Solving the Climate Crisis – Document Review

The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis recently published (June 2020) a massive (547 page) & comprehensive report called “Solving the Climate Crisis”.   The report was prepared by the Majority Committee Staff of the 116th US Congress pursuant to H.RES.6.

RMP is a non-partisan organization and wanted to give a review of this report as it relates to sustainable energy & put partisan politics aside.  Specifically, RMP wanted to sift through some of the important parts of the report that relate to sustainable hydrogen production & storage.  There is a lot of good news on the hydrogen front in this report that RMP wants to highlight as well as some themes I picked up when reading the report.  First, let’s start with an overview of the whole document and then go back to themes & hydrogen specific news because there’s a lot in this mammoth report.

First the Link.  The 547 page document reviewed in this post is called SOLVING THE CLIMATE CRISIS – The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.

Overview:

The Executive Summary starts with the urgency of the climate crisis and how America’s ingenuity & leadership are central to solving it.  In January 2019, House Resolution 6 created the bipartisan Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to “develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis.” The resolution directed the Select Committee to deliver policy recommendations to the standing legislative committees of jurisdiction for their consideration and action. Over the last 17 months, the Select Committee has consulted with hundreds of stakeholders and scientists, solicited written input, and held hearings to develop a robust set of legislative policy recommendations for ambitious climate action.

The report’s goal is to lay out congressional actions to satisfy the scientific imperative to reduce carbon pollution as quickly and aggressively as possible, make communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and build a durable and equitable clean energy economy.  In practical terms, this means building and rebuilding America’s infrastructure, the foundation of the American economy and communities; reinvigorating American manufacturing to create a new generation of secure, good-paying, high-quality jobs; prioritizing investment where it is needed the most, including rural and de-industrialized areas, low-income communities, and communities of color; and beginning to repair the legacy of economic and racial inequality that has left low-income workers and communities of color disproportionately exposed to pollution and more vulnerable to the costs and impacts of climate change.

The document is broad & comprehensive and it is not specific to hydrogen only.  Because RMP focuses primarily on hydrogen infrastructure, this post will examine the hydrogen production & storage portions of the document.  Hydrogen was mentioned heavily from pages 1 to 276 along with other technologies.

Infrastructure Initiatives Related to Hydrogen Production & Storage

I recently stumbled on the terms gray hydrogen, blue hydrogen, & green hydrogen.  I’m embarrassed to say I had to look up the difference between gray & blue hydrogen.  As much as I follow this vector of the energy industry, I only confidently knew what green hydrogen is.  Let’s go over the three basic types of produced hydrogen because they’re well differentiated through this big document and it’s very important to distinguish between them.

Gray Hydrogen = hydrogen made from natural gas

Blue Hydrogen = hydrogen made from natural gas with CO2 capture & sequestration

Green Hydrogen = hydrogen made with renewable or surplus renewable energy like solar & wind.  Also, hydrogen made from renewable natural gas.

 

It’s important to distinguish between gray, blue, and green hydrogen for a couple reasons when reading this document as there are certain themes that develop in the first 247 pages.  One of those themes is that our US Department of Energy has become “siloed” and is no longer fit to capitalize on synergies given its outdated structure with new technologies on the rise.  For example, here’s a quote from page 215 & 216 discussing this key bit of information:

The applied energy offices are largely organized by fuel and focus mostly on distinct technologies rather than energy systems. This has caused potentially cross-cutting technologies to be siloed into single applications—such as carbon capture for power generation and hydrogen for transportation, despite both having potential to reduce industrial emissions—and has led to fragmented approaches for or complete disregard of other key platform technologies. Separating basic energy sciences from applied energy also prevents coordination that can help technologies move from the research stage to development and demonstration. There are multiple possible ways to restructure DOE, and many experts disagree on the best method. Some proposals include keeping basic and applied energy research under one Under Secretary to maintain their coordination and organizing applied energy offices by end-use sector rather than fuel.  The reorganization should seek to create a structure that is best suited for accomplishing the updated DOE mission of decarbonization and climate mitigation, as recommended above.

That’s one of the key take aways from the document with regard to reorganizing our energy department to coordinate efforts with CO2 capture & hydrogen production as outlined on page 215-216 above.  This is an important thing to note before we look at several key passages of the document as they relate to “blue hydrogen“.   Blue hydrogen plays a key role in the first 247 pages especially as it relates to industrialized sectors of the economy and the people that live near industrialized urban areas.   Ports are a great example of places that produce tons of noxious fumes that could benefit from blue hydrogen now as green hydrogen sources are developed.  Another example of where blue hydrogen can play a key role is in steel making.  We have the hydrogen technology now to strip CO2 from CH4 & sequester it in geologic formations (as RMP wrote about #CCS in Michigan here).   This “blue hydrogen” can be used to make steel with 90% less CO2 emissions and almost negligible SOx, NOx, & Hg.

Another key thread through the first 247 pages is how hydrogen is not taking a back-seat to any other technology.  The myth of hydrogen versus battery is starting to fade and be replaced by the more common sense approach of hydrogen & batteries working together.   Hydrogen is mentioned in tandem with other technologies throughout the report with dignitas.   In fact, in the urban industrial energy section of the document, hydrogen seems to be the only technology that gets talked about for decarbonized energy (e.g steel making & ammonia).   Hydrogen & batteries are cousins and work together, not against one another.

Let’s look at some key “clips” from this big document to highlight the major points.  The number one point, the only point that can truly move the needle for clean energy, is money money money.   The “ITC” or investment tax credit has always been the #1 most important thing where the rubber hits the road.   Let’s look at this first & most important clip talking about the ITC for hydrogen production & storage technology.

Clip from page 57:

Currently, storage is not independently eligible for an ITC. Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2019 (H.R. 2096/S. 1142), which would create an energy storage ITC for batteries, compressed air, pumped hydropower, hydrogen, thermal energy storage, regenerative fuel cells, flywheels, capacitors, and superconducting magnets. Section 102 of the GREEN Act of 2020 (H.R. 7330) would expand the ITC to include energy storage technology and extend the ITC so that energy storage technologies are eligible for a 30% ITC through 2025. The bill would phase down the ITC to 26% in 2026 and to 22% in 2027. Section 104 of the bill would allow taxpayers to choose a lower tax credit value in exchange for the option to be refunded for any resulting overpayment (“direct pay”).

As you can see above, hydrogen for storage investments is included in the proposed ITC language.  There can be no more important passage regarding hydrogen technology in the document than hydrogen storage qualifying for the ITC.  30% ITC until 2026 should give hydrogen a strong advantage to scale given large scale storage with hydrogen has better economics than any other technology even without an ITC.   With a 30% ITC, large purchase orders for salt cavern geologic hydrogen storage, multiple tank pressurized hydrogen storage, and ammonia (NH3) storage will be written quickly.   Hydrogen storage is up to an order of magnitude cheaper than lithium ion batteries in extended duration megawatt hour storage.  Manufacturers of hydrogen production equipment should be able to use this ITC to highly leverage their scaling advantage as part of the storage process for green hydrogen.  This would allow for rapid reduction of greenhouse gasses.

Graphic above shows clearly how the only week & seasonal class storage that comes close to hydrogen is pumped hydro which is only available in very specific geographies. Hydrogen is not bound by geography so it has a huge advantage in mWh class storage.  By including hydrogen for investment tax credit, growth will accelerate & meaningful reductions in carbon emitting energy will occur.  This has been something RMP has been writing about for years now.  (graphic above comes from IEA, not congressional report)

Clip from page 73:

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced the American Energy Opportunity Act of 2019 (H.R. 5335), which would establish a process to standardize permitting for distributed energy systems, including distributed renewable energy generation from solar, wind, hydrogen electrolysis and fuel cell systems, energy storage, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and hydrogen fuel cell refueling.

