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Harnessing the hydrogen in biomass


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“There are so many applications for hydrogen today, and we offer the solutions under the brand name HYNOCA® to generate hydrogen from biomass,” says General Director Philippe Haffner. Plants by Haffner Energy produce thermal energy and electricity, and are delivered ready for use. Haffner Energy can operate the plants itself or hand them over to the customer for operation. The plants are complete stations consisting of the technology as well as the buildings where it is housed. 

The most common use for hydrogen is in the field of mobility. Instead of fossil fuels, vehicles are increasingly being powered with hydrogen, but the price for fueling is still too high for everyday use. “Our first step will be to fuel buses and trucks,” Mr. Haffner explains. “By producing hydrogen from biomass, we lower costs significantly. Biomass is cheap, wood grows back, and all of that is readily available.”

Haffner Energy uses a Toyota hybrid as its point of orientation. Such a car costs three EUR per 100 km for fuel. That makes it 30 to 50% cheaper than electricity. “Our goal is to offer three EUR/kg by the year 2025, which puts us at roughly today’s diesel price,” the General Director adds. 

Within industry, hydrogen is also used for heat production as an alternative to natural gas. Hydrogen also generates electricity in closed, hard-to-access networks. “Solar and wind power depend on weather, of course,” Mr. Haffner says. “H2 can be stored and turned into electricity as needed. That’s especially interesting abroad, for example in regions of Africa, where the network isn’t very dense.”

The energy engineering company knows the strengths of its work. Its plants are practical for an extensive range of current and prospective applications with high demand worldwide. Its patented solutions are available at a reasonable price, are lucrative and operate using local resources, regardless of their location. “Hydrogen is incredibly interesting for vehicles,” Mr. Haffner notes. “Electric vehicles take several hours to charge. If you fuel with hydrogen, it takes just five minutes to be able to drive 600 km.”  

Founded in 2015, Haffner Energy began as a start-up spun off from an engineering firm, which had been in business since the 1990s. Thus, the company is young and fresh, yet can fall back on decades of experience. Today, Haffner Energy belongs to a holding company owned in part by the brothers Philippe and Marc Haffner, as well as several investment funds. The company earns four million EUR annually with its staff of nearly 30 employees.

Haffner Energy sees great potential abroad, where it anticipates generating up to 90% of its turnover in the future. “We predict that, by 2030, one million cars will be fueled with hydrogen in China alone,” Mr. Haffner begins. “By 2050, it will be about 450 million worldwide. Cities will ban cars powered by fossil fuels. That will increase the demand for hydrogen generated from biomass significantly, both for mobility and other applications.”

Fueling stations and energy providers, industrial companies, collective facilities that want environmentally friendly power generation, gas companies, and isolated networks all show potential as prospective customers for Haffner Energy.

The company is finalizing its product for market launch. It already has two pilot stations that will be market ready by 2020. The one in Strasbourg produces 650 kg a day, which can fuel 1,100 cars daily for a distance of 15,000 km. The other is in Vitry-Le-François. It is smaller, producing 112 kg a day for 260 vehicles. “Our next step will be increasing our capital," says Mr. Haffner in conclusion. 

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