Cali Can Broaden Hydrogen Fueling Network

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have published a study that found a number of existing gas stations in California can safely store and dispense hydrogen. This, the researchers suggest, a broader network of hydrogen fueling stations may be within reach.

The report examined 70 commercial gasoline stations throughout California and sought to determine which, if any, could integrate hydrogen fuel, based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hydrogen technologies code published in 2011. The report found that 14 of the 70 gas stations considered in the study could readily accept hydrogen fuel and that 17 more possibly could accept hydrogen with property expansions. Sandia Daniel DedrickUnder previous NFPA code requirements from 2005, none of the existing gasoline stations could readily accept hydrogen. The current code, known as NFPA 2, provides fundamental safeguards for the generation, installation, storage, piping, use and handling of hydrogen in compressed gas or cryogenic (low temperature) liquid form.

Sandia Hydrogen Program Manager Daniel Dedrick said the development of meaningful, science-based fire codes and determinations such as those found in the report will help accelerate the deployment of hydrogen systems. “This work shows that we can reduce uncertainty and avoid overly conservative restrictions to commercial hydrogen fuel installations by focusing on scientific, risk-informed approaches. It turns out that the number of fueling stations able to carry hydrogen can be quantified.” Dedrick added, “We now know that we can build more hydrogen fueling stations if we examine the safety issues within a sound, technical framework that focuses on the real behaviors of hydrogen.”

Sandia’s hydrogen safety, codes and standards program is a diverse portfolio of activities funded by the Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office to provide the technical basis for developing and revising safety codes and standards for hydrogen infrastructure, including the NFPA 2 code. This work is aligned with Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST), a new project established by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Biodiesel, Hydrogen Studies Continue Despite Setback

scstateA school in the southeast will continue its studies into biodiesel and hydrogen production, despite an academic setback. This story from the Orangeburg (SC) Times and Democrat says South Carolina State University was trying to get its multi-disciplinary study of energy accredited but was put on probation and denied approval of a new master’s in energy and environmental science program by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. But Dr. Kenneth Lewis, dean of the College of Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, calls the decision a “minor setback,” and while the classes in the program scheduled for this fall won’t happen, the research the school does on biodiesel and hydrogen will go on.

Biodiesel from the cafeteria’s waste cooking oil has gone through various stages and is now at the point where it’s being tested, Lewis said.

“Right now we’re testing the fuel on small engines,” he said. But he’s looking at having the university’s vehicles operating on biodiesel produced at the center within three to five years. He noted that the lab can produce up to 40 gallons of fuel a day.

It’s a great advantage that the supplies for the process and that of the switchgrass/cow manure project [to make hydrogen] are practically free, according to Lewis.

“We can go to any farmer, any slaughterhouse and get the manure,” he said.

Lewis said that bacteria found in cow’s stomachs and manure break down cellulose in the switchgrass and produce hydrogen.

The school has also applied for a $300,000, three-year grant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for the aquatic tanks and other supplies to grow algae to turn into biodiesel. Lewis is also looking at Jatropha for biodiesel production noting that South Carolina’s climate matches that of the plant’s native home, Mozambique.

Microbes Future for Biodiesel, Hydrogen Cells

Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) looks to turn microbes into the next big thing for biodiesel and hydrogen fuel cells. This story from MIT says scientists at the school are looking to capture energy that might be flushed away in wastewater.

buie1“Even if you could get only a fraction of that back, you could offset the amount of energy it takes to process the wastewater, and potentially sell some back to grid,” says Cullen Buie, who heads up MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and Microsystems Innovation (LEMI). “We’re working on a way to use microbial fuel cells to harvest some of the energy that is currently being flushed down the toilet.”

Buie’s work on microbial fuel cells is just one effort of many at LEMI, where projects draw upon fields including microfluidics, electrokinetics, electrochemistry, and microscale surface engineering. In addition to microbial fuel cells, potential applications include biodiesel harvesting, cell sorting for genetic research, ship-hull protection, and perhaps Buie’s biggest breakthrough to date: a low-cost, hydrogen bromine flow battery that doesn’t require a membrane.