This clip is highlighted because it was one of many similar passages:  mentioning hydrogen in the same sentence as other distributed energy systems without hesitation and in the same regard as other solutions.  It demonstrates a paradigm shift away from over ten years of FUD & stonewalling against hydrogen.  Hydrogen has now performed a decade of demonstrations on the longevity & durability of fuel cell stacks in all temperatures & environments.  The successful demonstrations in all forms of transportation & stationary performance for over ten years has silenced the hydrogen myths & critics.  Hydrogen has been safely deployed in busses, trains, cars, airplanes, buildings and maritime vessels for years now.  It’s legitimacy is accepted and 2020 starts the decade of hydrogen scaling.

Clip from page 90:

In May 2019, Reps. Mike Levin (D-CA) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced H.R. 2764, the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2019. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Senate companion (S. 1487). The bill requires that 50% of sales for new passenger vehicles be ZEVs by 2030. The sales requirement ramps up 5% each year to achieve 100% of new vehicle sales by 2040. The bill is technology-neutral, allowing for electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and other potential zero-emission technologies to qualify.

Theme developing that I like about the document is just about everywhere there was talk about helping zero emission transportation develop, electricity & hydrogen were mentioned in tandem without debate and with equanimity.  It’s working that people are starting to understand that electricity & hydrogen  work together, not against each other.  They’re truly cousins that share an anode & a cathode in their fundamental DNA.  The only difference is one keeps its energy “inside the house” and the other keeps its energy “in the barn out back”.  Batteries & hydrogen are darn near the same thing, so it’s good to see them starting to be recognized as cousins working together to replace fossil fuels with camaraderie.

Clip from page 126:

The public and private sectors are unlikely to adopt zero-emission trucks at scale until the supporting fueling infrastructure is convenient and widespread. CALSTART estimates that converting the nation’s trucking infrastructure to support zero- or near-zero-emission fuels will require $50 billion to $100 billion in public and private investment.329

The Clean Corridors Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) as S. 674 in the Senate and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) as H.R. 2616 in the House, provides grant funding to state, local, and tribal governmental entities to facilitate installation of electric charging stations and hydrogen fueling infrastructure along designated corridors in the National Highway System. The bill envisions that this infrastructure would have to accommodate large vehicles, including semi-trailer trucks.

The passage above was a gem of a find for RMP.  Actually the bit that was so cool to find was footnote #329 which explains a $137 million dollar investment in electric charging & hydrogen refueling infrastructure throughout key cross country corridors for heavy duty trucking.   Not only is this fantastic news on its face, the link also had GIS mapping of these hydrogen corridors which is the first time I’ve ever seen that.  This will allow RMP to lift those latitudes & longitudes to add these future “hydrogen corridors” to our Google Map of all hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the USA.   RMP’s map of hydrogen refueling infrastructure can be found here & is constantly being updated:  https://www.respectmyplanet.org/public_html/united_states

Clip from page 257:

To achieve wide use of hydrogen at a reasonable cost, industry will need infrastructure to generate and transport hydrogen to facilities and to store hydrogen before and after transport. One option is to generate hydrogen at a small number of large-scale facilities and then distribute it through a pipeline network to individual industrial facilities. Another option is to generate it at a larger number of more dispersed, small-scale facilities, which would require less distribution infrastructure. Instead of transporting hydrogen directly, hydrogen producers could also transform the hydrogen into ammonia or methane for transport or storage.

This important passage mentions supporting technology to transform hydrogen into methane & ammonia.  The word being used throughout the document is “building block” and there’s a heavy focus on industrial applications.  One of the things I have always thought people failed to realize is the connection between industrial applications and transportation.  When industry starts creating more & more hydrogen, it becomes more ubiquitous for refueling.  When it becomes more ubiquitous for refueling, people will look around to each other and realize the chicken/egg problem they’ve been talking about for over a decade has miraculously solved itself.  The next chicken/egg joke will be that people will ask: which came first the hydrogen vehicle or the hydrogen refueling station?

After about page 276, the document shifts to political wrangling of who is going to finance this massive overhaul of our energy sector.  The document goes into other areas after page 276 like carbon removal, taxing people who produce carbon intensive energy, and carbon taxes in general.  Basically, this is the part when you ask “Who’s going to pay for all this?” and the current companies that are dying are going to be asked to pay for the initiatives.  This is the part where I really think we need to work together to train our workers in current industries to do new jobs in new industries.  We cannot throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak.  We must let fabricators, production managers, warehouse personnel, engineers, and the like find pathways to jobs in a zero emission future from their current jobs to produce fossil based energy.  We cannot give all subsidies to startups with no track record while tax paying workers lose their jobs through this transition.  We must make sure we create good jobs & a tax paying base with people from industries that will be phasing out.

Please read document yourself as I only picked a couple selected passages out for review.  There’s a ton more information in there at 547 pages.  Thanks for reading RMP’s little review of this big document as it relates to hydrogen production & storage infrastructure.

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2020-Q2

hydrogen infrastructure

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report.  Each quarter we look back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements and we compare the current AFDC database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed.  The AFDC database is updated by the US Dept of Energy & can be found by clicking here.  Canada has just added a brand new data repository for hydrogen stations this quarter.  The Canadian website is administered by Natural Resources Canada.   RMP will continue to use the US Department of Energy database as our primary data source as we learn more about the new Canadian database.

For years now, most of RMP’s quarterly reports on hydrogen infrastructure in the USA have been focused on California.  The activity in California is really going strong as seven stations are slated to come online in Q3 & Q4 with 1,200kg capacities, thus doubling the amount of fueling capability in California in one fell swoop over the next half year or so.  RMP looks forward writing more about that story in 2020-Q3 as it develops.  But, the story this quarter is a different one because something new is happening:  hydrogen infrastructure outside of California is really picking up.

hydrogen refueling
A Toyota Mirai & Honda Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle are caught refueling by Google Maps street view at Air Liquide’s new hydrogen refueling station in Mansfield, Massachusetts.  You can check out this station and any other in North America by using Google Street view from RMP’s map of all hydrogen stations in the USA & Canada.  Seeing this & every other Air Liquide station listed on the data base from Google imagery adds authenticity they exist in a world where a lot of people are all talk & nothing to show for it.  Seeing is believing will the the theme of all the East Coast & Canada stations with pics from Google Street View.  You can go straight to Google Street View of the above image by clicking here. (click image to enlarge)

RMP likes to let the data do the talking with our map of all hydrogen refueling stations in North America.  Something developing on the map with real physicality is that more stations are ready to go in two places outside of California:  the East Coast of the USA & on both coasts of Canada.  RMP is now showing seven new Air Liquide stations on the USA East Coast and nine new stations in Canada.  Those are solid numbers showing hydrogen refueling infrastructure taking a foothold in key demographics for wide spread adoption & growth.  Let’s first examine what’s happening on the eastern seaboard of the USA.

Air Liquide is the major player really driving this sprouting growth on the East Coast of the USA.  When we actually look to our eastern seaboard we can find a bunch of new hydrogen stations commissioning thanks to Air Liquide.  We now have four stations in Massachusetts, two of which are brand new Air Liquide stations:  Braintree & Mansfield.  Connecticut goes up to a total of three stations with a brand new station commissioning in Hartford.  Rhode Island gets a new Air Liquide station in Providence.  The big gainer, though, is New York.   New York sees the biggest increase from last quarter with one new Air Liquide station commissioning in Hempstead NY and two more New York locations registered as planned on the database:  Air Liquide-Bronx and Air Liquide-Farmingville.

hydrogen refueling
This is the satellite imagery view of Air Liquide’s Providence, Rhode Island hydrogen refueling station that looks ready to go.  All the components needed for this station to operate on a small footprint are visible on Google Maps.  Rhode Island drivers will soon be able to refuel with zero emission hydrogen & clean the air as they drive.  Check out RMP’s map of all hydrogen stations in North America by clicking here. (click image to enlarge) #SeeingIsBelieving

These East Coast stations are all authenticated. These aren’t just rows on a spreadsheet any more.  That’s what makes putting these stations on a real Google map so much fun, you can zoom down to street level & actually see the stations & hydrogen fuel cell vehicles refueling so you know they’re real.  From 2010 to 2020 we saw hydrogen fuel cells as a proof of concept.  Busses, trains & cars around the globe powered by PEM hydrogen fuel cells passed dozens of durability & longevity tests over the past 10 years in real world test conditions.

