Hip hydrogen: New Hydrogen Technology Center director weighs in on the popular tech topic

Good Friday afternoon! Des Plaines, Illinois-based GTI (Gas Technology Institute) is a nonprofit research, development, and training organization addressing energy and environmental challenges. It formed the Hydrogen Technology Center earlier this year and this spring named Kristine Wiley the director of HTC. I spoke with Wiley about plans for her new role and why hydrogen technologies are getting so much attention right now. See our Q&A session later in the newsletter.

Today’s headlines:

🛢️ BIOFUEL: A National Renewable Energy Laboratory collaboration, which includes Argonne National Laboratory, created a new catalyst that enables the conversion of renewable and waste carbon into sustainable biodiesel fuels.

🚗 ENGINES: Argonne also was part of the team that conducted the largest-ever simulation of flow inside an internal combustion engine, and data gathered could be used to design and manufacture greener automotive engines.

🏆 AWARD: Chicago-area startup Mycocycle (previously featured in Centered) received $20,000 for winning the Cleantech Open’s Resiliency Challenge. Mycocycle is developing technology to use fungi for removing toxins from waste materials and use the resulting biomass as a resource for making new products. It won for pivoting its technology to treat new waste streams that are more readily available during the pandemic, as opposed to the construction and demolition waste it originally targeted.

***SPONSORED LINK: The Cleanie Awards — the #1 awards program in clean technology — is now accepting applications! Submit to win, or contact us with any questions. Applications close July 30.***

💰 FUNDING: The U.S. Department of Energy is providing $135 million in funding for 55 advanced vehicle technology projects, six of which are led by teams in Michigan. Projects in Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin also will receive funding. Some research relates to vehicle electrification and energy storage.

📊 INVESTORS: Green Bay, Wisconsin’s Startup Hub, powered by the Greater Green Bay Chamber, launched a new entrepreneurial investor group called Tundra Angels. It will cater to early-stage, high growth potential startups in a variety of industries.


  • Registration is open for Minnesota’s Bold Open conference, which aims to accelerate agriculture and food innovation, including sustainability and reducing waste. It will take place on July 27.
  • The inaugural FlyOver Tech Fest summit will be held on October 1. It aims to serve Midwest tech entrepreneurs and includes topics such as hiring, scaling, and fundraising.

Now, here’s the Q&A with Kristine Wiley, director of the Hydrogen Technology Center at GTI.

Q: GTI launched the HTC earlier this year. What makes now the right time to advance this technology?

A: It’s a pretty exciting time with regards to focusing on low-carbon fuel such as hydrogen. For example, you see lots of natural gas companies making commitments for net-zero emissions. Those companies are putting their plans together for reaching the goals in incremental ways by 2030, and then going beyond that to 2050. However, with the current data technologies that we have, we don’t necessarily have all the solutions to get to that 2050 goal of net-zero emissions.

I think the commitment you see from the industry — the producers all the way through local distribution companies for natural gas — that momentum and excitement right now is around hydrogen and trying to create solutions for deep decarbonization. That makes it the right time to establish this Hydrogen Technology Center and for GTI to take advantage of our expertise in the natural gas industry and around hydrogen and to develop these types of solutions to help operators meet their commitments and goals.

Q: What are some goals for your first year as director of the HTC?

A: Within this first year we have a number of projects kicking off that will demonstrate various hydrogen technologies, the ability to produce low-carbon hydrogen for example, and demonstrate other hydrogen technologies in network to show that it is feasible to use hydrogen at a larger scale.

The HTC is really a compilation of all of GTI’s hydrogen expertise across the organization. That is inclusive of the various technologies that we are developing as it relates to hydrogen production — for example, looking at issues with regards to blending hydrogen into existing infrastructure and even utilizing different types of hydrogen blends within various end-use applications, such as the residential and commercial sectors.

It’s not like we haven’t had the hydrogen expertise or the capabilities in the past. Our first hydrogen patent for GTI was in the 1960s, so we’ve been doing this for a long time. But we recognize now, with this momentum and the excitement and pressures around decarbonization, a more intentional focus around creating those solutions and technologies to enable low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen.

Q: Do you see a lot of growth potential for hydrogen technologies specifically in the Midwest?

A: Across the U.S. there is a lot of potential for hydrogen technology. You do see a lot more pressure on the West and East Coasts, especially in California and New York, because they have different environmental regulations and more pressures around decarbonization. But within the Midwest, you have utilities who are committed to decarbonizing their infrastructure. … You have companies making these types of commitments and participating in collaborative R&D, whether that’s through GTI or other organizations, to help advance these technologies. They want to provide low-carbon fuels within their infrastructure.

Q: Are there barriers to developing or commercializing low-carbon technologies?

A: Right now there is a lot of R&D investment happening when it comes to various types of hydrogen technologies. You have federal funding coming from the Department of Energy. They have several programs looking at demonstrating hydrogen networks at scale. GTI is actually awarded one of those projects, where we will be doing a demonstration of a hydrogen network in conjunction with our subsidiary Frontier Energy and the University of Texas. … You also have other offices within the Department of Energy that are looking at advancing fuel cells and other types of hydrogen technologies. There is good momentum when it comes to the R&D space.

But when you look at the opportunity and challenges to enable a true hydrogen economy, it’s going to require a lot of R&D investment. I think, in general, people recognize and appreciate that. We can’t solely rely on federal and state funding to conduct the R&D that will be necessary to enable these technologies. You have other stakeholders interested in combining their resources to fund this type of R&D.

Q: Is there anything else you want people to know about HTC?

A: GTI has deep expertise and knowledge when it comes to various types of hydrogen technologies. One of the things that sets HTC apart from other organizations is we have the broad industry knowledge and expertise to address the entire ecosystem as it relates to the hydrogen economy. We have technologies and research to look at various types of production technologies, whether that’s blue hydrogen or green hydrogen that may be coming from electrolysis, taking advantage of wind and solar, working directly with the utilities and pipeline operators to understand as you start blending hydrogen into the existing natural gas infrastructure, what that means for maintaining the integrity and safety of that infrastructure.

Also, now that we have this new fuel, we’re looking at how we best utilize it. What are the most appropriate pathways for using that fuel? We have research looking at whether we should be using that in the transportation space and other sectors that are hard to decarbonize, such as long-haul trucking or industrial uses. HTC is really comprehensive when it comes to trying to enable hydrogen to be utilized.

Let me know which other Midwest tech leaders I should interview for Centered. Send news tips, press releases, and feedback to katie@centered.tech or connect on LinkedIn and Twitter @centereddottech.

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