Logan Energy – Hydrogen-Powered
Logan Energy is an energy solutions provider based around hydrogen, looking at energy strategies for businesses. We learn about the essential role hydrogen can play in the energy mix.
“We look at what our customers’ drivers are, whether it’s carbon reduction, the security of supply, CSR, legal compliance or economics,” explains Bill Ireland, Logan Energy’s CEO. “Then we look at what solutions we can provide for them, from feasibility all the way through design, manufacture, integration, operation, and maintenance. We go the whole way, selecting the right equipment, from electrolysers to compressors, sourcing components from the right companies and then we manufacture complete systems. We are also converting conventional vehicles to use hydrogen as a renewable fuel. We offer the whole alternative energy solution from an independent supply chain.”
Of course, when it comes to discussing energy the conversation tends to quickly polarise into fossil fuels and renewables, but as Ireland explains, Hydrogen occupies an important niche in filling the gaps left by other sources of power.
“Hydrogen allows you to effect a shift from a particular production of electricity at a particular time,” he says. “When you don’t necessarily want the electricity or the energy you can store it and time shift. You can take it from wind or solar production then shift it to a transport, heating or cooking fuel, even using it in industrial processes. You are shifting sectors from that point of view, as well as time. Hydrogen can also be produced from non-renewable sources, such as steam reformation from natural gas, which is currently the norm and cheapest.”
The Case for Hydrogen
It is a subject Ireland is clearly passionate about, believing hydrogen power can not only improve energy efficiency but save lives.
“Other aspects of renewable hydrogen aren’t given a monetary value at the moment, but there are far more deaths from air pollution from fossil fuel than from the COVID-19 epidemic,” he points out. “There’s no price put on that, but the economic effect of shutting everything down is colossal. It is the right thing to do because COVED is a real threat, but we are not cognizant of other things that knock us on the head every day. As an alternative to renewable generation, we can also produce hydrogen from fossil fuels but this releases CO2 in the process. However, in conjunction with carbon capture and storage, this can reduce the greenhouse gas effect. But this is still from fossil fuel. You can also generate hydrogen from biogas which is, in effect, renewable hydrogen despite emitting CO2. If you capture this CO2, you could actually be carbon negative.”
Logan Energy is a company perfectly positioned to make the case for energy generation using hydrogen, having more experience across all sectors of the hydrogen energy sector than any other company in the world.
“We have been involved in both fuel cells and hydrogen for decades. More recently we turned to the renewable hydrogen generation and energy storage sectors because of the advantages of displacing petrol and diesel in transport. Nobody has the experience we have of providing the whole package,” Ireland says. “Our strength is in integration and knowledge of the whole energy cycle. Being manufacturer-independent, we can select the right kit for the right application. Independence, experience, and delivery.”
But in putting that experience to use Logan Energy faces a two-fold challenge.
“One is the struggle to get hydrogen accepted as an alternative energy source, but this is beginning to change,” Ireland says. “The other is the ongoing struggle to have an even playing field. Wherever you look energy is subsidised in one form or another. If there is a subsidy there, where there is not necessarily for hydrogen, it makes cheaper for that source? So why change? Staying commercially competitive in a non-level playing field is a big challenge.”
At the same time as making the case for hydrogen power, as a smaller business Logan also has the challenge of demonstrating its expertise against larger competitors.
“We have a small voice, but we know what we’re doing,” explains Ireland. “There are a lot of bigger companies out there with bigger voices and bigger contacts that customers believe are more secure and informed. But innovation generally comes from small businesses and that’s where we’re coming from.”
Logan Energy has been engaged in a decades-long campaign of education, in terms of what hydrogen power and Logan Energy itself is capable of. Ireland’s own career has uniquely suited him to spread the message.
“My background is in the building sector and was trying to inform people how to provide better buildings from the start taking a holistic approach,” he says. “Once you reduce the energy a building or process needs you still need energy. You can get that from the grid or generate it yourself, one way or another. When I moved into fuel cells that basically got me into the hydrogen sector. Throughout my career, I’ve been trying to improve energy efficiency and comfort in buildings and the environment.”
Logan Energy has been growing its reputation organically by investing its profits back into the company, developing knowledge, experience and designs over the years.
“We’ve recently had investment from a Chinese company into Logan and as part of that we will be establishing a joint venture for the Chinese market and we’re looking for further investment to grow faster to meet the demand and compete with larger businesses,” Ireland tells us excitedly.
Keeping the Lights On
While Logan Energy continues to grow, global circumstances have thrown a challenge in their path in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown.
“We looked at it a while back and shut the business down for a few days,” Ireland remembers. “Then we realised this would go on for a while. We have the space to have people working while social distancing, so we brought back those that are experienced and can work on their own. They are separated, we have sectioned up the workshop so people are working in their own area, not exchanging tools, using alcohol sanitiser, etc. We have suffered from being in a growth spurt and taking people on when the lockdown was introduced. One of the guys has worked for us for a day and has been furloughed. But we have not been supported as he started after the cut-off date despite taking the job in January. But we are still paying him his salary, as that is the responsible thing to do, but it has a direct effect on us. Other areas have suffered from reduced manpower.”
However, even under these circumstances, Logan Energy is finding ways to do their jobs, at a time when energy supplies are all important.
“Everyone who can is working at home, admin, finance, design all working at home. Early on we decided to keep working by keeping social distance, we’ve multiple facilities for loos and kitchen, and we have staggered breaks,” Ireland says. “We’re working less efficiently at the workshop and in the office and at higher costs. It’s affected us but we’re still keeping going.”
Beyond the pandemic, Ireland is hoping Logan Energy can continue to grow.
“We’re looking for further investment. We’ve had a million quid invested in us last year to expand and recruit and now we’re looking at jumping that up a factor or so to enable us to expand using our knowledge and expertise,” he says.
The one thing he wants people to understand is Logan Energy’s value lies in the extensive and specific knowledge they have of hydrogen energy and whole energy systems.
“We have a decent base of experienced designers, a lot of people think they can do hydrogen because it’s just another compressed gas but there are a lot of special aspects hydrogen has compared to other things,” Ireland says. “There is a lack of skill and understanding that hydrogen is special.”