As we move forward into this brand new 2020 decade, a new phase of the hydrogen economy is emerging: the scaling phase.  Because hydrogen is as infinite as the sun in every local economy, you can keep building stations commensurate with whatever you need to power with zero emissions.  The answer to how many stations you need is just a math equation based on how many cars, trucks, busses, boats, buildings or whatever you need to power.

hydrogen refueling station
This is Google Street View imagery of the Air Liquide hydrogen refueling station in Hempstead, New York.  If you can only see something on stage under glitzy lights by a fancy pitch man, how can you be sure it really exists?   If you can’t go touch it or go buy it right now, when will it be real?  If you can go see something for yourself, it’s easier to believe in.  My Japanese friends taught me “genchi genbutsu” when I worked for a Japanese manufacturing company, it means “go see for yourself”.  If you want to go see this station for yourself, check out RMP’s map of all hydrogen refueling stations in the USA & Canada by clicking here  or check it out on Google Maps by clicking here. (click image to enlarge) #SeeingIsBelieving

Now that we see stations starting to proliferate on the East Coast of the USA we notice something different than what we see in California: a network of connected stations with different state governing bodies.   Different governors, legislatures, departments of transportation, et Al working together.  This is really something because California paved the way for other states to start adopting similar safety standards, SAE accepted fueling standards, and hydrogen zoning standards to really get to work.  Other states like Ohio, near RMP’s home base in Michigan, are starting to build some impressive private liquid hydrogen refueling stations for busses too.  Soon more states will see what others are doing and we can work toward building a coast to coast hydrogen highway, which will be a major milestone in the hydrogen economy.  Governors from across the county will see and then get in on the hydrogen momentum to create good paying American jobs for zero emission energy.

And what about our friendly neighbors to the north?  RMP also added 8 new stations to our map in Canada between last quarter and this quarter.  In fact, just this past week we learned of a brand new station opening in British Columbia.   Molly Burgess at H2 View just posted an article that an Esso hydrogen station in Vancouver just opened bringing RMP’s Canadian station total up to 9 stations before the 6/30/2020 cut-off for this report.

hydrogen refueling station
Here is a Google Street Maps view of the Esso hydrogen refueling station in Quebec City Canada.  Quebec City is a beautiful place with abundant hydroelectric power generation for making lots of free 100% green hydrogen.   This is a list of tens of thousands of megawatts of clean Canadian generation capacity.  The power generation at Montmorency Falls is no longer active but there is power generation just upstream at Marches-Naturelles Hydroelectric Power.  Quebec City is such a beautiful place to visit if you never have.   RMP predicts Quebec City to be the first city in North America to be 100% clean green zero emission hydrogen because of abundance of hydroelectric power in the area.  Hydroelectric to hydrogen is truly a “circle of zero emissions” with “hydro” built right into the name of both words.  (click image to enlarge) #SeeingIsBelieving

New York shares a length of border with Canada and there are now two planned Shell stations between Montreal & Ottawa that are not very far from Syracuse, New York.  The Hydrogenics HQ station in Toronto is not very far from Buffalo, NY either.   Plug Power who was very active this past quarter is also bringing hydrogen manufacturing to the old Kodak Park facility in Rochester NY which is not that far from the Canadian border on the south shore of Lake Ontario.   The stations taking root in Canada are helping to bring the USA’s East Coast hydrogen refueling coverage from the south end at Air Liquide’s headquarters in Newark, Delaware all the way up to Quebec City in the north.   From Quebec City in the northeast, there is a patchwork of stations forming all the way back to Detroit in the west.  If you go from Detroit in the northwest down as far south as Ohio and east through Pennsylvania, the USA has hydrogen coverage developing from the Great Lakes to the Statue of Liberty.   

And, if all the states I just mentioned are showing they can get it done in the east, you know it won’t be long before Oregon & Washington get it going in the West.  If Oregon & Washington get something going, you’ll be able to drive from San Diego California all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia.  That will be cool and I would buy a plane ticket just to rent a Mirai to do that zero emissions drive.  Pretty cool to think how far we’ve come in just five short years since RMP wrote our first blog post in 2015 that talked about what we thought was going to be happening by 2020.  It’s 2020 and RMP predictions are starting to take a real foothold as envisioned.   More and more people are learning that one simple thing about hydrogen that RMP has known all along:  hydrogen just works economically.  Those are the two big stories for 2020-Q2, now let’s get into the data.

hydrogen refueling station
This is Google Street View imagery of the new Air Liquide hydrogen refueling station in Hartford, Connecticut.   For all of those in the hydrogen Twittersphere you have to admit Air Liquide has been very busy without a lot of hype.  Some people do & some people talk.  Air Liquide is building hydrogen refueling stations up and down the East Coast of the USA.  You can find this hydrogen station and every other hydrogen station in North America by checking out RMP’s map here. (click image to enlarge)  #SeeingIsBelieving

Let’s look at the data updates from 2020 Q2:

Several stations on the database had their planned opening dates change by three months or one quarter.  This is normal for most businesses across the country as we see drastic changes in how we operate as a country while dealing with the COVID-19 virus pandemic.  The “big” 1,200 kilogram stations in California are still on pace to open in 2020.  The big station in Fountain Valley California is already commissioning so it’s very close to opening to the public.  The big stations at Sunnyvale, Campbell, and Mission Hill should open to the public in Q3 or Q4.   The big stations in San Diego, Redwood City, Concord, and Culver City are most in jeopardy of slipping into 2021.

The big addition to the database that doesn’t seem to get reported in other publications are the two New York stations registered in the AFDC database that will be built by Air Liquide.  Air Liquide is getting a reputation of just getting things done quietly right now while others talk about getting things done in the future.  Air Liquide registered a planned station for The Bronx in New York City and a station in Farmingville on Long Island.  Based on Air Liquide’s track record, these hydrogen refueling stations in New York City will built on time & commissioning in 2021.

New H2 Stations That Opened To The Public 2020 Q2:

The only station opening to the public in Q2-2020 is the Esso station in Vancouver reported by H2 View’s Molly Burgess.  This section of RMP’s report is not that busy this quarter but Q3 is expected to be a big quarter for station openings.  Woodside, the Burbank upgrade, Berkely, Sherman Oaks, & Fountain Valley will probably open in Q3.   Those are not just stations opening, those are next generation stations with much larger capacities.  The reason this is important to note is that we will see vehicle registration numbers go up because of major hydrogen capacity increases.  Vehicle production’s only constraint is refueling stations which is why RMP writes this report each quarter to track infrastructure progress.

Hydrogen Vehicle Registration Data:

For vehicle registration data, remember we can only look at data that is one quarter in arrears.  Vehicle registration data is tabulated after the quarter ends and then published about two months later.  So, for example, data for the quarter ending 3/31/2020 is published in May of 2020.  Now that is is June of 2020, the data we look at is for 3/31/2020 and is about a month old.  The reason for this is that compiling vehicle registration data takes time & comes from 100s of different sources.  IHS Markit is the company that does this data compiling & publishing.  Let’s look at the most current vehicle registration for the period ended 3/31/2020.

