Stuart Family Hydrogen History
Alexander T. Stuart
Alexander K. Stuart
Andrew T.B. Stuart
Alexander Thomas Stuart
Canada’s pioneer in hydrogen and hydrogen energy technology was Alexander Thomas Stuart (1882-1950). While employed in 1905 as a summer student at an electrochemical plant in Niagara Falls, New York, he conceived the opportunity for electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen by absorbed surplus electricity at all times when supply exceeded demand from other loads.
A.T. Stuart’s Education
Mr. Stuart’s electrochemical educational genealogy can be traced back to London’s Michael Faraday, who worked with Sir William Grove, the discoverer of the fuel cell. Sir William Grove taught Professor Lash Miller, who taught Stuart as a student at the University of Toronto where he graduated in 1907 with a degree in Chemistry and Mineralogy. Together with Lash Miller, Stuart conceived of the idea of cogeneration of oxygen and hydrogen [using surplus electricity to make hydrogen] particularly from new generating capacity when added to the power grid.
A.T. Stuart’s First Electrolyser
In 1912, A.T. Stuart commenced building his first electrolyzer. In 1913, while working with the Department of Agriculture in Ottawa, he assembled his data which pointed to the electrolysis of water making hydrogen and oxygen as a source of hydrogen for the synthesis of ammonia – a key ingredient in producing nitrogen fertilizer.
Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario (HEPC)
Stuart introduced his proposal to Sir Adam Beck, Chairman of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario (HEPC) in 1913 and again in 1918. Sir Adam Beck and his successors made arrangements for Stuart to have an office and laboratory space in the Strachan Research Laboratory where Stuart would carry out his experiments for the Water Power Branch of the Department of the Interior.
The “Stuart Cell”
A.T. Stuart developed the “Stuart Cell” which would become one of the world’s leading electrolysis systems for over a century.
While awaiting progress in Ontario, a number of electrolysis systems were designed and built by A. T. Stuart in the 1920s. This began over 100 years of Stuart’s delivering hydrogen technology they designed. Projects of this era included the units delivered to the Stuart Oxygen Company in San Francisco, which was used in the 1930s to produce experimental quantities of heavy water by exploiting the hydrogen isotope separation factor available in water electrolysis systems. This became the first heavy water supply for the Manhattan project.
Alexander T. Stuart has his first patent for “Cells” granted. This marks the first in over 50 novel patents by him and his descendants in over 30 countries in the field of Hydrogen Technology.
Back in Ontario, on January 16, 1928 Professor J.C. McLennan, a renowned scientist at the University of Toronto, addressed the Canadian Club. While appealing for Government scientific research funding, McLennan cited the incalculable benefits to Canada of Stuart’s work in the development of a process to produce “hydro-electric fuel”
Stuart International Corporation Limited
Alexander T. Stuart creates Stuart International Corporation Ltd. to market and licence his technology abroad. This is one of many distinct companies that A.T Stuart created including Stuart Oxygen Corporation Ltd. The Electrolyser Corporation Ltd. and several project-oriented companies.
The Experimental Plant
Things finally started to happen in 1933 under the leadership of HEPC Chairman T. Stewart Lyon and Secretary Murray MacCrimmon. There were many conferences with Dr. F.A. Gaby, Chief Engineer and subsequently Dr. W. P. Dobson, Chief Testing Engineer. Over the next three years, an experimental demonstration plant was built and operated at Leaside, Ontario. Stuart became Director of the Electrolytic Gases Department. Under Commission Approval No. 208, August 28, 1935, authority was given for the appropriation of $90,000 to cover the cost of erecting and equipping the Experimental Plant for creating markets for surplus and off-peak power.
