Powerhouse Energy Group PLC (LON:PHE) Chief Executive Officer Keith Allaun caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss the siting of the G3-UHt demonstration unit, the benefits of being at the Thornton Science Park, their involvement with AFC Energy, how the collaboration with Waste2tricity and Peel Environmental helped to bring this deal to fruition and the further developments we should expect from the company
Q1: Firstly, congratulations on the siting of the G3-UHt demonstration unit, could you explain the background to the agreement with the University of Chester?
A1: First off, this has been a team effort over a period of months, really precipitated by Powerhouse’s introduction by Waste2tricity to Peel who, of course, has offices at the Thornton Science Park, next to Protos facility up in Chester. It was clear to us when we went up to take a look at Protos and to look at the possibility of siting a commercial facility up there, that being affiliated with the Thornton Science Park would be an ideal situation for us to use as a demonstration facility for our G3-UHt gasifier. The fact is we’ve created modular distributed gasification, our ability to work with a university like University of Chester in their brand-new energy facility, the energy centres that they’ve literally are just completing construction of at the, what was, the former Shell research facility, for Shell oil, they’re advanced scientific research facility, it was just a match made in heaven.
So, over the past number of months, we’ve been in discussion, have talked through the details, have worked through issues in terms of connectivity between our electrical generation and serving into their micro-grid within the Thornton Science Park and had a chance to get to meet some of the other tenants within the science park. We’re fortunate in that we’re going to be the first company that is sited within the energy centre which is focussed on bringing new innovative alternative emerging energy generation capability to the world. So, the University of Chester, as you know, has been pushing very aggressively over the past number of years to build out its research and scientific education and engineering education components and we’re grateful to be able to take advantage of that and to be working with some bright, young minds, coupled with some incredibly enthusiastic world-class leaders in the energy generation industry.
Q2: Now, as mentioned, you plan on taking the new offices at the Thornton Science Park, near the university, what benefits will this bring to Powerhouse Energy Group?
A2: One never knows, really, what benefits it will bring, we certainly envision there being a number of benefits, not the least of which is being surrounded by significant, diverse, thinking and brain power. A number of places, Stanford University, Harvard University, universities across the United States have built incubation centres where their intention is to bring groups of ideas together to afford the opportunity for collision of some of those ideas which, often times, create significant advances in science and significant advances in product development.
So, the opportunity to not only work with people but potentially train people who are then going to become part of our company over the long-term and to help train, frankly, a new generation of scientists working on modular distributed gasification, it’s something we’re quite enthusiastic about. So, we’re looking forward to doing our part to contribute to the world in this way and frankly, we’re going to be benefitting dramatically by virtue of this relationship.
Q3: There is some speculation with regards to your involvement with AFC Energy plc (LON:AFC), is there anything you can say about that?
A3: It’s a known fact that modular distributed gasification affords us a number of opportunities, it affords us distributed waste destruction, it affords us distributed electrical generation and it affords us distributed hydrogen creation. So, the fact is, back in 2014 Powerhouse Energy Group paid a £50,000 deposit on a beta system for an AFC fuel cell to put to use when the time was appropriate and it could well be that the time is approaching, that we may well want to take advantage of that fuel cell technology and apply that with the gasification unit. The fact is that the commercial opportunities for fuel cells are increasing dramatically, the science, the technology and the commercialisations has really started to move up ‘j curve’, the ability to increase the overall system efficiency of any kind of electric generation facility utilising a fuel cell is growing dramatically. So, one could potentially envision doubling the electric output that one would see through combined cycle steam turbines and certainly doubling the efficiency of combustion-based generation mechanisms by utilising fuel cells. So, we have a commercial relationship with AFC Energy and that we’ve paid a deposit and we intend, at some point, on acquiring a fuel cell.
Q4: How is your collaboration with Waste2tricity and Peel Environmental helped to bring this deal to fruition?
A4: Well, again, as I started off this morning, the fact that Waste2tricity’s introductions have been simply invaluable. The excitement that they have for this concept of modular distributed gasification coupled with the fact that Peel recognises that there are 2,000 places across the UK alone in which these systems can be deployed. There’s 17.5 million tonnes of waste, from municipal solid waste to tyres to auto shredder residue to hazardous waste that can be destroyed at ultra-high temperature utilising our modular distributed gasification system, they keep saying modular distributed gasification because in effect these are all but mobile systems. We truly can scale them to size, as necessary, we can scale them to the appropriate size for an appropriate use in a single hospital for instance. So, the relationships continue to develop with both Peel Environmental, Myles Kitcher the CEO of Peel Environmental was kind enough to join us at the signing ceremony yesterday for our relationship with Thornton’s, at the science park and the University of Chester.
Of course, and this was noted earlier in the week, that we’ve appointed Dave Ryan to our Board of Directors, now Dave was previously the General Manager for a division of ThyssenKrupp, here in the UK, effectively running all of the UK operations for one of their engineering organisations, Dave is also concurrently a member of the Board of Directors at Waste2tricity. So, we see that as a huge step forward both in terms of increasing our depth in bench strength from an engineering perspective but also increasing our network and increasing our visibility in the marketplace. The fact is that we too have turned the corner and are at the boom of the ‘j curve’ and are starting our way up and we’re excited about it and I think you’re going to start hearing more and more about modular distributed gasification and its significant impact on the ability to deal with landfill diversion, to deal with electrical generation and to deal with hydrogen generation.
So, it’s an exciting time for Powerhouse Energy and it should be an exciting time for all of our shareholders as well.
Q5: What further developments can we expect over the coming months for Powerhouse Energy Group?
A5: I think that the most exciting thing, of course, that we’re looking forward to is the landfall of the G3 unit and the recommissioning of the G3 unit here in the UK. Once that takes place and the unit is well and thoroughly engaged at the Thornton Science Park, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of exciting things coming out of the company.