UNM Rainforest Innovations

The U.S. Department of Energy has selected a local startup to be awarded $20 million to advance their clean hydrogen energy production. The startup, Pajarito Powder, is working to develop and commercialize advanced electrocatalysts for electrolyzers and fuel cells and this grant will help their manufacturing process become more energy and water efficient.

See Megan Gleason’s April 8 article, “NM manufacturing company gets $20M for clean hydrogen projects,” on the Albuquerque Journal website reposted below and here: https://www.abqjournal.com/business/nm-manufacturing-company-gets-20m-for-clean-hydrogen-projects/article_cacd84da-f149-11ee-a408-e3e6ef95b480.html

NM manufacturing company gets $20M for clean hydrogen projects

By Megan Gleason

April 8, 2024

A New Mexico company is the sole recipient in the state of two federal grants that aim to advance clean hydrogen energy production.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $20 million to Pajarito Powder, a catalyst manufacturer based in Albuquerque. The money came from a larger pot of $750 million that went to 52 clean hydrogen projects in 24 states.

The company got two $10 million awards, one for work focused on electrolyzers and the other for advancing fuel-cell technology.

Michele Ostraat is the principal investigator on the two projects. She told the Journal it’s an honor to be chosen for the awards and described it as a tribute “to the work that has been done and that we continue to do in New Mexico.”

“It just reinforces that message that we’re really working on building up an ecosystem that involves green hydrogen and clean energy,” she said.

Ostraat said sustainability goals associated with the awards will help make Pajarito’s manufacturing process become more energy and water efficient as well as help reduce any potential emissions.

“This is good not just for Pajarito but for our communities and for New Mexico,” she said.

She said these awards will also help Pajarito Powder get more engaged with national labs. For the fuel-cell catalyst work, she said the company has two national lab partners: Brookhaven National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

And, she said, the projects open up access to other national lab resources through consortiums built on fuel-cell testing, standardization and electrolyzers.

“So being an awardee on these projects is going to be able to allow some great access to some national lab resources that we had not previously really been able to take advantage of,” she said.

The federal dollars are aggressively ramping up Pajarito’s timeline on reaching commercial-scale production, she said. Ostraat said the company wants to scale up the electrolyzer project in three years and build up the fuel-cell catalyst project in four years.

With that comes a need for a bigger workforce. Ostraat said based on initial analyses, Pajarito needs at least 15 additional staff members.

“We have a lot of challenges and opportunities associated with staffing up as quickly as we need to staff up,” she said.

Pajarito Powder CEO Tom Stephenson said the company is working out contract details. It will then get the federal money over the next three or four years as the projects roll out.

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