Buie founded LEMI when he arrived at MIT in 2010. “The lab encompasses all the things that interest me, including alternative energy,” says Buie, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “A lot of our applications are dependent on microscale manipulation or principles of microfluidics. We also look at electric fields in fluid flow in order to discriminate, or sort cells, based on physical properties.”

The idea behind the process is that microbial fuel cells use bacteria, instead of precious metals, as catalysts in chemical reactions that produce energy. In addition, the technology can be applied to harvesting algae for the oil used to make biodiesel.

Researchers Find Better Way to Store Hydrogen

hydrogenstorage1One of the challenges to using hydrogen as a clean fuel is how to store the gas. But an article in the American Chemical Society journal Chemistry of Materials says researchers have found a new solid, stable material that can pack in a large amount of hydrogen that can be used as a fuel.

Umit B. Demirci and colleagues explain that storing hydrogen in solids is a recent development and a promising step toward building a hydrogen economy. That’s the idea originated in the 1970s and promoted by former President George W. Bush that we replace fossil fuels with hydrogen, which can serve as a clean fuel. Although a promising alternative to conventional energy sources, hydrogen has posed a number of technological challenges that scientists are still overcoming. One of those issues has to do with storage. Previously, researchers were focused on developing hydrogen-containing liquids or compressing it in gas form. Now, solid storage is showing potential for holding hydrogen in a safe, stable and efficient way. In the latest development on this front, Demirci’s team looked to a new kind of material.

They figured out a way to make a novel crystal phase of a material containing lithium, boron and the key ingredient, hydrogen. To check how they could get the hydrogen back out of the material, the scientists heated it and found that it released hydrogen easily, quickly and only traces of unwanted by-products.

The researchers received funding from groups in France and Belgium.

GM Fuel Cell Vehicles Surpasses 3 Million Miles

General Motors’ fleet of fuel cell vehicles has surpassed the three million mile mark running on hydrogen-power. According to GM, some individual vehicles have accumulated more than 120,000 miles and by using hydrogen, the fleet has avoided 157,894 gallons of gasoline consumption. This specially equipped fleet of Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles are part of GM hydrogen-powered Chevrolet EquinoxGM’s 119-vehicle Project Driveway program, which launched in 2007. Since then, more than 5,000 drivers have provided feedback on the functionality and drivability of fuel cell technology.

“Hydrogen fuel cell technology is an important part of GM’s advanced propulsion portfolio and we continue to make substantial progress in furthering this technology,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s global fuel cell engineering activities. “These vehicles have operated through seven full winters and a wide range of environmental conditions, proving that fuel cells can meet the demands of real-world drivers.”

GM has announced several fuel cell-related collaborations over the past few years. In July, 2013, GM and Honda announced a long-term collaboration to co-develop next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems, aiming for potential commercialization in the 2020 time frame. In addition, GM and Honda are working together with stakeholders to further advance refueling infrastructure, which is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.

Also last year GM opened a new state-of-the-art Fuel Cell Development Laboratory at GM Powertrain World Headquarters in Pontiac, Mich. In September, 2013 GM and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) jointly announced an expansion of their relationship for testing automotive fuel cell technology.

H2FIRST To Improve Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure

Last year the U.S. Energy Department launched H2USA, a program aimed at addressing the challenge of hydrogen infrastructure. Established by the Energy Department’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) project will draw on existing and emerging core capabilities at the national labs and aim to reduce the cost and time of new fueling station construction and improve the stations’ availability and reliability.

By focusing on these aspects of the hydrogen fueling infrastructure, the effort hopes to accelerate and support the widespread deployment of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Automakers are investing in hydrogen technology as evidenced by Toyota’s recent announcement that it will begin selling its Fuel Cell Vehicle in 2015. Last year, GM and Honda announced plans to jointly develop hydrogen fuel cell cars, and Hyundai will lease its Tucson Fuel Cell hydrogen-powered vehicle in California this spring.

“The success of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles largely depends on more stations being available, including in neighborhoods and at work, so drivers can easily refuel,” said Daniel Dedrick, hydrogen program manager at Sandia who is involved with several other partners in the program. “With H2FIRST, we’re definitely on the road to making that happen more quickly.”