FCEVs By State
California data is the only data spiked out by county.   RMP has been hearing numbers of about 8,400 cars on the road in North American from other websites that do not cite a source.   RMP trusts IHS Markit as it is an industry standard used by top auto OEMs to verify cost modeling calculations.  RMP expects FCEV numbers to grow in relation to the seven hydrogen refueling stations coming online in California with 1,200kg capacities so we will keep tabulating FCEV data as it becomes available.   The only limiting factor in the number of clean FCEVs on the road is how many stations you build.  Hydrogen is as abundant as it is inexhaustible on every corner of our planet.  As hydrogen production volume ramps up, costs will ramp down through a phenomenon called economies of scale. (click image to enlarge)

Hydrogen Headline Highlights 2020 Q2

hydrogen ferryMarch 27, 2020 – The first hydrogen powered ferry boat was contracted to AAM shipyard in the San Francisco Bay area.  The 84 passenger ferry will demonstrate a pathway to zero emission marine vessels.  Fuel cells can work anywhere internal combustion engines work.  Large marine craft can store liquid organic hydrogen for massive amounts of onboard energy.  Click here to read the story.


April 8, 2020 – Forbes published an article about the Intermountain Power Project that will bring “Green Hydrogen” to Los Angeles.  ‘It’s a ‘ginormous’ battery,’ says Janice Lin with the Green Hydrogen Coalition. “This salt dome formation can store 100,000 mWh — enough storage for the western U.S.”  She says it could become nation’s first strategic renewable energy reserve. “.  Click here to read the story.


May 1, 2020 – NREL publishes research information on how to get zero emission hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 “big rigs” on the road quicker.  The US Department of Energy establishes a target of refueling 8 kilograms of hydrogen per minute by 2030 & 10 kilograms of hydrogen per minute by 2050.   Big rigs (like Class 8 trucks & busses) is the most logical start for hydrogen to really proliferate rapidly across the globe.  Click here to read the story.


June 3, 2020 – NEL receives $30 million USD purchase order to start building hydrogen fueling stations for Nikola based in Phoenix, Arizona.  Nikola has one station at their HQ building in Pheonix, Arizona (pictured left).  When Nikola starts registering planned stations on the AFDC database,  RMP’s will add them to our map.  Click here to read the story.


June 4, 2020 – Nikola announces that it has become a public company traded on the NASDAQ.  Says the purchase order released to NEL day prior will give Nikola ability to produce 40,000 kilograms of hydrogen per day to refuel Class 8 “big rigs”.   Nikola shows off tentative design of massive refueling stations.  Click here to read the story.


June 18, 2020 – Keith Malone from the California Fuel Cell Partnership tweets that we can expect announcement of the next round of funding for the next 40 to 50 hydrogen fueling stations in California.


June 24, 2020 – PLUG Power announces acquisition of United Hydrogen to enhance its ability to produce green hydrogen.  PLUG says green hydrogen costs expected to drop by 50% by 2030.  PLUG raises revenue target to $1.2 billion after acquisition and stock price nearly doubles on the news.  PLUG Power is based in Latham, New York.  Click here to read the story.


June 25, 2020 – H2 View publishes article saying new hydrogen refueling station in Vancouver British Columbia is now open to the public.  Station uses HTEC equipment and is located at Exit 17 of Highway 1 at the 7-Eleven Esso branded station.  You can find this station on RMP’s map of all hydrogen refueling stations in the USA & Canada.  Click here to read the H2 View story.

Final Remarks for 2020 Q2

The theme of 2020-Q2 is “Seeing Is Believing”.   After following the AFDC database for so many years, we can now see Google Maps imagery authenticating the rows on a spreadsheet for stations up & down the East Coast in New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  Seeing the station is tangible evidence of the progress made by Air Liquide.  I would venture to guess building the stations & installing the equipment is probably something very easy for Air Liquide to do as they have been working with hydrogen for decades.  The hard part is getting stations sited, approved by local governing bodies, and training technicians for new safety protocols.

Now that we have stations actually built & operating in several different states in the USA as well as multiple provinces in Canada, momentum can build.  The very first station is always the hardest & the biggest deal for any state or province.  Once you get your first one under your belt, successive stations become easier & easier to mass produce.  As station build out occurs, people become more familiar with the process and the speed of going from planning to commissioning goes a lot faster.   With hydrogen refueling now on both coasts of North America, it stands to reason that inroads of hydrogen connectivity will sprout joining west to east hydrogen mobility in the next five years.

Thanks for reading RMP’s quarterly hydrogen report.  We hope you’ll check back next quarter.

100% Renewable Energy: Hydrogen Refueling -vs- Superchargers

hydrogen

Hydrogen pairs well economically with 100% renewable energy like wind, solar, and biogas for fast recharging of zero emission vehicles like cars, trucks, busses, trains, & boats.  Wind & solar can have large footprints that make them hard to site near areas where there are large populations of people or where large scale refueling/recharging must take place.  RMP has written many times about how solar arrays & wind farms can often produce terawatts of energy each year that go wasted because the electricity produced couldn’t be used when it was made.  Wasted energy stranded like this is called curtailed energy. Modern grids have to balance electricity production to usage and must choose to dump electricity if it can’t be used.  More and more projects around the world are demonstrating power to gas is an economical way to store that otherwise wasted energy as hydrogen so we can get it back whenever we need it.

One of the knocks against hydrogen refueling anti-hydrogen folks continue to use against hydrogen is to say there are only 95 hydrogen refueling stations across America compared to thousands of locations where a BEV can be fast charged.  Given we are early in the transition to electrified propulsion, it’s important to think about the overarching goal of zero emission vehicles: to use clean renewable energy to power our transportation sector & reduce harmful emissions.  Even though there are more fast charging stations than the 95 hydrogen fueling stations right now in the USA, there are already 13 hydrogen stations that use 100% renewable energy.  Contrast that to the 908 Tesla Supercharger locations across the USA open today and note that not a single one of those 908 Supercharger locations is 100% off-grid solar, wind, or biogas.  Not one.  0%.  As we kick off this article, let’s put this important statistic up on the scoreboard when it comes to the number of 100% renewable refueling/recharging locations in the USA:   Hydrogen 13 – Tesla Superchargers 0.

This important point of delivering 100% clean energy for our transportation sector is becoming increasingly more relevant as time goes by.  Advocates of zero emission vehicles have a stated goal to move away from fossil fuels and reduce emissions to zero across the board. Without a single demonstration of fast charging paired with 100% renewable solar or wind to see how it works, we are left for years now to guess how it will ever get done.  If all fast charging stations eventually need to get to 100% clean energy shouldn’t anti hydrogen folks show us the cost & footprint & specs of one station so we can see how it works?

The Shell Sacramento hydrogen refueling station is one of 13 stations in the USA that uses 100% renewable hydrogen.  Every hydrogen refueling station in California is required to use at least 33% renewable hydrogen but several across the state, including 3 stations in San Francisco are 100% renewable.  While Tesla might put a solar array on top of a Supercharger to show some electricity comes from renewable energy, don’t be fooled.  Not a single Tesla Supercharger is 100% renewable.

According to Modernize, less than a handful of states have produced better than 20% of their energy from renewable energy sources.   Many states, like New Mexico, Kansas, Utah, Indiana, Ohio, and more get over 90% of their energy from dirty fossil fuel sources like coal, oil, & natural gas.  Manufacturing & charging electric vehicles off a dirty grid isn’t making a dent in CO2 emission reductions.   When can we fast charge BEVs with clean off-grid renewable energy?  Does the possibility even exist?  Or is it still a fantasy?

Unfortunately, hydrogen & batteries get looked at as some sort of death match of competitive technologies that leave us with an either/or decision of what technology to use, but it really shouldn’t be that way.  RMP has written for years about how it’s a red herring argument to say we have to choose only one technology.  Hydrogen & batteries work very well together; we really need both technologies to phase out crude oil, coal, and natural gas.  Even though hydrogen & batteries should be thought of technologies that cooperate, it’s human nature for people to have some fun with friendly competition.  In the spirit of friendly competition, let’s look at why hydrogen refueling has a big advantage over battery charging alone when it comes to renewable energy for fast recharging. If our goal is 100% renewable energy it’s important to keep this score in mind:  Hydrogen 13 – Tesla Superchargers 0.

