THP-E292: Zeeco News Means Big Things For Hydrogen Industrial Carbon Capture. Eric Pratchard Gives Us The Scoop!

Paul Rodden • Season: 2024 • Episode: 292

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Welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast!

In episode 292, Hi, everyone. We have a slightly different podcast today as I’m joined by Eric Pratchard, who is the Director of Burner Technologies at Zeeco to discuss their latest press release regarding their strategic alliances with Exxon Mobil. So I’ll cue up the intro music and we’ll dive into some details around this alliance.

Thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy the podcast. Please feel free to email me at with any questions. Also, if you wouldn’t mind subscribing to my podcast using your preferred platform… I would greatly appreciate it.

Paul Rodden



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Paul Rodden 0:00 Hi, everyone. We have a slightly different podcast today as I’m joined by Eric Pratchard, who is the Director of Burner Technologies at Zeeco to discuss their latest press release regarding their strategic alliances with Exxon Mobil. So I’ll cue up the intro music and we’ll dive into some details around this alliance. Paul Rodden 0:19 So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where’s capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters who recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to the hydrogen podcast. Paul Rodden 0:48 Alright, Eric, thank you for being on the show today. I Appreciate it. Eric Pratchard 0:53 Thanks for having me. Paul Rodden 0:55 Can you give us some details around this press release and the strategic alliances that Zeeco has established with Exxon Mobil? Eric Pratchard 1:05 Yeah, absolutely. So Exxon Mobil approached us some time ago. And they had a goal as part of their strategic initiatives to decarbonize and part of that decarbonisation plan was the utilization of hydrogen fuel in their downstream refining and petrochemical sector. And the utilization of hydrogen fuel allows them to eliminate co2 from Stack emissions at point sources inside of their refining plants and their chemical plants, and move it further upstream to a single point source where they’re converting natural gas into hydrogen. And it allows them to capture that carbon from a single point source and sequester it. And they asked for Zeeco’s is help to develop a product that would allow their furnaces and boilers and their other fired equipment to process hydrogen as a fuel without impacting their emissions permits that they already have in place. And we entered this alliance agreement with them to develop a new technology that allows them to do that. Paul Rodden 2:19 One of the recent podcasts that I’ve put out now is kind of talks about burning hydrogen, and is that kind of the most efficient way to deal with this fuel source that we have. And that podcast dealt with turbines. This isn’t a turbine, right, this is a burner. And that’s kind of a different application process. And to me, it sounds like a much more applicable use of that strength fuel. Eric Pratchard 2:45 That is correct. So in the refining process, they need heat, every every refining application starts with heat, you have to heat up the current product in the oil product to a point where it can be cracked off and processed into into other molecules into gasoline and into jet fuel and into into other things. And that all starts with heat. And right now, at this point in time, that heat is provided by a burner effectively, that raises the temperature inside of that furnace to transfer that heat to what we call the process fluid, which is the hydrocarbon product. And there are hundreds of these types of heaters in different refining locations. There are 1000s of heaters in the United States, there’s hundreds of 1000s of heaters across the world. And the theory behind all of this or the idea behind all of this is that if you can convert those multiple sources, to utilize a carbon free fuel, to remove carbon dioxide from the stack emission, while still processing those products into the refined products that we want. And you capture the carbon dioxide from a single point source as you convert natural gas to hydrogen. It’s a more efficient process. And it allows you to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Paul Rodden 4:15 What I’m kind of understanding. And it really boils down to some of the economics around co2 capture and everything is this is in you touched on this earlier, I want to highlight that I think it’s important is this is a single source co2 capture process now instead of multiple co2 capture processes throughout the value chain, or the supply chain. Eric Pratchard 4:40 Yeah, that’s correct. The concept again, is is a method to to lower the overall cost impact of upgrading the technology to a low carbon fuel and so if you’re able to recover it from a single source, you have a single amount of capital expense at the beginning you have a lower operating costs from a single source, and it’s more economical for the overall process to do it at one location. And that is the concept behind all of this yes, if it’s like going from having to change out one power plant from coal to natural gas as opposed to dozens of them, right? If you have one very large power plant, and you’re converting that from a coal fired power plants and natural gas, it has a much larger impact on the overall removal of co2 from the atmosphere, as opposed to doing many smaller plants. Paul Rodden 5:36 That just kind of opens up that door to not just refining but like you said, power plants and other industries that burn natural gas or coal or anything else for that heat source. Eric Pratchard 5:48 Correct. And we are working with Exxon Mobil and other partners for the supply of hydrogen to the utility sector, and the conversion of those facilities, from more polluting fuels to being able to burn clean hydrogen. And there are certainly companies out there that are exploring the transition of coal fired plants to natural