Electrolysis and Oxygen-blown Gasification
This plant operated for the purpose of electrolyzing water into hydrogen and oxygen, with the oxygen being applied with steam to the continuous gasification of solid fuel. This novel technology was North America’s first continuous gasifier as well as an improved method of manufacturing “Town Gas” (CO + H2). Town gas was used for domestic heating and cooking in a manner similar to the role of natural gas today. With the addition of the electrolytic hydrogen, the Town Gas became Synthesis Gas (CO + 2H2). Synthesis Gas could then be used to manufacture synthetic chemicals such as methanol, gasoline and other high-value hydrocarbons – a novel idea at the time. The process was validated with alternative feedstocks of coal and coke and Ontario’s indigenous peat.
Direct Reduction of Iron Ore
In 1935, Stuart’s hydrogen energy system had a storage component added to it, by integration of the well known steam-iron hydrogen production technique. This allowed the reversible storage of hydrogen to smooth out supply at times when electricity for electrolytic hydrogen production was less available. Mr. Stuart noted both the energy system opportunity for his hydrogen technology and, as well, that its use to produce synthesis gas (CO + 2H2), could be the basis for an entire metallurgical (direct reduction) and synthetic chemical and liquid fuel industry in Ontario.
Monitoring Global Hydrogen Events
While Director of the Electrolytic Gases Department, Stuart studied a report by the German dirigible engineer, Rudolph Erren. This report introduced the concept of hydrogen as a fuel for internal combustion engines. Customarily, hydrogen buoyancy gas was discharged during the dirigible’s long journey in order to maintain level flight as heavy diesel fuel was consumed. Erren conceived the use of this discharged hydrogen as a fuel for the dirigible’s engines, reducing diesel oil requirement.
The report further disclosed that Erren evolved hydrogen engine applications for locomotives, road vehicles, submarines and torpedoes. From this information, Stuart’s son Alexander Kyle Stuart, while serving as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy, surprised a surrendered German U-Boat Captain by his knowledge of German experimental hydrogen submarines. It was later determined that Rudolph Erren, who managed to escape Germany to England had been interned during World War 2 in Canada as an alien near Toronto. In 1978, Mr. Alexander K. Stuart was pleased to meet Rudolph Erren at a hydrogen energy conference in Vienna.
“A Life In Hydrogen”
In 1929, at the impressionable age of 5 years, Alexander K. Stuart was introduced by his father, Alexander T. Stuart, to what was to become his life’s work – hydrogen and oxygen gases and electrolysis for the making thereof –that the immense electrical energy at Niagara Falls should be applied first to meet the demands of the electrical grid and the balance to electrolysis – a system for the co-generation of electricity and hydrogen on a utility-scale. A.K. Stuart and his father shared an underlying long-term vision of a major role for hydrogen in the global energy economy. At the same time, industrial markets for hydrogen (and oxygen) offered both business opportunities and the parallel opportunity to develop electrolysis technology to be ready for the foreseen energy role. The Electrolyser Corporation Limited, later renamed Stuart Energy Systems, was accordingly formed in 1948 to supply hydrogen systems to world markets. Alexander T. Stuart passed away in 1950 shortly after the company’s founding. However, this did not hold back his son Alexander Kyle who not only went on to lead a team who built the company to a point where it sold some 1,000 Stuart hydrogen plants in over 100 countries and territories but brought forward the global hydrogen movement for sixty years – a consistent commitment without parallel.
Industrial Expansion – 1950’s & 1960’s
A.K. Stuart grew his company and the Stuart hydrogen plant business globally in industrial markets around the world. Industrial growth drove demand for hydrogen and water electrolysis and provided an on-site solution for hydrogen supply. It satisfied the need for small to medium requirements for hydrogen to diverse industries – from food to metallurgy to chemical process. A.K. Stuart advanced the cause of hydrogen energy, hydrogen isotope enrichment and by-product oxygen uses but few advances were made in the use of hydrogen for energy purposes.