While there is a lot of promise for BEV vehicles for good reason, there is also an elephant in the room:  fast charging throughput is about 20:1 slower than refueling with gasoline.  Because hydrogen refueling is on par with gasoline, it means hydrogen fueling is also about 20:1 faster than the fastest Tesla Supercharging.  According to a quick Google search, it takes about 75 minutes to charge a Tesla to 100% state of charge with a 150 kW Supercharger.  It takes between 3 to 4 minutes to fill up a gasoline or hydrogen car.  75 divided by 3 = 25:1 and 75 divided by 4 = 18.75:1.  Hydrogen’s throughput capability is a big deal when scaling to millions of vehicles because it stands to reason capital allocation of renewable energy tax subsidy dollars would also be leveraged 20:1 if spent on hydrogen infrastructure.  If the goal is to refuel as many vehicles in the shortest amount of time possible on busy travel routes, hydrogen is the clear winner.  We’ve all seen the videos & read the stories about Teslas backing up at Superchargers during Thanksgiving.  So called fast charging is already showing failure with less than 1% of vehicles on the road using it; this is very bad for scaling up.

Even if we do decide to spend our tax subsidy dollars on battery recharging infrastructure at a 20:1 disadvantage vs hydrogen, we still don’t get fast charging from renewable energy because it doesn’t exist.  We don’t even know the cost of off-grid 100% renewable fast charging.  All we can say with utter certainty is that hydrogen refueling is way faster than battery charging.

Thanksgiving 2019 Supercharger backup at Kettleman City Supercharger with 40 stalls.  At times the backup was 50 cars long or a quarter mile long.  Teslas only make up a tiny fraction of cars (less than 1%) on the road and we are already seeing major fails in how they scale to handle heavy travel.  What if BEVs made up 5% or even 10% of vehicles?  Think about it.

For three years (since 6/9/2017) we’ve been waiting for the very first example of off-grid 100% renewable Supercharging.  Its starting to appear, however, that battery fast-charging just isn’t compatible with 100% renewable off-grid energy.  The best way to charge a battery with 100% renewable off-grid energy will probably be to use a fuel cell system.  The two technologies are truly meant for each other and bound to each other’s service.  Fuel cells & their battery cousins shouldn’t even be thought of in competition, but rather technologies that compliment each other.

June 9, 2020 marks the three year anniversary of Elon Musk tweeting that “All Superchargers are being converted to solar/battery power.  Over time, almost all will disconnect from the electricity grid”.   Elon Musk likes to use ambiguous words like “all” and “soon” so often that a pattern has emerged.  A growing chorus of people has started showing & tweeting examples of how Elon Musk is not much different than the Wizard of Oz: just a man shining people on with false promises from behind the curtain.  We get promises & rhetoric of all these great things coming in order to win tax subsidies & venture capital funding from Wall Street billionaires, but the promises never materialize for working class people on main street.  The mansions and private jet are real, but off-grid renewable Superchargers…  well, not so much…

Elon’s false promises are becoming so obvious websites have emerged to demonstrate how Elon Musk is shining people on in order to raise money for his billionaire lifestyle.  It’s important to stay vigilant in making sure our tax dollars are being used responsibly to further our migration from fossil fuels to renewable zero emission technology.   If our tax subsidy money is going toward a company like Tesla & the goods are not getting delivered, we need to hold that company accountable to their promises made for our tax dollars.  We need to see results.  We cannot continue to be fed constant promises that are always years away and never materialize.  We need to see real growth in the demonstration of true zero emissions or we gotta call BS.  It’s been 3 years since Elon said Superchargers were in the process of being converted to off-grid solar but still when we look up a the scoreboard it’s:  Hydrogen 13  vs Tesla Superchargers 0.

There are three major types of air pollution caused by our transportation sector:  1) Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2) NOx Emissions & 3) Sulphur Dioxide Emissions.   Further, most people want to focus on what’s called the well-to-wheel emissions meaning that we have to account for all emissions including manufacture & distribution of the energy to make the vehicle as well as the energy we use on a daily basis like coal & natural gas power plants.  For a great example of why hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are better than battery electric vehicles at overall well-to-wheel emissions, the best comparison is the new Toyota RAV4 Prime.  The RAV4 Prime in this post’s feature image is a gasoline plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).  The RAV4 Prime is a good example that demonstrates why Toyota, Honda, & Hyundai are so confident about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles working along side batteries in the future as a range extender.  While the “range extender” of the battery in the RAV4 Prime is an internal combustion engine, that “range extender” will easily be replaced by a Toyota fuel cell in markets developing hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

According to a quick Google search, the Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV going on sale in a couple months will average about 29g of CO2 per kilometer.   The Tesla Model 3 averages about 170g of CO2 per kilometer.  This stark difference goes unnoticed by many Tesla cheerleaders in the anti-hydrogen crowd.   Let’s think about that for minute:  a full size gasoline plug-in electric hybrid SUV with off-road ruggedness & three to four minute refueling will produce nearly 6 times less CO2 than a Tesla Model 3 that takes hours to charge & can have its warranty voided if you drive down a dirt road. Furthermore, if CO2 emissions are lower in the PHEV by a factor of six, it stands to reason SOx & NOx (smog) are also reduced by a similar multiple.  The RAV4 Prime seems like a no brainer to an average consumer that wants lower emissions from overnight charging.  The RAV4 Prime also comes with no long waits at the fast charger on road trips.  The PHEV is comparable in price, has more convenience & utility, and is also the best for overall air quality.

You’d think that with such a large emissions advantage over the Tesla Model 3 that you’d have to pay an arm & a leg to buy the bigger & more functional Toyota RAV4 Prime over the smaller Tesla sedan, but you’d be wrong again.  The Toyota RAV4 Prime base model is loaded with features like All Wheel Drive, 8-way power seats, power back door, & Apple Carplay and will sticker at about $38,100.  The Tesla Model 3 standard range car stickers at $39,990 and only has a range of 250 miles.  The Toyota is also getting a tax subsidy of $7,500 off the sticker price so it’s more like $30,600 for the Toyota RAV4 Prime -vs- $39,990 for the standard Model 3.

Most drivers will drive 95% of their average miles without using gasoline using the Toyota RAV4 Prime, but they will have the gasoline “range extender” for cross country trips without any slowdown to what they’re already used to with a gasoline vehicle.  This is how Toyota gets such a large clean air emissions advantage per kilometer over the Tesla.  It’s because the Toyota only has a 17.8 kWh battery while the standard range Tesla Model 3 has a 54 kWh battery.  The larger extra kilowatt hour battery penalizes the Tesla on manufacturing emissions while the under 20 kWh battery in the Toyota is enough for 95% of people’s average daily driving.  Lithium, cobalt and manganese for making batteries are mined and processed with high-energy input. A battery for a Tesla Model 3, for example, pollutes the climate with about 11 to 15 tons of CO2. With a battery life of ten years and a mileage of 15,000 kilometres per year, that alone would mean 73 to 98 grams of CO2 per kilometer, according to Autovista Group.

But wait a minute, this article is about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and RMP is comparing a gasoline PHEV to BEV.  Hydrogen refueling is not as prevalent or available as gasoline refueling or battery charging, this is true.  It’s also true that we are in the very early innings of both technologies.  There was also a time in America’s relatively short history when there were no gasoline stations, no airports, and no train stations.  Hydrogen refueling stations can be built and are being built around the world right now and they’re proliferating rapidly.  Toyota knows the switch to electric powertrains is a long term game and they also know how to pair a battery with a hydrogen fuel cell.   Toyota can very easily swap the gasoline fueled internal combustion engine in a vehicle like the Toyota RAV4 Prime with a hydrogen fuel cell system as hydrogen stations build out in markets around the world.   And that’s the end game:  smaller batteries coupled with hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems.  Honda already has a platform called the Clarity that’s compatible with all three propulsion systems:  plug-in hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, and battery electric.