gas, that’s something that Zeeco as a business we do as well. And there are some that are even considering skipping the step, going direct from a coal fired plant to hydrogen. The issue then is where did they get that hydrogen, and that’s something that that Exxon, Mobil’s business is working on the low carbon solutions side of Exxon Mobil. That’s what they’re exploring is how do they provide hydrogen in a way to facilities within their backbone to be able to do that? And so we’re alliancing with them on that as well. Paul Rodden 6:43 Yeah, I mean, it sounds like a great alliance between the two companies really leveraging Zeeco’s has expertise in this platform. Can you talk a little bit more about the product that was in the press release the ZEECO FREE JET Gen 3? Eric Pratchard 7:00 Sure. So it’s a burner that we’ve had developed for about 25 years, we originally developed the first generation of the free jet in the late 1990s. And in the early 2000s, at a time when regulatory requirements were driving NOx emissions lower and lower. And at the time, there was no, what are now referred to as ultra low NOX burners, there was no burner that was going to be able to meet some of the new emissions requirements without a more impactful piece of equipment that’s added to the back end of a process that’s, that’s known as post combustion treatment, you actually take the flue gas coming from the stack, and you treat it to reduce the NOx emission at that point. And it’s very expensive, not only from a capital expense perspective, but also from an operating expense perspective. And so at this time period, Zeeco and others developed a lot of new burner technology that was able to reduce the NOx emission, and help to solve this regulatory problem. And, and so Zeeco developed that the free jet burner in that time period, and over the last 25 years, we’ve continued to improve upon it. And we’ve made technological advancements over time from the generation one to the generation two. And now we have what we call the generation three. And the entire concept of this burner was again to take what we’ve learned over the last two decades, and apply that to a burner specifically designed to fire hydrogen. And hydrogen has its benefits, and it has its weaknesses. It’s a very robust fuel, it is a very stable fuel, it burns very, very quickly and very hot. So it solves some of the challenges of other fuels that you have to burn. But along with that comes a very high increase in its NOx generation. And so our challenge was how do we design a burner that produces the same the same stability and the same performance for our customers to allow them to operate their furnaces safely, but also lowers the emission in their in their units, and we were able to achieve that with this burner. And so our customers in our alliance with Exxon Mobil we are allowing them to now replace old burner technology, convert furnaces that previously were designed to fire natural gas and refinery fuel gas blends, and allow them to fire 100% Hydrogen without having to change their emissions permit. And so what that effectively means is an old generation burner that say would have produced 25 parts per million of NOx emission on a natural gas blend or pure natural gas. The new generation of burner would be around 10 or less. And so as we convert that to hydrogen, you’re now still underneath that 25 PPM permit level that they had before. So they can convert their furnaces. They can transition to a new fuel or they can switch to a new fuel and they don’t have the regulatory impact that they would have had otherwise. And it allows them to decarbonize at a lower overall cost to themselves and to ultimately the customer. Paul Rodden 10:13 That to me seems like a gargantuan win, but one with the drop in NOx emissions, but two just overhead reduction and worry and de risking, that you’re bringing to the table with with these NOx reductions. And if you just take you off the table now. Eric Pratchard 10:30 Yeah, it’s a complicated process, when you start to think about all of the changes that that a company like Exxon Mobil has to do, from a regulatory perspective, if they make these types of changes. It’s not just as simple as we have this fuel available. And we want to make this change into our furnace. That is one cost and it’s a significant cost. But it’s a greater cost to do all of the other the permitting, changes, and all in all of those things that go along with it. And so the big driver for companies like Zeeco, where we bring benefit to our customers, is we develop technology, not only burner technology, but other technology and flares and thermal oxidizers. In steam boilers and vapor recovery devices were where we allow them to make those changes to to drive a cleaner environment, without causing that additional impact on their bottom line, they’re already making the choice to invest in the capital equipment, it’s our role to try to develop technology that allows them to do that without the other impactful and regulatory costs on it as well. Paul Rodden 11:41 I think it’s a great win for Zeeco and ExxonMobil. I really do for any of the listeners who want to know more about Zeeco, where can they go to get more information? Eric Pratchard 11:51 Yeah, they can go to our website at, that’s ZEECO. And we have a very broad website with all of our product categories and product information we have how to videos on all different types of things, as well as instructional and educational videos when it comes to our products and others. So I invite them to reach out there and there’s contact information if they’d like, get a hold of me or anybody else, any of our other subject matter experts within our company. Paul Rodden 12:20 Eric, thank you so much for this quick chat about this press release and this new product and application. Thank you so much. Eric Pratchard 12:27 Thank you very much for having me. It’s my pleasure. Paul Rodden 12:29 Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did want to hear more. I’d appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.