The Re-Emergence of Hydrogen as an Energy Carrier – 1970’s
However, the 1970s brought the opportunity to expand hydrogen operations into the energy field with the creation of OPEC and the extraordinary increases in the price of oil and restraints on supply. Stimulated by Professor John O.M. Bockris, a major study on hydrogen energy was undertaken by the Institute of Gas Technology, Chicago and A.K. Stuart contributed the electrolysis portion. In April 1974 the first hydrogen energy symposium was held in Boston by the American Chemical Society. A.K. Stuart presented the electrolysis paper in this comprehensive review of all aspects of a hydrogen energy system.
The Canadian Hydrogen Association was formed and A. K. Stuart served for many years as Chairman of the Canadian Hydrogen Association (now the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association). In the U.S.A. the National Hydrogen Association was formed (A.K. Stuart later became Vice-Chairman). In Europe the O.E.C.D., under the advocacy of U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger, formed the International Energy Agency, which in turn established a Hydrogen Implementation Agreement for co-operative research. A.K. Stuart became a founding delegate and signatory to the agreement and later became its Chairman.
The International Association for Hydrogen Energy was formed under the inspiration and leadership of Dr. T. Nejat Veziroglu. A.K. Stuart served as a Director for many years and the Chairman of two World Hydrogen Energy Conferences (Toronto, Canada in 1984 and Montreal, Canada in 2002).
Hydro Quebec, Noranda, Joint Venture
In conjunction with Noranda Inc.and Hydro-Quebec, A.K. Stuart led a major advancement in electrolysis technology to meet the technological requirements of large-scale electrolytic hydrogen production. Unipolar water electrolysis technology was developed for the production of electrolytic hydrogen in 100 MW blocks with a single power conditioning system, to enable nuclear energy or renewable forms of energy to produce hydrogen on a scale which was hitherto only conceived when using fossil fuels. As a result, the world’s largest water electrolysis cell – The EI-250 Cell – was developed. At Hydro Quebec’s research Institute at Varennes Quebec, the first long term testing of the cells, along with much of the other research and development was conducted as shown in the photo. When the joint venture ended in 1988, Andrew Stuart was tasked to continue the implementation of large scale water electrolysis systems from the resulting work of the joint venture.
Commercialization of the EI-250 Cell
Integrated engineered EI-250 hydrogen production plants were sold to clients in Canada and abroad. In Becancour Quebec, Air Liquide implemented an 8 MW plant. In Brazil an EI-250 hydrogen production plant was sold for green chemical production. The initial size was 7.5 MW. Given the unipolar design, it was readily expanded three times, to reach, a total of 15 MW.
The EI-250 cell was a highly energy-efficient water electrolysis cell. Each electrolysis cell operated at 120,000 amperes current steady-state conditions or modulated between 0 and 120,000 amperes. It introduced the world to large-scale hydrogen production from non-fossil energy and the concept of 100 MW (electric) modules of hydrogen production.
A.K. Stuart’s Additional Achievements
A.K. Stuart’s widely recognized export experience led to his being Chairman of the Canadian Exporters’ Association (now the Canadian Export and Manufacturing Association) as well as Chairman of Export Development Canada, the Canadian Crown Corporation that provides finance and insurance for Canada’s export trade. During his 4-year period in office, the Corporation’s annual business volume grew from $8 billion to $28 billion and he was recognized by Prime Minister Chrétien for his services to Canada through EDC. He was also a founding director of the Canada-India Business Council. A.K. Stuart was a member of the Hydrogen Technology Advisory Group of Natural Resources Canada. He served on the board of directors of the Ontario Centre for Excellence – Energy. In 2004, he was inducted into the University of Toronto’s Engineering Hall of Fame in recognition of his stature as a Canadian and global authority on hydrogen generation and the use of hydrogen as an environmentally friendly fuel. An enthusiastic fisherman and wildlife conservationist, Mr. Stuart was a former Director of World Wildlife Fund Canada, a founding trustee of the Long Point Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Fund and a past chairman of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. On October 17, 2001, Mr. Stuart was invested by the Governor-General as a Member of the Order of Canada.