Because we are in the early innings of building new energy infrastructure it’s important to look at how things are going to scale up to meet our energy hungry needs.  We know hydrogen refueling works with 100% renewable energy for refueling but we have no examples of how battery electric fast charging can do the same.  How can we calculate the cost of all the 100% renewable fast charging locations without knowing the cost of one?  At its core, this is the whole concept of scaling energy: make something once & repeat ad infinitum.  It’s like aiming for the moon from the earth, if your calculation is wrong as you set out on your trip, by the time you’ve travelled all the way to the moon you’ll have missed by several miles.

Car & Driver reports their long term Tesla Model 3 only charged two minutes faster at a 250kW charger in Michigan City, Indiana than it would at a regular 150kW charger.  It also says 250kW chargers are rare & majority are 150kW so let’s use a 150 kW rate Supercharger to keep our comparisons realistic.  Only the Model 3 & Model Y can charge at the 250kW rate while the Model S & X are limited at 150kW.  Whether charging from the 250kW or 150kW Supercharger, the average kW rate was under 75kW.  Car & Driver Source. 

Let’s go through some quick number comparisons using time, kilowatt hours, and kilograms of hydrogen to try to draw some comparisons mathematically.   First off, let’s note that there are 33.33 kWh of energy in 1 kilogram of hydrogen.  Several new hydrogen refueling stations in California slated to open later this year will have a  capacity of 1,200 kg of hydrogen.  1,200 x 33.33 = about 40 megawatt hours.  A regular hydrogen passenger vehicle will hold about 5 kg of hydrogen.  Therefore, the station’s nameplate capacity will fill about 240 cars.  The 1,200 kg capacity hydrogen station can be refilled and just keep on refueling cars, so it’s really not limited to 240 cars.  The larger capacity just makes refueling the station itself less cumbersome.  Let’s look at our hydrogen station differently.  Let’s say it has dual dispensers & the station was open during the travel hours of 6AM to 12AM or 18 hours per day.  If there are dual dispensers & 2 cars can refuel every 4 minutes, then about 30 cars can be filled each hour.  If there are 18 hours of operation in a travel day, the hydrogen station could theoretically fill 540 cars per day.  540 cars @ 5kg each is 90 megawatt hours of 100% renewable energy!!!  In a day!

Now let’s contrast to the Tesla Supercharger.  According to Car & Driver who is chronicling their long term ownership of their Tesla Model 3, they’re stating that recharging at a 150kW Supercharger delivers an average charge rate of just under 75kW.  Car & Driver said it was roughly the same kW average charge rate whether they used one of the more rare 250kW Superchargers like the one in Michigan City, Indiana or a regular 150kW Supercharger.  Superchargers are known to reduce the flow rate of electricity to each vehicle if more than one vehicle is charging simultaneously in rural areas, this is what is says on Tesla’s own website.  Charge rates drop as you add on more cars in rural areas because they just don’t have the kW capacity to charge multiple cars at high kW charge rates.  But even if we pretend charging rate is not diminished, the math is really staggeringly bad when comparing Supercharging speed to hydrogen refueling.  It gets even worse when you consider the footprint required for charging -vs- hydrogen refueling to keep throughput parity.

The data table above does some simple calculations to show that you would have to take up 64 parking spots to charge Teslas as fast as one dual nozzle H2 refueling station.   Keep in mind this is only theoretical math, the Supercharger really couldn’t even do this kind of charging unless a coal, nuclear, or natural gas plant was close by.  So, it really gets a lot worse for the Supercharger in the real world especially as it regards 100% renewable energy.

Final Conclusion

Modern chemistry batteries are an incredible technology RMP supports whole heartedly.   There are vast applications that are enhanced by using batteries, including hydrogen fuel cells.  Hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems are a good example of a technology that just doesn’t work without batteries.  Hydrogen fuel cell systems have a battery as a key component regardless of whether the fuel cell system is in a car, truck, bus, train, or marine vessel.   There is also no rule that says we can only use choose fuel cells or batteries.  We can and must use both technologies to move the ball down the field.  What’s so important right now is to stay focused on is how to eliminate toxic hydrocarbons like gasoline, diesel, & coal from our energy feedstocks.  We need domestically produced clean renewable energy that can create good paying American jobs.

Grid energy comes primarily from coal, natural gas, and nuclear.  If zero Superchargers are off-grid renewable, it means Tesla cars are powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear.  Often people say that most hydrogen comes from steam reformed natural gas which is a true statement but no one ever had a reason to make green or gray hydrogen for the consumer market until now.  The percentage of hydrogen coming from natural gas will only decline over time.  What is conveniently always left out by those same people who paint hydrogen as dirtier than batteries is that BEVs also get the majority of their energy from fossil fuels; that’s the pot calling the kettle black.  Here’s the big difference:  green hydrogen is proven to work and is scaling up.  Green hydrogen is already demonstrating it can scale up to replace gray hydrogen.  As they say, even the longest journey begins with a single step and hydrogen has already proven that it is moving down the path toward 100% renewable refueling.  100% Green Superchargers, however, continue to be a unicorn, a mermaid, bigfoot, the lochness monster or whatever other fairy tale you can think of because they just don’t exist.  If “almost all” Superchargers “are being converted to” off-grid renewable energy, why has it been three years and we have yet to see a single example of how one works?

RMP supports BEVs and the companies working honestly to produce them for so many zero emission applications, but RMP is also calling BS on Elon Musk’s false promises and believe it’s high time he honors his commitment from 3 years ago.  For all those keeping score out there:  Hydrogen 13 vs Superchargers 0.

The Failure of Edenville Dam & Sullying of Lake Huron: Safety -vs- Vanity

One of the greatest tragedies in Michigan environmental history has occurred this past week when the Edenville Dam failed May 19, 2020.   The environmental devastation from Midland to Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron is incalculable. The financial damage will crush the equity of so many downstream and strain Michigan’s environmental remediation budget for decades for cleanup of toxic sediment where we pull our drinking water & fish.  The failure of the Edenville Dam & loss of Wixom Lake is a disaster it seems that could have been avoided by targeting safe lake levels rather than vanity lake levels.  Safety wasn’t put first and the dam is gone.

In the days ahead we will hear political attacks & see sensational video of devastation of homes & property.  We will have reporters, scientists, & engineers from across the state investigating what went wrong to get to where we are today.  Two reports that RMP will investigate today are good reports to help shed light on what was going on before the dam failed:   

1) The Four Lakes Lake Level Study prepared by Spicer Group & with support from Clark Hill at the behest of the Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF), the Gladwin County Board of Commissioners & the Midland County Board of Commissioners.  The lake level study was published in April 2019.  It was the support case used to get Judge Stephen Carras’ signature.

2) The Four Lakes Task Force 2019 Annual Report and Operating Plan published April 16, 2020.   It is very interesting that the comprehensive annual report for the Four Lakes Task Force was published just a few weeks before the dam would have catastrophic failure.  The annual report gives a comprehensive view into many legal & financial considerations of fixing the dam just before Edenville’s dam failure became a national spectacle; the financial report is a snapshot of the situation just before disaster struck.

The table shown above will be a key piece of evidence supporting what “legal levels” were for Wixom Lake before it disappeared.  Table shown above comes from the appendix of the 332 page Four Lakes Lake Level Study published in April 2019.  You can read the whole document by clicking here.

A term you will read again & again in the coming weeks will be the “legal level” of the lake that was set by Judge Stephen Carras when he signed the Lake Level Order under Part 307 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (MCL 324.30701 et seq) (“Part 307”). Judge Carras’ signature established normal or legal lake levels for Wixom, Sanford, Smallwood and Secord Lakes (“Four Lakes”). The Four Lakes Special Assessment District (SAD) recognized the authority of FLTF as the County Delegated Authority, to acquire, repair and then operate the four dams on behalf of Midland and Gladwin counties.  The “normal levels” of the lake were provided in The Four Lakes Lake Level Study published by the Spicer Group commissioned by the FLTF.  Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Attorney General, has already referenced the “legal level” on her twitter account stating officially “The State did not set the water level for Wixom Lake, a court did”.  She also goes on to say the purpose of EGLE & DNR’s lawsuit is not to raise water levels but it “seeks damages for the past illegal lowering of the lake” in 2018 & 2019 that killed mussels.

