A fresh take on clean energy
When biological matter breaks down over time, it emits an invisible biogas which naturally dissipates into our atmosphere and contributes to global warming. But when it is captured, this biogas can be used as a renewable energy source to generate power and electricity in everything from cars to buildings. To do so however, the biogas must first be cleaned of organic impurities and pollutants that would otherwise damage the specialized equipment used to capture and contain it.
While the technology to clean biogas has existed for years, a new technology from British Columbia-based Quadrogen Power Systems is breathing fresh air into the way the world treats its agricultural, forestry and livestock waste. While older systems remove only a small number of the harmful impurities in biogas, their new system removes virtually all of them, producing the cleanest biogas on the market. This innovative cleanup system can also be used for both conventional power generation equipment and emerging technologies such as fuel cells.
According to Alakh Prasad, Quadrogen's President and CEO, his company is emerging as a world leader in the gas cleanup arena due to its unique and cost-effective cleanup systems which are already in use by some of North America's largest companies. "Our team of engineers identified a need for a more effective and reliable biogas cleanup technology that would have a tremendously positive impact on the environment," he says. "From the very start, we knew we needed to surround ourselves with the best minds to bring this to market, so we turned to NRC."
A winning formula
Prasad was first introduced to the National Research Council's (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) which helped him address many of his business start-up challenges. Once his company had been set up and began developing the technology, Quadrogen then connected with NRC's bioenergy experts to tackle some of their biggest technical hurdles. "NRC has strong expertise in the areas that we needed and was able to help with engineering skills, mechanical design and testing procedures," says Prasad.
NRC's support quickly helped Quadrogen to bring their technology to market within just three years and to attract new partners and clients. "We are certainly excited to have played a key role in this," says Will Skrivan, a Technical Lead for NRC's Bioenergy Systems for Viable Stationary Applications program. "Quadrogen's goals are closely aligned with ours—to reduce the cost of bioenergy solutions and to remove the technical risks for early adopters and end-users."
Quadrogen has successfully approached biogas cleanup from an entirely new perspective. "We developed a comprehensive four-step process to remove contaminants, whereas other technologies only use a one- or two-step process," says Prasad. "Our cleanup system efficiently provides ultra-clean biogas and is modular and scalable which allows us to design subsystems in-house and then have them manufactured by fabricators who may be closer geographically to our customers."
Powering the future
Quadrogen's first Canadian installation is now underway in British Columbia at one of North America's leading producers of greenhouse-grown hydroponic produce. Unlike other systems which only produce one or two types of energy, this new system will be able to simultaneously produce four outputs: electricity, heat, food-grade CO2 and hydrogen—the first of its kind in the world and a game-changer in the global landfill gas market.
The Quadrogen team has also made every effort to respond to industry concerns. For example, many prospective customers reported that their existing or previous systems only worked for a few weeks or months before breaking down. Quadrogen's first installation— at a California-based wastewater treatment plant—has been operating for more than three years and has processed more than 21 million cubic feet of biogas without showing any signs of deterioration.
"Our journey from a single-person start-up to a global player in bioenergy would not have been possible without NRC's help," says Prasad. "We have almost doubled our revenue every year and aim to continue doing so with NRC's ongoing assistance." And with plans to continue advancing the technology, Quadrogen is on track to keep this market fully energized for years to come.