The partners include several agencies from the state of California, widely regarded as the nation’s epicenter of zero-emission vehicles.

“This new project brings important federal know-how and resources to accelerate improvements in refueling infrastructure that support the commercial market launch of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles,” said Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “California is committed to deploying at least 100 hydrogen refueling stations in the next decade, and the H2FIRST effort is a big step toward the development and deployment of a broader, consumer-friendly infrastructure for us and the rest of the United States. We are excited to be joined by such prestigious partners in this effort.”

H2FIRST’s technical goal is to develop and apply physical testing, numerical simulation and technology validation to help create low-cost, high-performance materials, components and station architectures. H2FIRST also will collect and distribute data supporting industry’s efforts to reduce the costs of integrated fueling systems and networks. Continue reading

Shell Eco-Marathon Seeks Most Energy Efficient Car

The North America leg of the Shell Eco-Marathon will kick off in Houston, Texas April 25-27, 2014. The event brings hundreds of high school and college students from around the world together to showcase their energy efficient cars. The winning team’s car will travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.

For the Houston leg, Linde North America will be the supplier of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Mike Beckman, vice president Hydrogen Fueling, said, “Shell chose Linde as its exclusive worldwide hydrogen supplier because it wanted a solid and technically capable global partner for all of its Eco-marathon events around the world.” The first event of 2014 was held in Manila, Philippines, in February; Rotterdam, Netherlands, will be the site for the May event.

Shell Eco-marathon is also an educational platform, giving innovators practical experience of developing smarter, sustainable transportation. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work 2014 Shell Eco Marathon Prototype Concept Carwith this highly motivated and skilled group of future engineers that falls in line with our support for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative,” Beckman added. “These young people are our future, and we’re happy to support this effort.”

Linde will be working with eight teams whose vehicles will require hydrogen, and will be providing valuable technical support and advice to the student teams from North and South America.

“The Shell Eco-marathon is a unique competition that challenges students to design, build and drive the world’s most energy-efficient car,” said Norman Koch, Technical Director Shell Eco-marathon. “We are very pleased to partner with Linde for the fourth consecutive year supporting these students to develop energy efficient mobility solutions for the future.”

The Houston event will be held at Discovery Green Park and George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Soon to Power Forklifts

Forklifts may soon be powered by zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell systems. Research being conducted by Sandia National Laboratory and Hawaii Hydrogen Carriers (HHC) are looking to design a solid-state hydrogen storage system that can refuel at low pressure four to five times faster than it takes to charge a battery-powered forklift, a $33 billion market in 2013 according to Pell Research. The researchers say this technology would give hydrogen a competitive advantage over batteries.

Dino Vournas, Sandia National Labs

Dino Vournas, Sandia National Labs

“Once you understand how these forklifts operate, the fuel cell advantage is clear,” said Sandia’s project manager Joe Pratt.

Pratt explains that refueling hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts takes less than three minutes compared to the hours of recharging needed for battery-powered forklifts. In addition, fuel cell-powered forklifts are able to operate continuously for eight or more hours between fills. Whereas today companies using battery-powered forklifts need to purchase three battery packs for each forklift to ensure continuous operation. They also need to set aside warehouse space for battery recharging.

Sandia has worked with the fuel cell forklift industry for several years to help get clean, efficient and cost effective fuel cell systems to market faster. Standards developed by Sandia soon will be published so industry can develop new, high-performing hydrogen fuel systems for industrial trucks.

Intrigued by the potential benefits of fuel cells over the electric batteries that now power most forklifts, HHC obtained a grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and asked Pratt to help improve the design of a hydrogen storage system for fuel cells.

Pratt has spearheaded other Sandia efforts to introduce hydrogen systems into the marketplace. He served as technical lead, for instance, for studies on the use of fuel cells to power construction equipment, personal electronic devices, auxiliary equipment and portable generators. Most recently, he led a study and subsequent demonstration project on commercial use of hydrogen fuel cells to provide power at ports.

HHC is developing technologies for the fuel cell forklift market and expects cost reductions and performance improvements that will help the market grow. The company is developing a low-pressure hydrogen storage system that can be refueled at standard industrial gas pressures. This technology should reduce fuel system cost and expand the market to facilities that can’t accommodate conventional high-pressure fueling systems.