This notion that Boyce should not lower water levels because it could kill mussels seems illegitimate with evidence from the two key documents referenced in this article.  A more likely scenario of events seems plausible after reading both documents in conjunction with each other: the lake levels were raised for vanity, not to protect mussels.  That leads us to serious questions that need to be answered:  Why would the State be going after money from a company that doesn’t have enough money in its coffers to make safety upgrades to the dam?  The “mussels” story doesn’t pass the smell test.  A thorough investigation into what motivated the impetus of the “legal level” will be focus in this post.   Safety of the citizens of Michigan & our fresh water resources were assumed to be givens that could carry on operating safely based on the report commissioned by the FLTF that was used to set the lake levels.  But make no mistake, the levels were set to provide recreation & beauty more than they were focused on safety.

Safety does not appear to be the short term focus of the recent Four Lakes Lake Level Study but rather a long term goal to be achieved by 2024.   It was well known for years the Edenville Dam was in disrepair and did not meet State of Michigan dam safety standards, in accordance with Part 315 “Dam Safety” of NREPA, MCL 324.31501 et seq. (Part 315).  There was a long term plan to achieve safe status, but the  paramount short term impetus of the Four Lakes Lake Level summary was to keep lake levels high.  It’s stated as the first point in the in the very first page of the introduction & summary of the Lake Level Study where it reads: 

“The flowage rights for remaining lakes, for the most part, are currently held by Boyce Hydro. Due to this private ownership of lake bottoms, the riparian rights of most of the property owners surrounding the lakes are limited. Thus, the lakes can be lowered or drained with minimal consideration to the interest of the property owners who have invested into the properties surrounding the lakes. The Counties of Midland and Gladwin have petitioned the Circuit Court to establish legal lake levels to protect the interests of the property owners who directly benefit from the existence of these lakes as well as the interests of the Counties.”  Further stated in the study is that the FLTF  “are pursuing preemptive action to avert the draining of the lakes”.

Public letters in support of higher lake levels look like typical form letters to support the “legal level” but they don’t say anything about mussels or safety.  This public letter and others like it can be found in the 332 page Four Lakes Lake Level Study by clicking here. (click image to enlarge)

The property owners who have invested in lake frontage on these man made lakes commissioned a report to establish legal levels of the lakes to protect the interests of the property owners who benefit from the existence of shore front property on these lakes.  That is literally what it says in the introduction of the document.  In the 332 page comprehensive study into the establishing a legal lake level, the word “mussel” appears exactly ZERO times.  It’s a ridiculous notion that the spirit of the State of Michigan’s lawsuit filed against Boyce Hydro is about harming mussels; it’s a trumped up charge tantamount to abuse of power by the State Attorney General.  The State of Michigan surely wanted to sue Boyce Hydro, but the mussels angle doesn’t seem legitimate, it seems like a regular old schoolyard bully message “just to show you who’s boss, I’m going to sue you for millions so you’ll think twice before ever lowering that lake again” .  This is a man made lake, why would you sue someone for $5M that you’re supposed to be working with to help finance dam repairs?  If you can’t afford dam repairs before a $5M lawsuit, your ability to afford them afterward would be, well, less.  Why would you attack the company entrusted to work with the MDEQ/EGLE to operate the dam?  Even if you’re pissed off at Boyce, you have to put on a professional face and work to make things safe to protect our natural resources.  But how did we get to this adversarial point where Michigan’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the dam operator for not maintaining “legal levels” established by the Spicer Group report commissioned by the FLTF that acted as a key instrument in support of the decision that was signed by Judge Stephen Carras?

What prompted the FLTF to form?

The formal work of Four Lakes Task Force (FLTF) was set in motion in September 2018 when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) revoked the power generation license from Edenville Dam.  The FERC license was revoked because the dam was determined to be non-compliant with FERC regulations.  Shortly after FERC’s revocation of the license, the dam owner drained Wixom Lake by approximately 8 feet. The FLTF was not aware of objections or violations from MDEQ or MDNR to lowering the lake and this angered homeowners and was the genesis of the FLTF. 

The motivation of the FLTF is clearly stated throughout documentation they have published.  Many letters like this support RMP’s thesis of pressure to raise lake levels. (click to enlarge)

Its logical that the FLTF was formed because private owners of lake front parcels & private owners of parcels with dedicated easement access were pissed off that Boyce Hydro controlled the lake levels without their input & lowered the lake level by 8 feet.  This is the precipitous moment that ultimately led to establishing higher lake levels through a lengthy legal process not bounded to common sense & in fact made it illegal to lower the lake levels to safe levels.  Think about that:  it was now illegal to lower the lake levels even if you thought it could be for safety reasons.  Remember also that the Edenville Dam was noted for being in serious disrepair for many years & should have NEVER had its level raised until repairs were completed.

It’s obvious that the FLTF was working hard and doing all they could to establish a plan to protect the investments of parcel owners.  The FLTF was not trying to create one of the biggest environmental catastrophes in Michigan history.  To work hard to protect your investment is noble & American but oversight of the safety was drowned out for the vanity of lake levels and aesthetics.  None of the parcel owners on the lake would have wanted to see their equity lowered through this disaster for sure but that’s what happened with poor oversight.  The FLTF was trying to do what red blooded Americans do:  protect their investments as best they know how.

There are 6,555 private parcels of property with lake frontage & 1,961 parcels of private property having dedicated easement access to the four lakes.  That’s a lot of people who’s stated motivation is to raise the lake levels.  That’s a lot of peer pressure.  While the stated purpose in all the legal documents is to have the court set a “legal level” based on historical levels, there is a reasonable amount of evidence to show the mission of the FLTF was to keep the lakes at levels that looked good for their investment properties.   Who would want a dock & boat sitting on dry land because the water receded?   So if you have competing motivations of keeping the lake levels high from the FLTF and trying to keep the lake levels safe from dam failure, who would referee that debate?

Upon revocation of the FERC license to generate electricity, the FERC relinquished its regulatory oversight to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) now called EGLE.  A serious investigation of the criteria EGLE used in setting safe lake levels & applicable contingencies for emergency lowering of the lake levels must be done as it appears this disaster could have been avoided with common sense actions.  The MDEQ/EGLE should be working to put safety first.   If the dam was known to be deficient, why allow lake levels to be set to “normal historic levels”?   Shouldn’t the levels be a much lower given the dam is in need of serious repair estimated at $20 million dollars & May is historically the most rainy month in Midland?  Rumblings percolating on twitter in the echo chamber look like EGLE’s defense is going to be it was climate change that caused the dam failure which reeks of a cop out excuse.  It is reasonable to assume that if you’re threatened with multimillion dollar lawsuits from the State Attorney General, you’re going to be afraid to lower the lake level even if you think it could prevent a disaster.  Everyone knows that May is historically the rainiest month in in Midland every year for a 1000 years. Shouldn’t May have been a month that lake levels were set to restricted levels until after upgrades were to be completed in 2024?

I have worked back & forth with MDEQ employees for more than 10 years now as a volunteer watchdog over our freshwater resources.  I have worked with MDNR employees, and the MPSC to be able to provide the best oil well spill maps of any non-profit 501(c)3 website in Michigan.  I learned so much from exchanging emails with Larry Organek  to learn how Antrim gas wells are grouped into a production unit across multiple parcels & multiple gas wells.  Larry sends me details of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Units in Michigan too, very helpful and professional.  Susanne Biteman is a knowledgeable geologist who worked in the Kalkaska area when high volume hydraulic fracturing came to Michigan and she got an earful from all those anti-frack groups but she always stayed professional.  Susanne always returned my emails and helped explain things to me even though much of the geology is difficult to understand.  Rick Henderson always returned my emails and would explain oil well construction to me back when I didn’t know much about oil wells.  My point is the employees of the MDEQ/EGLE are outstanding people working hard to protect our environment.  I believe this through & through.  I believe more funding should be going toward engineers who assess the condition of our dams & geologists & hydrologists that protect our fresh water. I believe we should be making it easier for the safety of our water to be the loudest voice in the room with good science to back it up.  If you can’t afford the engineers to make good assessments, you should always error on the side of safety and be careful with every single dollar you have to work with.

