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Revolutionising green hydrogen – interview with Marko Virkebau, CEO of Stargate Hydrogen

In 2021, three hydrogen experts, already active in the market for some years, founded Stargate Hydrogen, realising the importance of producing affordable green hydrogen that will help reduce carbon emissions in the hard-to-abate sectors such as steelmaking, fertiliser and chemical industries.

Three years later, the company raised 42 million euros for the scaling of its patented electrolyser technology, different from other electrolysers in terms of both materials and the development approach used. The ultimate goal is to bring down the cost of green hydrogen to 1 euro per kilogram. 

We spoke with Marko Virkebau, CEO of Stargate Hydrogen about the company’s proprietary electrolyser, how the right focus on innovation can bring down the costs and the main markets in which Stargate Hydrogen is operating. 

“We founded the company exactly to answer to one of the main bottlenecks of the hydrogen economy: the price of green hydrogen, which currently is more expensive than grey hydrogen,” Mr Virkebau begins.

He recognises that, of course, the price of green hydrogen also depends on the region where it is produced and on the relationship between electricity prices and gas prices.

“The price is too high and many projects are delayed in their investment decisions,” he says. “Small modifications on the electrolysers are not enough, we need more of a revolution and a different approach which goes down to the material level.”

Stargate Hydrogen

That’s how the company’s proprietary electrolyser was created, harnessing alkaline technology to deliver hydrogen reliably at the ideal pressure, effectively revolutionising energy efficiency while maintaining low costs. This groundbreaking technology is entirely free from precious metals such as iridium and ruthenium, making it not only eco-friendly but also economically sustainable.

“We are currently developing alkaline electrolyser stacks, which we sell to system integrators who, in turn, will sell it to their end-users,” Mr Virkebau explains. “And we already had four clients last year, in Poland, France, Italy and Belgium. Now we are also preparing to sell the first full systems while, at the same time, keeping up with research and development to build the second generation of our product.”

Speaking of a possible end market for the full system, the CEO of Stargate Hydrogen mentions two upcoming projects: 1 megawatt (MW) electrolyser to be delivered to a local utility company in Estonia and 1 MW for a hospital in Spain.

Indeed, the company started in Estonia which is a fairly small market with not many existing industries for the industrial use of hydrogen, that’s why they are active also in other parts of Europe, especially in Finland and Poland where larger industries need means to decarbonise their operations.

Stargate Hydrogen

“In the next wave of funded projects coming up later this year, we see many projects from Estonia, Italy and Poland,” Mr Virkebau adds. “What helped us get the funding process closed is that we had a fundamentally different approach on the material and stack-level, not just doing small modifications on the system.”

So, the main question is: is it really possible to produce hydrogen at 1 euro per kilogram?

“The price of hydrogen depends on multiple factors,” points out Marko Virkebau. “There are some factors that we can affect as electrolysers manufacturers and some others we have no control over, like electricity prices and the utilisation rate of the electrolysers. When we say ‘1 euro/kg’, we refer to a market like the Nordics’ where we can count on cheap hydro and wind energy or in Portugal and Spain where solar energy is also cheap.”

Speaking of the aspects that the company can affect to bring down the costs, Mr Virkebau mentions three: the electrolysers’ efficiency, the capital cost and the reliability during its lifetime. Stargate’s R&D roadmap covers all of those.

“Our core innovation lies in the material, a ceramic element vs the precious metals utilised by many others, which doesn’t carry any issue related to the availability or the cost of raw materials,” he concludes. “We even have a higher efficiency rate than precious-metal-based catalyst materials. So we are winning on both ends: we have higher efficiency while bringing down the costs.”

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