The companies are strongly advocating that Hythane be adopted as the fuel of choice throughout China and India for urban transit buses in lieu of natural gas following completion of successful demonstration projects in both countries. The Chinese urban transit bus market alone is estimated to comprise more than 500,000 buses.

In India, the national government has set up a US$25m fund administered by Indian Oil to research and develop hydrogen and Hythane transport systems.

“Indian Oil has built a Hythane-dispensing facility at its Faridibad R&D centre,” Solomon said.

“They are proposing to do Hythane conversions on auto-rickshaws, taxis, small-to-medium gas engines and large gas engines in buses and trucks. We are looking to participate in this demonstration program.”

In California, Brehon is also dealing with specific proposals and has applied to various authorities to participate in demonstration projects.

“We provide a total turnkey solution for bus and other vehicle fleets to operate on Hythane,” Solomon said.

“We have the know-how for engine conversion and patents for various technologies related to Hythane. We also put in place infrastructure to supply gas and blending.”