By Allan Carter

NB Power, the province of New Brunswick’s power utility, has been raising some eyebrows over a decision to invest in a technology with unproven claims that it will produce clean energy through a new hydrogen-energy process called Hydrogen 2.0.

According to CBC News, NB Power has invested $13 million in licensing fees to Joi Scientific, based in Florida. News of the deal has prompted many critics to question some of the claims made by Joi Scientific and whether a public utility should be investing in a private company.

One major concern is a claim made in Joi Scientific’s patent that the process generates “200 per cent” of the energy put into it. Quoted in an article by the CBC News, the patent says , “For one watt of input energy, two watts of energy in the form of hydrogen gas is achieved.” Vancouver energy consultant Michael Barnard told CBC News that several of the claims would violate one of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics: In a closed system, energy can only be transformed, not created or destroyed.

Additionally, two New Brunswick scientists, Olivier Clarisse and Abdelaziz Nait Ajjou, professors of chemistry from the University of Moncton, have expressed skepticism over Joi Scientific’s claims.

While Joi Scientific has been tight-lipped on the details of the process, patents that the company has filed have continued to generate more questions than answers. According to the New Brunswick Francophone newspaper Acadie Nouvelle , the patents contain details on the device. The patent states it extracts significant amounts of hydrogen from seawater using a pulsed electric current and a magnetic field.

Clarisse is wary of this claim, because using an electric current to extract hydrogen from water is not a new technique. He explained to the Acadie Nouvelle that this technique is already happening, but it is not cost-effective from an energy point of view.

As far as Clarisse and Ajjou know, the efficiency threshold of 100% — as much energy produced as energy used — has not yet been passed by anyone. Ajjou notes the best processes to date, to his knowledge, produce around 60%, which means that you lose 40% energy. However, Joi Scientific claims to have achieved an efficiency rate of 200% and even 300%.

Yet, despite the skepticism on many fronts, NB Power is not the only one willing to invest in the Florida-based energy company. MarineMax was the first licensee of Joi Scientific’s Hydrogen 2.0 production technology in 2018. According to Trade Only Today , MarineMax believes the technology will transform the boating industry — and possibly the world of maritime transportation.

New Brunswick Green Party leader, David Coon, is also skeptical about the claims made by Joi Scientific. However, he has other concerns as well. He told CBC News in March that NB Power “has no mandate as a public entity to be spending ratepayers’ money on [research and development], to be acting like an angel investor in someone’s project in Florida.”

Meanwhile, this past June, Joi Scientific was recognized as a 2019 Red Herring Top 100 North America winner . The annual award recognizes the region’s most promising private technology ventures. The company has included Joi Scientific in the top 100 for “its innovation Hydrogen 2.0 technology business model and strong market impact potential.”

This article appears in the September 2019 version of Critical Links.