The Hydrogen Trait Continues: Andrew T. B. Stuart – 1962 onward
A.K. Stuart’s son Andrew Thomas Burton Stuart, a graduate of Chemical Engineering from McGill University as well as graduate of a Master’s of electro-chemistry in Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto, joined his father’s business (as well as Andrew’s older brother Alex and brother-in-law Ian Scott who were playing key roles in the Company).
Like Sandy at age five in 1929 listening to his father’s vision of hydrogen, Andrew had caught the family hydrogen trait early in life. Andrew’s earliest projection of the role of hydrogen in Canada’s energy system was at age 8 where he presented to his classmates a transcontinental hydrogen-powered train being fueled by hydrogen produced with the predominant energy source from each region – hydroelectricity in British Columbia, fossil energy in the Prairies, hydro-power in Manitoba, the new deployment of nuclear reactors in Ontario, massive hydro-electric power in Quebec, coal in the Maritimes and hydroelectricity in Labrador.
Alexander K. Stuart Mentoring Andrew Stuart – 1987 to 1999
Under Alexander’s guidance and encouragement, Andrew led projects to advance hydrogen technology and market opportunities that are described between 1987-1999.
Intercontinental Hydrogen Feasibility Studies
Andrew and team undertook feasibility studies to examine new concepts of intercontinental non-fossil hydrogen energy transport including large scale hydrogen produced from Quebec to be moved to Europe as well as a similar arrangement of producing and moving hydrogen from British Columbia to Japan.
Andrew lead a team for the development of the concept of “Integrated Electrolysis” whereby an electrolysis system connects electricity as hydrogen to fuel and industrial markets in a manner that integrates back into the electricity supply system and forward into the hydrogen and by-product use applications on a significantly large scale.
Designed, built and operated a photovoltaic hydrogen generating and compression system which achieved high performance (sun to hydrogen) over many years. This solar hydrogen was stored in both a compressed gas storage tank and a metal hydride containment system and provided fueling to a Mazda hydrogen car (ICE type). This is believed to have been the first time in history solar hydrogen was applied as automobile fuel.
Commercializing Photovoltaic Hydrogen
Design and supply of two larger systems to two California locations – Riverside CA and El Segundo CA – of integrated systems directly coupling photovoltaics to water electrolysis systems that produced hydrogen vehicle fuel. Andrew’s design of the Segundo CA location is notable for being one of, if not the world’s first containerized hydrogen production purification and compression units. Today Containerization of hydrogen systems has become widespread in the industry.
Grid Linked Energy Storage
This was a Power to chemical variable electrical input application managed threw hydrogen storage in a power to industry process. Commercial grid-linked hydrogen energy storage system in which 50 MWh of electricity (stored as hydrogen) would be load shifted from non-peak to peak times when the hydrogen would be fed to a hydrogen peroxide production system which operated continuously even though the 15 MW water electrolyzer system was turned down or off during peak power demand periods.
Isotopic Hydrogen Developments
Design of deuterium oxide recovery system from the world’s largest water electrolysis facility in Aswan Egypt 165MW as well as involvement in numerous hydrogen isotope projects, some involving custom electrolysis equipment to be designed and manufactured.
