Hydrogen – for a cleaner, lighter and brighter future?

In 1969 hydrogen played a vital role for the Apollo 11 mission to put a man on the moon. Liquid hydrogen was used as fuel to propel the rockets while electricity and water was supplied from hydrogen-powered fuel cell systems. USA has remained a...

In 1969 hydrogen played a vital role for the Apollo 11 mission to put a man on the moon. Liquid hydrogen was used as fuel to propel the rockets while electricity and water was supplied from hydrogen-powered fuel cell systems. USA has remained a leader in fuel cell and hydrogen technology ever since and today the United Stated produces more than 10 million tons of hydrogen, about one seventh of the global supply. Currently, most hydrogen is produced from fossil sources, especially reforming of natural gas, with primary uses in refining processing, ammonia production and as a chemical feedstock and catalyst. However, the growing interest for hydrogen comes from emerging areas such as fuel cells, low-carbon fuel option for transportation, electricity generation and manufacturing applications.

As the lightest and most abundant element, hydrogen has also the highest energy content by weight of all known fuels. This makes hydrogen a unique and versatile energy carrier with a broad spectrum of applications. It is a promising solution for heavy duty trucks and is already deployed in 35,000 forklifts. Another area where fuels cells have made inroads is as stationary power, for example as backup power for cellphone towers.

Department of Energy (DOE) just released “The U.S. Department of Energy Hydrogen Plan” which is an overarching plan across all offices of DOE to develop the technologies that can enable a hydrogen transition in the United States.

In 2016 DOE launched H2@Scale, an initiative to enable affordable hydrogen production, storage, distribution, and utilization across multiple sectors in the economy. It Is a framework where national laboratories and industry can work together through government co-funded projects to accelerate research, development, and demonstration of applicable hydrogen technologies.

One such H2@Scale project was announced In September “Demonstration and Framework for H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond”, which intends to show that renewable hydrogen can be a cost-effective fuel for multiple end-use applications, including fuel cell electric vehicles, when coupled with large, baseload consumers that use hydrogen for clean, reliable stationary power. One of the partners in the program is PowerCell Sweden. “We are very excited to be part of this project with our stationary power fuel cell technology”, says Mårten Wikforss, Head of Investor Relations at PowerCell. “North America is an exciting region at the forefront of hydrogen and fuel cell development and deployment”.

The project has two related parts. In Austin, a first-of-its-kind integration of commercial hydrogen production, distribution, storage, and use will take place. Zero-carbon hydrogen will be generated onsite via electrolysis with solar and wind power and reformation of renewable natural gas from a Texas landfill. It is the first time both sources of renewable hydrogen will be used in the same project. The hydrogen will then power a stationary fuel cell to provide clean, reliable power for the Texas Advanced Computing Center and in addition supply a hydrogen station with zero-emission fuel to fill a fleet of Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles. At the Port of Houston, a feasibility study will be conducted for scaling up hydrogen production and use. Available resources, prospective hydrogen users, and delivery infrastructure, such as existing pipelines that supply hydrogen to refineries will be assessed, and policies, regulations, and economics will be examined supporting industry in developing a strategic action plan to present to policymakers.

About PowerCell Sweden: PowerCell Sweden, a spinoff from the Volvo Group, develops and produces high power density fuel cell stacks and systems for stationary and mobile applications. PowerCell’s products are powered by hydrogen and generate electricity and heat without any other emission than water.  For more information, please visit www.powercell.se  

Photo courtesy of PowerCell Sweden

As always, if you would like to discuss hydrogen technology or other innovations you are welcome to contact our office!

Maria Lönnberg