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Hamilton Economic Development

Hamilton company turns out powerful new idea

Photo of Vince DiCristofaro, CEO of Eco-H Techologies IncA Hamilton company test drove a new large-scale power system Tuesday it hopes to sell to the big players in the oil, gas and mining industries.

Eco-H Technologies Inc. took three months to build the unit inside a former sea shipping container. It generates up to a megawatt of power to drive large engines like a normal generator but then stores unused power in close to 350 large lithium batteries.

Simply put, the system levels the power load of large engines. It discharges energy from its batteries when load demands are high and saves it up when load demands are lower.

Company CEO Vince DiCristofaro says the efficiency of the Eco-H system saves fuel, cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60 per cent and reduces wear and tear on equipment.

Instead of sizing generators for times of peak demand, users can size for average loads, he said.

“You don’t worry about the peaks and the valleys. We can give it and we can take it.”

The target market initially is the oil and gas sector. DiCristofaro says there are between 2,000 and 3,000 sites in North America that could use the Eco-H technology. Other markets include mining and aggregates and the military.

“This made-in-Hamilton technology will be shipped all over the place,” said Mayor Bob Bratina.

“Advanced manufacturing is part of Hamilton’s (economic) strategy. People who think manufacturing in Hamilton is gone are wrong.”

The idea of storing excess energy in batteries is far from new, but DiCristofaro says the price and quality of lithium batteries is now at a place where the technology is possible for large-scale industrial applications.

The first model, which was fired up and demonstrated to a group of industry stakeholders at the company’s Queen Street North plant Tuesday, will be shipped in a couple of weeks for two months of testing at an Encana oil rig site in Wyoming. Eco-H already has second- and third-generation models on the drawing board.

The plant can build seven to 10 units a month, DiCristofaro said.

Brian Murphy, engineering manager with oil rig operator Ensign Energy, says his company has eyed hybrid energy for about four years.

“AVL was the one willing to step up to the plate and build something,” he said.

Ensign, a Calgary-based company with 300 rigs worldwide, will lead the testing of the unit. Murphy says Ensign is always looking for innovation that will cut emissions, fuel demand and increase safety.

He says evening out load demands means engines will be able to run at more constant levels. That means big savings.

“Right now, we do major overhauls on our engines every five years or so. Keep in mind that costs about a quarter of a million dollars. We think using Eco-H could stretch that out to 10 years.”

Eco-H Technologies is a subsidiary of the AVL Group, which was founded in a former Stelco plant in 1998. It began as a machining and fabricating operation for the steel industry but has shifted focus to power generation.

AVL Group divisions also include AVL Manufacturing and One Power, which has developed all-in-one portable power equipment systems for disaster relief, construction, and remote industries.

The total workforce in the 95,000-square-foot plant is almost 50.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator

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