Hydrogen is a clean fuel and an energy carrier that can store, move, and distribute energy. It has the highest energy density making it an effective energy source.
Since hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it has several production methods. The most common way in which hydrogen can be created through steam-methane reformation (SMR) or Electrolysis. In addition, production can occur through solar-driven and biological processes.
Along with being the most energy dense and abundant element, Hydrogen is a clean burning fuel. When combusted in pure oxygen, only water vapour is emitted.
In simple terms, advanced technology allows for a two-step process: i) heating the reservoir to create free hydrogen, and ii) extracting pure hydrogen gas, heat and other valuables.
In practice, a functioning facility will include include a series of connected processes, beginning with the production of oxygen-enriched air and ending with storage and distribution of hydrogen.
The most innovative part is the patented combination of heating reservoirs with Oxinjection wells and harvesting the hydrogen with Hygeneration wells. Both types of wells adapt existing equipment to new purpose.
Oxygen-enhanced air is produced at the wellhead, and then injected deep into the reservoir through an ‘Oxinjection Well‘. Gases, coke and heavier hydrocarbons are oxidized in place (a process known as In-Situ Combustion). Targeted portions of the reservoir become very warm. Where necessary, the temperatures are heightened further through radio frequency emissions.
Eventually, oxidation temperatures rise. The extreme heat causes the nearby hydrocarbons, and any surrounding water molecules, to break apart. Both the hydrocarbons and the H2O become a temporary source of free hydrogen gas. These molecular splitting processes are referred to as thermolysis, gas reforming and water-gas shift. They have been used in commercial industrial processes to generate hydrogen for more than 100 years. Proton’s Process is controlled through the timing and pattern of oxygen injection and external heating.
After creating free hydrogen, one or more Hygeneration wells extracts the elemental hydrogen, using Proton’s patented membrane. The membrane is a dynamic down-hole device that uses feedback from inside the wells to intelligently locate hydrogen. A selective membrane inside the Proton Membrane filters the gases, and a pump moves pure hydrogen gas up to the wellhead.
The Proton Membrane is an adaptation of hydrogen-selective filters used in steam-methane reformers (SMRs). Over 95% of the world’s hydrogen comes from splitting natural gas, above ground, in SMRs. For a Trove to work, the Hygenerator membrane must be encased in a robust cartridge system that can be placed into a bendy well, and function for long periods despite high pressures and temperature.
Hy-generation wells are sometimes referred to as ‘mother wells’ since they have potential to produce a stream of other valuable resources: steam for electricity generation, helium gas, syngas, and low-grade thermal energy. Everything else, including carbon, can be left in the ground.
A small part of the energy extracted from the reservoir – as hydrogen, heat or syngas – may be used directly at the wellhead to produce the oxygen-enhanced air, and to operate the pumps.
If syngas is harvested, our process may release small quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, or recirculate CO2 into the reservoir, as a way to relieve pressure.
In most cases the Proton Process will be completely clean and green, producing pure hydrogen continuously and in massive quantities.
In broad terms, about 70% of oil remains in the ground after production, because it is inaccessible or uneconomic to recover. In natural gas reserves about 20% is left behind. (for more detail, see Wiki article on petroleum extraction efficiencies: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraction_of_petroleum ).
Many water-logged reservoirs are especially suitable for the Proton Process, because water actually contributes to hydrogen generation.
The Proton Process becomes a ‘phoenix’ solution, reviving local industry and producing unexpected value from sunk costs.
The transition to the Proton Process can be rapid since so much infrastructure is in place, and so many reservoirs are surveyed and accessible.
Standard Reservoir Recovery Rates are less than 40%, so our process can work everywhere.
Primary recovery of oil depends on existing water and/or gas pressure in the reservoir to produce it. Typically only 5% to 15% of the oil in place is recovered. Using standard methods of extraction, oil and gas recovery is typically around 30%. Secondary recovery is resorted to when natural pressure is no longer sufﬁcient to drive oil up the wellbore. It involves injecting water or gas into the reservoir to boost reservoir pressure. That gets the recovery factor up to 35% to 45%.
