The environment needs scalable and cost-efficient technology for replacing fossil fuels - fuels used heavily by marine transportation, reserve power applications, and heavy traffic. QPower is an innovative renewable-energy focused company founded in 2007 that has developed patented technologies that allow for the effective production of synthetic methane and synthetic gas from emissions, organic side streams, and waste. They serve segments that include biogas producers, sea transportation, renewable power producers, and the production industry. The innovation of QPower is their conversion of previously unexploitable landfill gas into pure biomethane through the process of methanation.
Hanken School of Economics
The innovation is QPower’s biological reactor and through its patented biological solid-state methanation technology, landfill gas alters from climate emission to high-quality biomethane that can be used for both industrial use and traffic fuel. Microbes that are isolated from marshlands are used to produce that biomethane from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The technologies are based on natural processes and only operate under temperate conditions which results in QPower's more energy-efficient and technologically superior process than existing catalytic or biological technologies. In addition to producing synthetic methane, the reactor has also cleaned pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide and others from the landfill gas.
Landfill waste produces substantial greenhouse gas emissions. They occur when waste is landfilled due to the decomposition of its organic material (European Commission, 2020). EU has set up a landfill directive which dictates that landfilling is to be banned in the European Union. This means, that piling waste and garbage on top of each other creating enormous sites of waste is no longer allowed. Instead, recycling is to be increased. However, even after a landfill is closed, the waste is to be controlled somehow to not create huge climate emissions, as gasses are released by the decomposition of the waste. The decomposition is still going to continue for decades after closing a landfill.
This is where QPower’s technology comes in. QPower’s story originates from the year 2007 and started with the collecting of a microbe culture. However, today the company has progressed from there and has developed concrete bio-based solutions that convert the environmental emissions into usable synthetic fuels.
The strongest motivation for the founders of QPower was making their own contribution to combating climate change. As the Director of Communications and Public Relations, Heikki Koponen stated, "The primary driver for us is to somehow create concrete solutions for the fight against climate change. That’s the stated mission of our company and that’s the number one thing that we’re trying to do”. Therefore, this issue was something that the founders of QPower have kept in mind since the get-go and ever since they first started to develop the technology. They saw that such technological solutions in societies to decarbonize our energy solutions did not exist before, so they tried to find a solution to contribute to that problem.
As mentioned in the company’s mission, the main impacts of this innovation long term would be to have a positive outcome on climate change. This innovation works in the same way as plants and trees by decarbonizing the environment around us resulting in reductions in climate emissions and depletion of greenhouse gases. This innovative technology could be easily installed and transferred to countries all around the world creating a global positive impact on the environment, society, and economy.
In the short term, the company’s potential lies within the commercialization of the innovation. Having completed successful pilots they have now started to move into the market with the credibility that they have the working technology in this context. That has enabled QPower to make a profitable business out of this innovation. The company is able to differentiate itself from its current competitors in the landfill sector, as QPower’s technology seems to be better fitted for the task. Their reactor was able to purify other impurities from the landfill gases which their competitors have not been able to achieve yet, giving them an edge and advantage in the market. Purification of the impurities made the full recovery of the landfill gases, especially methane and carbon dioxide, possible. This is a huge breakthrough in terms of the recovery of landfill gases and the ability to convert them into synthetic fuels, minimizing the need for fossil fuels.
QPower has grown from its two founders developing the technology and product in the beginning to ten employees now continuing the development of the technology and business. In addition, due to their innovative technologies, QPower was recently awarded the seal of excellence-certificate by the European Commission due to high-quality project planning (QPower, 2020).
The technology has been initially deployed through landfill site pilot projects which have demonstrated the feasibility of the innovation - in fact producing even better results than expected in the context of waste-to-energy conversion efficiency. The innovation has enabled QPower to target applications for its technology in the construction, renewable energy, heavy sea transport, and biogas industries. This also highlights the size and scalability of the opportunity for QPower to target – there are thousands of landfill sites, construction projects, and transport ships around the world for example which could benefit from the technology and the synthetic fuels it produces.
To demonstrate the success of the innovation on the business, QPower is now in negotiations with several clients for industrial-scale projects and in the next 6 months plans to further increase its capabilities, headcount, and revenue. Over the coming months and years, the company also plans to reinvest in developing its technology, for example by expanding its scale significantly beyond its current maximum 10MW application to be able to target larger projects.
In addition to the economic benefits of QPower’s technology (generating revenues for the company, paying salaries, paying taxes to the state) and the creation of quality jobs within society, the environment benefits too. QPower’s mission is “to do everything we can to fight climate change and that way prevent the destruction of nature as well as preserve nature’s activity and diversity”.
Waste is a major source of pollution in the environment, contributing around 3% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 (European Commission, 2020). Landfill sites produce harmful emissions, including carbon dioxide and methane, as well as taking away land area from the natural environment. Fuel emissions from sea transport contribute around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (European Commission, 2020). These are some of the challenges which QPower’s innovation can tackle.
QPower’s innovation enables a reduction in harmful byproducts of waste material, thus contributing to the slowing and preventing of the degradation of land (SDG 15 Life on Land). By using waste (e.g. from landfill sites) as an input, QPower’s technology can convert waste into an output in the form of synthetic methane fuel which can be used in various applications including transport (SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities) and energy storage, importantly replacing the use of fossil fuels and thus reducing carbon emissions (SDG 13 Climate Action). The innovation’s conversion process feeds on existing carbon dioxide and hydrogen, meaning “the raw material base is practically unlimited” (QPower, 2020), showing also that the technology is sustainable (SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy).
Heikki Koponen, Director of Comms & PR
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Pargas, Åboland, FI
Business Website: https://qpower.fi
Year Founded: 2007
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Q Power is an innovative company that develops concrete solutions for fighting climate change. Q Power holds patents for multiple technologies related to the efficient production of synthetic fuels, used to replace fossil fuels.