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OxEon Energy - Small Business Week Feature

Hear from Joseph Hartvigsen, co-founder and CEO of OxEon Energy, as he delves into their groundbreaking advancements in hydrogen technology and electrolysis.

OxEon Energy - Small Business Week Feature

I'm Joseph Hartvigsen, co-founder and CEO of OxEon Energy. We're based in North Salt Lake, Utah. Our team has been together for decades, dating back to the late 80s, researching high-temperature solid oxide fuel cells and electrolysis. We were the initial team with the Idaho National Laboratory on the nuclear hydrogen initiative 20 years ago. 10 years ago, we started a project that gained a lot of recognition, the Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), which was aboard the Perseverance Rover. MOXIE successfully completed a 2 and a half year mission on Mars last September. The technology from MOXIE is being scaled up for mass production and application for hydrogen production. One of the unique aspects of this technology is that the hydrogen can be used as pure play hydrogen or in conjunction with CO2 recycling to make synthetic replacements for fossil fuels. In that case, the synthetic fossil fuel has carbon, but it displaces CO2 that would be emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels and will constitute a renewable or nuclear energy, just using the recycled CO2 as a carrier. OxEon is a technology provider and equipment manufacturer in this growing field of sustainable fuels, including hydrogen, and is the vehicle fleet and distribution systems for hydrogen vehicles develop. We will also use the same technology for these synthetic drop-in fit-for-purpose fuels that accomplish the same objectives of displacing fossil fuels, incorporating nuclear and renewable energy into our transportation infrastructure, as well as into the industrial infrastructure. The industry is a significant consumer and producer of greenhouse gases and consumer of fossil fuels, and this gives a route to apply nuclear and renewable electric energy into those sectors as well. We consider the technology we have as a tool for what we term cross-sector energy coupling, and we're in the process of scaling up manufacturing with the aid of a DOE Hydrogen Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Grant of $36 million for a manufacturing facility that will produce these highly efficient solid oxide electrolyzers. It's a really exciting opportunity after a lifetime working in large and medium businesses. At a point that many people would retire, my co-founder, Dr. Tre Longan, and I, along with Jessica Elwell, decided to start OxEon to continue the work that we've done, the achievement that we made with MOXIE, and the previous nuclear hydrogen projects.

The challenge, of course, is starting something new. We started from scratch with no employees, no customers, no facilities, and no equipment, but a previous colleague had told me that all we really needed was our contacts, the lifetime and career of connections, and people that knew and trusted our expertise and judgment and commitment to completing work scope that we've done that gave us all of the different federal agencies that do research have set asides for small business innovative research grants SBIRs and small business technology transfer grants STTRs, where you work with a research institution to help commercialize technology. This is one of the very few ways that the people with the ideas can end up with the value from those ideas rather than the people with money walking away with all the value through those ideas. In addition, the state has been very helpful and supportive in the creation of businesses. Businesses when they're created always start small, just like people when they're created start small and grow, and it's a rewarding endeavor to be involved with.

My advice to any business, large or small, trying to get into the hydrogen industry is to choose applications that have multiple routes because this presents multiple opportunities for a wide range of customers, a range of product applications. The reason for this is that when we speak of hydrogen, it's a very broad umbrella and it's an emerging industry. I like to talk more of the energy transition, transitioning away from fossil fuel, and hydrogen is one of the tools there, but often it's couched in the term of decarbonization and, for us, what's more important is defossilization, and hydrogen is critical for that even if we end up back producing a liquid hydrocarbon that is created using green hydrogen. So flexibility, looking at some of the perhaps non-traditional opportunities. I think when people talk about clean energy, the first thing that comes to mind is rooftop solar and electric vehicles, but there's so much more in the overall energy infrastructure, and there are so many pieces that need to be converted from fossil infrastructure to a sustainable infrastructure, and hydrogen will play a role in that and the equipment that's used to produce and process hydrogen will play a role. So my advice is to think broadly, think across the full spectrum of industry, the so-called four pillars of civilization, which are steel, cement, plastic, and ammonia. It's a material world; it seems like there was a song about that at one point, and the processes that impact this material world in a way that is other than from extraction and combustion of fossil fuels I think is where the success in this transition because the transition is going to take decades, it's building, it's going to happen rapidly, but it's such a big problem it's still going to take decades.

Watch the interview below:

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