Tertiary recovery is where you go when secondary recovery falters. It involves reducing the viscosity of the oil by heating it with steam or by setting some of the oil on ﬁre (called ﬁre ﬂooding). Injecting CO2 will also increase viscosity but is less used. These methods can increase the recovery factor to between 40% to 60%. However, not all reservoirs are suitable for secondary or tertiary recovery, and the cost of secondary or tertiary recovery is not always justiﬁed, so the average recovery rate worldwide is quite low, ranging from 20% and 40%.
Heavy oil is an extremely rich source of carbon and hydrogen. Globally, the resource base for heavy oil is several times larger than that of conventional oil. Thus, if the Proton Process can yield clean energy – with virtually zero GHG emissions – from heavy oil reserves, the impact is signiﬁcant on both the world economy and environment. The ideal target for the Proton Process in heavy oil reservoirs would be reservoirs with greater than 40% water saturation. At present, these reservoirs are considered inaccessible. But for the Proton Process, the high water saturation becomes an advantage.
This pilot study was designed to maximize oil production using a combination of steam and In Situ Combustion. From an oil production perspective, the results were not considered successful. Unexpectedly, the pilot produced a gas stream at the surface that consistently contained up to 20% hydrogen.
Hydrogen production was not the target of the experiment, and at the time the Hydrogen production was deemed insigniﬁcant. However the implications were signiﬁcant. The Marguerite Lake pilot is now recognized to have demonstrated an alternative energy technology.
The key ﬁnding was that In Situ Combustion reactions within the reservoir can bring to the surface a gas stream containing high concentrations of hydrogen, along with methane, and carbon oxides.
In 2014 Professor Ian Gates and research engineer Jackie Wang noticed that the Marguerite Lake project proved that under certain conditions In Situ Combustion can generate large quantities of elemental hydrogen generation. They also recognized that if this process can be replicated and managed, it would have huge implications for world energy systems, and especially for Canada’s beleaguered Oil Sands.
In 2015 Professor Gates met with Grant Strem, CEO of the IconOil Group, a young Oil and Gas firm interested in innovative approaches and alternative energy. Together they decided to establish a new company, acquire test lands in Western Canada, and conduct a demonstration facility and a commercial pilot.
The Proton Process is a fast solution to climate change risks, partly because it is a clean fossil fuel, and partly because the new technology is rapidly implemented, taking full advantage of existing infrastructure and expertise. Thus, our technology is the antidote to society’s growing dependence on oil sands and shale gas, and a long-term sustainable solution to energy supply.
The Proton Process is also a solution to other pressing problems. More than 80% of all air pollution comes from hydrocarbon oxidation. On average, 18,000 people die each day from poor air quality in cities. Therefore, the Proton Process is the antidote to urban air quality problems, acid rain & smog.
The Proton Process should enhance energy security for most regions, and calm the geopolitics of oil. Many regions can regenerate reservoirs and produce hydrogen locally. Unlike electricity, hydrogen can be transported long distances with only minor losses.
The Proton Process promises to provide a stable, affordable supply of hydrogen, and this allows many other renewable but less reliable energy sources to benefit from universal storage and distribution facilities. It opens the door to a more renewable, distributed and adaptable energy ecology.The distribution systems for our technology can be used to piggy-back all kinds of emerging renewable and green energy, including l wind and solar. All surpluses can be converted to hydrogen for storage and distribution. In this way, our process underlies a new ‘industrial ecology’ that begins at the wellhead, and branches throughout the region.
The Proton Process is surprising benefit for the increasing number of regions that suffer from poor quality and insufficient water supply. Every liter of hydrogen used for energy produces 9 litres of pure water.
The high temperature waste heat from the Proton Process’ production can also serve multiple markets. High temperature ﬂuids, or steam, can be used to power generators and produce electricity. Lower temperatures are also valuable, for industrial processes and space heating.
For more information on short and mid-term markets for hydrogen see the INVESTORS page.
The biggest consumers of hydrogen are oil refineries and fertilizer production plants. Both of these groups account for approximately 95% of pure hydrogen demand worldwide.
Yes, for more information check out our Investor Relations page.