First Commercial Bus Fueling Station
Design and implementation of a fueling system that utilized non-peak electricity at night to produce compressed electrolytic hydrogen, and stored the generated gas on board a hydrogen bus. The bus would leave in the morning to provide zero-emission passenger service without the requirement of “overhead wires” drawing electricity at peak times. Zero Emission Fuel for Zero-Emission Vehicles. This project was a North American first and laid much of the foundation for today’s hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
Hydrogen Fuel Appliance
The development and testing of the distributed hydrogen fuel network through the use of the Hydrogen Fuel Appliance Concept. Essentially turning conventional hydrogen supply upside down. Historically, and generally, currently, the vast majority of the world’s hydrogen production consists of a handful of carbon-based very large-scale hydrogen generators producing hydrogen typically 100s of KMS away from large population centres. Andrew was one of the first to recognize the mismatch between traditional hydrogen production and new market requirements for hydrogen fuel. The Plug and Play Hydrogen Appliance approach enabled mass-manufactured technology to utilize the distributed electricity network to produce hydrogen fuel – when and where it was needed. Driving 100s of KMS to access conventional hydrogen plants never made sense, however, Andrew’s subtler approach was understanding that water electrolysis as a method of intermittent high purity high-pressure hydrogen production and supply was ideal to meet the requirement of a modest amount of hydrogen “everywhere” based on the underutilized electric grid. It also revolutionized the method to obtain vehicle fuel – for example at shopping malls, apartments, and parking garages – even one’s house. A Personal Fuel Appliance was developed and demonstrated as well as a Community Fuel Appliance to meet the needs of small fleets.
Andrew as CEO Finances Business Opportunity
In the late 1990s Andrew became President and CEO of Stuart Energy and implemented a corporate strategy based on the activities he and the team had advanced during the 1980s and 1990s. proceeds from private placements, government grants, and initial public offerings reached some $200 million as all major car companies indicated hydrogen vehicles would be brought to the market in the coming 5 years. It was a time of convergence of demand for hydrogen vehicle fuel to be met with advanced hydrogen technologies. Given the enormous scale and diversity of the world’s energy markets, the adoption of hydrogen – seen by the vehicle industry as the ultimate carbon-free fuel – was now in sight. A.T. Stuart’s vision of connecting underutilized electricity to energy and industrial markets was finally enjoying wide global attention.
This led to financings in the hydrogen energy technology sector of numerous billions of dollars to enable companies to scale their technologies and fill in missing gaps in a complete energy system based on hydrogen including the development of codes and standards. However, overall global hydrogen industry efforts slowed as car companies delayed implementation plans to further advance technologies for mass manufacture.
Return to Gasification and Other Technologies
Andrew sustained technology innovation levels including the development of a patented Direct Hydrogen™ Gasification Technology using a modern novel variant of the steam-iron process and oxygen gasification process which Alexander T. Stuart had demonstrated in the 1930s.
Other Projects of this time include the marketing of a used 15MW Water Electrolysis Plant that Andrew had previously implemented earlier in his career. Working with Air Liquide to look into ways of optimizing an 8 MW Water Electrolysis Facility in Quebec, which would produce the hydrogen used in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Hydrogen Bus Trial. In addition, he continued to develop a variety of hydrogen technologies for various applications.
During this time Andrew also served on the board of Hydrogenics and continued to serve on the Board of Directors of hydrogen and natural gas composite cylinder manufacturer Dynetek Industries, continued as CEO and Chairman of Learning for a Sustainable Future, as well as serving on the Member Council of the billion-dollar Canada Foundation for Sustainable Technology.
Further development activities identified opportunities within the hydrogen isotope field. Andrew founded Isowater in 2009 as a supplier of deuterium to the world’s Life Science and High Technology markets. Isowater is now the largest private sector supplier of deuterium to these markets.
Hydrogen Optimized was formed by Andrew T. B. Stuart to realize his vision that within 10 years the adoption of clean hydrogen processes for energy and industrial purposes will have improved the quality of life for all individuals worldwide. The Hydrogen Optimized’s team’s mission is to realize this vision as we stand on the shoulders of our heritage. To learn more about what is happening in Hydrogen Optimized today, please read the rest of the website.
Andrew’s children, Samantha and Edward who have both studied engineering, are currently contributing to the company marking the 4th generation of Stuarts working in the hydrogen technology field. Today, Stuart’s independently, and companies that had Stuarts in leadership positions have delivered over 1000 hydrogen projects in over 100 countries.