Honolulu Port Moves to Portable Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The Port of Honolulu is moving to portable hydrogen fuel cells by 2015. The move to the emerging technology comes on the heels of a 2013 study and analysis that confirmed the viability of hydrogen fuel cells to provide auxiliary power to docked or anchored ships. Hokulani-KaholoHydrogen researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have joined with several partners in the project, which will result in a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell unit that can float on a barge, sit on a dock or be transported to wherever it’s needed to provide electrical power.

The next phase of the fuel cell demonstration project led by Sandia National Laboratories will feature a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell unit currently in the design phase. Once completed, it will be deployed to the Port of Honolulu by Young Brothers, Ltd., one of the project partners and a primary shipper of goods throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The unit is undergoing detailed engineering and design through mid-2014. After fabrication, assembly and training for Young Brothers operators, the hydrogen fuel cell unit will be operational during a six-month deployment in early 2015.

“No one has ever built this kind of custom unit for this purpose,” said Sandia’s project manager, Joe Pratt. The unit, he said, will fit inside a 20-foot shipping container and will consist of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power conversion equipment.

Ports have been a major source of water and air pollution in the U.S. but remained relatively unregulated until recent years. As ports have begun to expand and their impact on the environment has become more apparent, port operators face a variety of regulations. Many ports have begun to enact sustainability goals or adopt green practices, and that’s where fuel cells can play a role.

The Hawaii project is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).

Rep. Loebsack Introduces Infrastructure Re-FUEL Act

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) has introduced the Renewable Fuel Utilization, Expansion, and Leadership (Re-FUEL) Act. The goal of the legislation is to create a competitive grant program to assist fuel retailers with investments in renewable and alternative fuel/energy sources. The program would be administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and will help create new and retrofit existing infrastructure, including pumps for biofuels and hydrogen, tanks, piping and electric vehicle chargers. Loebsack points out that the legislation is already paid for and does not add to the deficit.

made in the usaI believe in making things in America and there is no reason our fuel sources shouldn’t be made here as well,” said Rep. Loebsack. “It’s also important that consumers are able to choose where their fuel source comes from when they go to fill up. Too often, infrastructure constraints are cited as the reason for not giving consumers the choices they deserve. This holds back the development of our renewable and alternative energy sources that create jobs in Iowa and across the country.”

To be eligible for the grant, projects must be capable of dispensing fuel or energy currently not widely available. Projects can be new infrastructure projects or retrofits to existing infrastructure and can include infrastructure such as biofuel and hydrogen pumps, tanks, piping, and electric vehicle chargers. A minimum of 30 percent non-federal match is required and the maximum grant per year per entity is $100,000. In addition, the grant program covers infrastructure for renewable or alternative energy, which includes renewable energy, energy for charging electric vehicles, and hydrogen and fuel cells.

“I commend Congressman Loebsack for introducing legislation that supports America’s consumers, rural communities and growing biofuels industry,” said Tom Buis CEO of Growth Energy. “By supporting renewable fuel infrastructure, this legislation will help push our nation toward energy independence and give consumers some much needed choice and savings at the pump. This legislation also emphasizes the importance of investing in and revitalizing rural America.”

The Re-FUEL Act does not add to the federal deficit. The program would be paid for by setting aside 1 percent of offshore oil royalties each fiscal year. This amounted to about $54.34 million in fiscal year 2013 and $52.16 million in fiscal year 2012. In addition, no other required disbursements from natural resources accounts such as those for state sharing, reclamation fund, or Land and Water Conservation Fund will be affected.

“The pace at which the renewable fuel advantages will be available to American drivers is greatly sped up by the fact that the proposed grants can be used for infrastructure like new blender pumps as well as retrofitting existing pumps, pipes, tanks and chargers,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. “Placing a priority on rural America is a welcomed approach. The small communities of rural America are amongst the most challenging locations for economic development. Rep. Loebsack recognizes that ethanol production has created and supports over 386,000 jobs with very real potential to expand on that success.”

