Update on Alchemix HydroMax

The HydroMax technology uses any carbon source including low sulfur and high sulfur coal to produce electricity, hydrogen and syngases which can be used as fuel for gas-fired power plants or converted into diesel, jet fuel, gasoline or ammonia. Alternate carbon sources include petroleum coke, municipal waste, biomass and shredded tires.

The company continues to make excellent progress as the U.S. Patent Office has now allowed 206 claims contained within a handful of patent applications. There is an opportunity to participate in an independent engineering evaluation of HydroMax vs. other hydrogen production technologies (such as gasification), to participate in a demonstration program, and to make a direct investment in Alchemix.


See: UFTO Note – H2 Production Adapts Smelting Technology, 15 Nov 2002:
(password required)

HydroMax adapts existing metal smelting technology to convert dirty solid fuels to clean gases. In iron making, carbon (coke) is mixed into molten iron oxide, and the result is elemental iron (Fe) and CO2. Alchemix’s new process, HydroMax, injects steam into a molten iron bath which makes H2 and iron oxide (FeO). HydroMax then makes use of iron making technology to return the iron oxide to pure iron for re-use. These two steps are done one after the other, and the fixed inventory of iron/iron oxide remains in place. (To produce a steady output stream, two reactors alternate, one in each mode.)

FeO + C –> Fe + CO2
Fe + H2O –> FeO + H2


A great deal of information is available at the company’s website:

Look under “News” and “Shareholders” for several powerpoint presentations and other items. Also a white paper under “Technology”. These emphasize the point that Alchemix provides a bridge strategy between hydrogen now, and the hydrogen economy of the future.

Alchemix says they have the lowest cost zero-emission coal/hydrogen technology, noteworthy in light of the somewhat controversial and problematic DOE FutureGen plan* to spend over $1 billion on a gasification approach. See Alchemix’s comments on how HydroMax will meet the FutureGen goals far more effectively.



Latest developments include specific plans for a commercial demonstration plant to be built in cooperation with members of the Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development (CONRAD, Several members of CONRAD decided on July 15 to proceed with an engineering study to evaluate the HydroMax technology, economics and environmental impact in comparison with the alternate methods of producing hydrogen (i.e. steam methane reforming, gasification of solids and partial oxidation of heavy liquids). If the results of the study are positive for HydroMax as expected, then this group is likely to proceed with funding the first HydroMax plant, to be built in northern Alberta where the oil sands are located.

The plant will use petroleum coke to make 20 million scf/day of hydrogen and 10 MW of electricity. The plant will be profitable. An executive summary available on the Alchemix website (under “Introduction”) includes pro formas for the plant.

The group in Canada would welcome participation in the study (and the demo plant) by additional companies including US utilities. Alchemix will make introductions for anyone who is interested.

The group includes governmental organizations and private companies who will provide funding for the plant but may not require an equity position since they are interested in accelerated access to the technology. Alchemix, anticipating a capital requirement on its part for a substantial portion of the project (estimated at $120 million US), has drafted an investment opportunity. The proposal is for sale of stock in Alchemix with a call option for another traunch as the project proceeds.

A detailed memo on the rationale for this investment is available (password required) at:

Contact Robert Horton, Chairman

H2 Production Adapts Smelting Technology

In iron making, carbon (coke) is mixed into molten iron oxide, and the result is elemental iron (Fe) and CO2. Alchemix’s new process, HydroMax,then introduces steam, which makes H2 while converting the Fe back to iron oxide. These two steps are done one after the other, and the fixed inventory of iron/iron oxide remains in place. (To produce a steady output stream, two reactors alternate, one in each mode.)

FeO + C –> Fe + CO2
Fe + H2O –> FeO + H2

By adding some tin to the melt, sulfur that comes in with the carbon is readily dealt with. Tin and sulfur form tin sulfide (SnS). TheSnS is combusted to form tin oxide(SnO2) and SO2. The SnO2 goes back into the melt to be reduced back to tin along with the iron oxide, and the SO2 is scrubbed from the exhaust (and used to make fertilizer).

Note that the H2 comes from the water, not from a hydrocarbon. The carbon merely provides process heat, and the reforming of the iron oxide.At the very high temperature (1300 deg C), any carbon compound will be quickly reduced to elemental carbon, opening the way to use low value or waste material feedstocks.

Alchemix has adapted widely used metal smelting reactors to both produce hydrogen and reduce iron oxide back into iron. The specific technology is the top-submerged lance furnace which is currently operating in more than thirty commercial installations worldwide. These furnaces routinely convert ores of tin, lead, copper, zinc and iron into metal. The principal function of these reactors is to obtain efficient contact between gases and molten liquids so that the oxygen in the liquid metal oxides can react quickly with the input carbon leaving only metal. The natural ores processed in these furnaces frequently contain more than 50% gangue (rock or other materials associated with the metal oxides). The absence of gangue substantially simplifies the HydroMax process relative to existing smelter operations.

To date, Alchemix has demonstrated its ability to produce hydrogen and reform metal oxide efficiently at both laboratory (kilogram) and demonstration plant scale (0.3 meter reactor diameter). Currently, engineering development work is being conducted at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) in Melbourne, Australia. These plants were chosen and adapted to the HydroMax technology since they are the same plants used to demonstrate the top-submerged lance technology as it was developed for use with a variety of metals. These demonstrations have validated the science which is the underpinning of the HydroMax technology. The next step is to attract partners for a larger commercial demonstration plant (2 meter) in the US.

Plants producing 50-150 million scf H2 per day can drastically beat the standard steam methane reforming in terms of cost (by as much as a factor of 10), in part because of the much cheaper feedstock (low value coal, sludge, etc., vs. natural gas) and the value of co-products (electricity and ammonium-sulfate fertilizer). The engineering firm Kvaerner has recently done a capital and operating cost analysis (summary available on the company website).

The chicken and egg nature of the “hydrogen economy” might suggest that large scale production won’t have a place until end uses and the delivery infrastructure are in place. The multipurpose nature of a Hydromax plant, however, makes it possible for a plant built today to supply an oil refinery, or produce ammonia or syngas, while awaiting the development of the H2 transportation market. HydroMax can also be used to gasify hydrocarbons, with the unique ability to control the ratio of H2 and CO in the resulting syngas (the steam and C are introduced together), which in turn can be made into the various liquid fuels.

The H2 (or syngas) and excess steam can be used directly to generate power, making an overall system that is far more efficient and cleaner than any solid fuel boiler. Imagine a mine mouth power plant using low value high sulfur coal. The overall efficiency would be close to 50% with a major reduction in CO2, and no emissions of sulfur, mercury or NOx.

Key implications — the flexibility provides immediate clean power and fuels from low grade carbon resources while we await the decades-long transition to a hydrogen economy; — the opportunity to dramatically reduce the US dependence on oil imports; — environmentally benign way for China, for instance, to use their resources which otherwise threaten the entire globe.

The company website has white papers, the cost analysis, and even a dramatic animated graphic of the process:

The company has attracted significant investment participation. As mentioned earlier, the goal now is to bring in partners to participate in the US commercial demonstration plant, e.g. four partners at $10M each, whose investment would gain them a preferred position and a credit towards the royalties of a full size plant.

Contact Robert Horton, President