Alt Fuel Finder? Yep, There’s an App for That

appFinding the right place to fill up on alternative fuels might be as close as your iPhone. The Energy Department’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed a new, free mobile application for DOE’s Clean Cities program that helps users find a place to top off their tanks, whether it’s electricity, natural gas, biodiesel, e85 Ethanol, propane or hydrogen.

The Alternative Fueling Station Locator App, now available through Apple’s App Store, allows iPhone users to select an alternative fuel and find the 20 closest stations within a 30-mile radius. Users can view the locations on a map or as a list containing station addresses, phone numbers and hours of operation.

“If you drive an electric vehicle, for example, you can now use your iPhone to easily identify, contact and navigate to the charging station that is most convenient to you,” NREL Project Manager Trish Cozart said. “Generally, people don’t search for a station while they are sitting at a computer; they need this information while they are out and about, which makes a mobile application the ideal means to deliver it.”

“The number of alternative fuel vehicles on the road has been increasing steadily over the last two decades,” Cozart said. “Drivers and fleets have an unprecedented array of options to cut or eliminate petroleum use, and this new app serves as one more tool to make that easier.”

The app draws information from Clean Cities’ Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), which contains a database of information for more than 15,000 alternative fueling stations throughout the country.

New Agreement to Bring EV’s to the Road

There is a new multi-state cooperative agreement to put more than three million battery-electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles on U.S. roads. The Consumer Federation of America (CFA), joined representatives american lung association susan griffinfrom California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont to announce an agreement to promote the accelerated adoption of zero emissions passenger cars, trucks and transit buses in these states.

“Efforts to provide consumers with new, more efficient and gasoline-free transportation options are welcome and needed,” said Mark Cooper, Director of Research for CFA, who took part in the public announcement of the new agreement.

The Zero Emissions Vehicle Program: Clean Cars States Lead in Innovation, a new paper released today by CFA, explains that Zero Emissions Vehicle policy coupled with efforts to reduce barriers to clean vehicle adoption will accelerate the growth of the national market for the latest zero emissions vehicles. Based on years of polling data, the paper explains, that is exactly what American consumers want.

“The key role that California and the Clean Cars states played in accelerating the deployment of hybrids in the past decade underscores the importance of leadership in energy innovation,” said Cooper. Continue reading

Hyrdogenics’ Power-to-Gas Facility Begins Operations

Hydrogenics Corporation has announced that its E.ON inaugurated commercial operations has begun at its Power-to-Gas (P2G) facility in Falkenhagen, Germany. The plant uses wind power and Hydrogenics’ electrolysis equipment to transform water into hydrogen, which is then injected into the existing regional natural gas transmission system. The hydrogen, as part of the natural gas mix, can be used in a variety of applications including space heating, industrial processes, mobility, and power generation. The facility, which has a capacity of two megawatts, produces 360 cubic meters of hydrogen per hour.

E.On and Swissgas PG project“This project makes E.ON one of the first companies to demonstrate that surplus energy can be stored in the gas pipeline system in order to help balance supply against demand,” said Dr. Ingo Luge, CEO of E.ON Deutschland. “This method of energy storage is considered a key technology for the transformation of Germany’s energy system. It will reduce the need to take wind turbines offline when the local grid is congested and will therefore enable us to harness more wind power.”

Swissgas, which represents over 100 local natural gas utilities, is a partner in the project with a 20 percent capital stake and an agreement to purchase a portion of the gas produced. Dr. Heinrich Schwendener, a member of the organization’s Board of Management, said during an inauguration ceremony, “Swissgas’ involvement demonstrates the significant value of Switzerland’s gas infrastructure, which enables us to transport and store regenerative energy across national boundaries.”

The inauguration ceremony was also attended by Dr. Philipp Rosler, Germany’s Economics and Technology Minister; Dr. Christian Ehler, Member of the European Parliament; and Henning Heidemanns; State Secretary in the Ministry of Economics and European Affairs of the Federal State of Brandenburg, along with nearly 200 other guests.

“One of the biggest challenges of transforming Germany’s energy system is finding ways to integrate the increasing share of intermittent, renewable-source energy,” said Minister Rosler. “To ensure that Germany’s power system remains stable and that our economy continues to have the energy it needs, we not only have to rapidly expand energy networks but also require innovative solutions like the P2G unit here in Falkenhagen.”

Daryl Wilson, CEO of Hydrogenics, added, “We are delighted to see this plant now in full commercial use. In April of this year we announced a second Power-to-Gas project with E.ON for the city of Hamburg, which is currently under construction. That facility, containing the world’s largest single mega-watt PEM stack, is expected to be delivered in the spring of 2014. These projects serve as a platform for upcoming Power-to-Gas facilities not only in Europe but around the world.”

Plug Power Awarded $650,000 DOE Grant

Plug Power Inc. has been awarded a $650,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate the use of hydrogen-based fuel cells to power the refrigeration units in semi-trailer trucks that transport perishable and frozen foods. The company was selected by the Fuel Cell Technologies Office within the DOE’s Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to showcase its fuel cells in transport refrigeration
units (TRUs). These units are large air conditioners that regulate cold temperatures for Plug Power logoitems such as frozen pizza, fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products and other goods that must be kept chilled or frozen during transport from distribution centers to retail destinations.

According to Plug Power, the majority of the approximately 300,000 TRUs traversing U.S. highways are powered by diesel generators. Diesel is costly and produces environmentally hazardous particulate matter and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions. A typical TRU will consume about 10 gallons of diesel per day, and emit roughly 101 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2).

By comparison, hydrogen-powered fuel cells emit only a small amount of heat and water, making them an environmentally friendly alternative energy source. Fuel cells operate more efficiently, cleanly and quietly, at lower cost than diesel. In addition, Plug Power says its customers that use hydrogen fuel cells to power material handling forklift trucks will benefit from deployment of fuel cells in their TRUs, by leveraging the hydrogen infrastructure already in place. Increased on-site hydrogen consumption would result in lower fuel expenses overall, due to economies of scale.

Plug Power’s leadership in the material transport industry is generating interest and development funds for implementation of fuel cells in adjacent markets,” said Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power. “This TRU award demonstrates how Plug Power is now executing on its market expansion strategy to architect fuel cell solutions across a wider range of opportunities.”

Plug Power’s TRU fuel cells, which will be based on its GenDrive technology, will cool Carrier Transicold refrigeration units on trailers delivering products for a Sysco Corp. distribution center on Long Island in New York. Each TRU will run for a minimum of 400 hours over the two-year contract period. Hydrogen will be supplied by Air Products. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a contractor that manages government programs for the DOE, will oversee the program.

New Fuel Cell Technology Cuts Fuel Use

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) recently demonstrated some of its new technology for tactical generators designed to cut fuel use nearly in half compared to diesel system currently powering forward-operating bases.

According to a post on the Navy’s website, the Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell Tactical Electrical Power Unit’s goal is to reduce the need to transport fuel around the battlefield, especially SOFCin dangerous locations like Afghanistan. The solid-oxide fuel cell produces electricity through a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. The ONR says a key component to the new system is a small reformer inside the unit that converts high-sulfur military fuels-such as JP-8 jet fuel- into a hydrogen-rich gas capable of use in the fuel cell. Previous systems required heavy maintenance to operate with such fuels.

“This technology goes right to the heart of the Department of Defense’s Operational Energy Strategy,” said Dr. John Pazik, director of ONR’s Ship Systems and Engineering Research Division in the article. “Using less fuel ultimately means fewer convoys and more lives saved.”

The power unit decreased fuel consumption by up to 44 percent compared to a similar-sized 10 kilowatt generator now being used by the Army and Marine Corps during a June demonstration at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. In addition to an easy-to-deploy modular and compact design, the new technology allows for near-silent operation. Instead of the roar of a diesel generator, the fuel cell unit’s cooling fan produces a sound similar to the quiet hum of a refrigerator or air conditioner.

“Many useful power and energy technologies have been developed in the last decade,” added Jack Taylor, associate director of ground and sea platforms in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “We are now at the tipping point to start packaging and deploying these.”

Funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the development of the fuel cell generator was the result of collaboration within the DoD Energy and Power Community of Interest, which brings together the four military services on a variety of energy and power programs.