Tweets like this one and others have been “liked” by Liesl Clark in past 24 hrs and still no official statement from the MDEQ/EGLE. For the top environmental officer of the State of Michigan to “like” this tweet right now demonstrates her mind is not on the tragedy that we think she should be focused on. (click image to enlarge)

Consternation is forming with the high leadership of the State’s natural resources not the rank & file engineers, scientists, biologists, geologists, hydrologists, and others who work at the MDEQ now called the EGLE.  Consternation is forming with the Attorney General who seems to be bullying the dam owner with a $5M lawsuit when the money is desperately needed for more engineers & remediation, not lawyers & court fees.  The director of the EGLE, Liesl Clark, has seemed to have a laissez-faire approach to the top environmental officer job in our state.  We know Liesl is on Twitter because she continues to like superficial tweets since the dam failure but has not been visible or vocal about what’s going on since this failure.

Workers in tough conditions across Michigan considered essential through COVID-19 are getting $12/hr and get two 20 minute breaks & one half hour lunch in a 10 hour shift, if they are on their phone checking social media, they get written up & possibly can get let go from their job.  The director of the MDEQ/EGLE, however, has time for Twitter during work hours & has not made any serious statements regarding this catastrophe since it occurred on her watch.

This tweet liked by Liesl Clark gives you your pandemic name.  This tweet was from just a couple days ago & liked by Liesl after the flood.  Still no official statement on one of the worst environmental catastrophes in Michigan history, however.  To like this superficial tweet at a time like this is shows mixed up priorities when serious hard work & investigation should be the #1 priority. (click image to enlarge)

Liesl Clark was appointed by  Governor Gretchen Whitmer.  The story taking shape to all this is the leadership of Whitmer, Nessel, and Clark are acting as if they’re absolved from culpability in the dam failure when their actions or lack of actions have certainly played a part in this tragedy.  Michigan leadership is not putting safety first or erring on the side of caution.  Michigan leadership does not seem to be working with dam owners but instead has become so adversarial that the State is suing the dam owner when money is desperately needed for safety related repairs.  Bullying the dam owner into being scared to lower the lake levels to safe levels, regardless of the dam owners shortcomings, was an important failure leading up to this tragedy.  Spending too much time being snarky & cheeky on Twitter when Michigan should be showing complete seriousness is a sad commentary.   Negligence by State leaders with the stewardship of our our most precious resource [our freshwater] is part of this story.  Michigan’s director of EGLE is tweeting jokes & nonsense after this crisis instead of knee deep in floodwater showing solidarity with people who’s lives have been irrevocably devastated on her watch from what appears to be a preventable disaster.  Liesl Clark has said nothing official on her Twitter in the six days since this catastrophe occurred.

I know our leaders can’t stop every problem & have to react to tough situations with lots of people coming at them.  But, it’s sad to see no seriousness or serious message from our Director of EGLE about this crisis that happened on her watch with her department in charge.  One would hope we could get some seriousness or show of kinship from the top position of the EGLE/MDEQ.

This Halle Barry tweet liked by Liesl Clark is just another example of where Liesl Clark’s focus is without giving any official statement on the dam failure crisis.  It’s disappointing we don’t have a serious response from the person we’re all looking toward for leadership in this terrible hour.  (click image to enlarge)

Please read the two documents that are linked in the introduction of this article and decide for yourself where the investigation should go.  RMP is not writing this post at the behest of any political lobbying group nor has RMP ever accepted money from any politically affiliated group.  RMP cares about the water first and foremost as motivation to write about & grieve about this terrible tragedy.  The water is the true victim. 

Lost in the near term chaos of this catastrophic environmental event is just how deep the damage goes beyond financial.   The dioxins at Dow Chemical downstream of Lake Wixom are a known issue by all Michiganders.   The sediment on the river banks of the Tittabawassee is polluted with dioxins & dioxin like compounds (TCDD, Furans, PCBs).  The containment ponds not 10 feet away from the contaminated river banks were breached in this colossal failure of the Edenville Dam.   The overflow of the Dow Chemical containment ponds has washed out to Lake Huron.  The damage is done.  Fish are dead and where we pull our drinking water just got nastier.

Whitmer’s & Clark’s decision to market the DEQ as the EGLE cost a lot of money.  It’s a microcosm of how the Whitmer administration has misappropriated focus & poorly allocated money meant for substantive environmental funding like fixing dams.  Whitmer substituted investments in dams and instead spent on marketing.  New EGLE letterhead, business cards, catalogs of digital logos needed to be created, graphic designers hired to make the logo, the logo had to be replaced in 1000s of URLs and standard forms throughout the entire department top to bottom.  Tens of millions of dollars of previously published materials with MDEQ letterhead & credits are now disconnected from the mothership MDEQ.

This is Whitmer’s & Clark’s decision to spend our tax dollars on marketing instead of substantive environmental protection or new energy solutions to create jobs.  A lot of fingers will be pointed in the coming weeks because this is big.  Lake Huron is now more polluted because of this and fingers will point.  There needs to be a serious investigation into the motivations behind setting “legal levels” to the four lakes as it regards safety.  The mussels story is not legitimate.  To even elude to climate change as the cause this dam failure is not legitimate.  Let’s point our fingers toward investigating whether safety trumped aesthetics.  Lake Huron has been sullied.  This disaster could have been avoided.  The EGLE should not be able to investigate itself on this one.  We need an independent investigation as the EGLE & Dana Nessel have culpability & a conflict of interest in investigating the Edenville Dam failure.

RMP’s Map of Hydrogen Stations in USA & Canada Upgraded

Since taking a new job in 2017 that didn’t work out super great which led to taking a new job again 2019, I haven’t had too much time to work on JavaScript & PHP & MySQL which is my favorite pass-time.  Finally in 2020, especially with the cancellation of sports for the kids, I have been knocking the rust off of my coding skills.  So much fun to finally start updating RMP’s maps again.

I will be doing more posts & videos on how to use RMP’s environmental maps.  RMP’s Hydrogen USA & Canada map and our Ann Arbor Dioxane Plume map will be the two “feature” maps as I rebuild the software throughout this year.  The concept is that many parts of the maps, using an MVC structure, form a standard mapping platform that allows me to exploit the heck out of the Google Maps API and do stuff you just can’t find in those cheesy newspaper maps which cost the papers a lot of money and still suck.  RMP will be able to show energy & contamination using a map platform that’s next level.

What’s New in RMP’s Hydrogen USA &Canada Map:

  • Canadian stations have been added to Vancouver.  There are two Shell stations that are public & a third station at Powertech Labs in Surrey.   I reached out to Powertech Labs and Giuseppe Stanciulescu, a project engineer in their business development department, responded that the station at Powertech Labs in Surrey is currently closed to the public for major upgrades which sounds positive for when it reopens.  Still working out a couple bugs on the coding to have the infowindows fire on these new locations, but I was excited so I moved them from my local computer the www.  Below are a couple pictures showing the West Coast Canadian stations. See image below.  Or check out RMP’s interactive Google Map by clicking here.

Continue reading “RMP’s Map of Hydrogen Stations in USA & Canada Upgraded”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2020-Q1

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report.  Each quarter we look back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements and we compare the current AFDC database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed.  The AFDC database is updated by the US Dept of Energy & can be found by clicking here.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand.  Ok, on with the report…

The opening quarter in 2020 has many important headlines but there are two major events for hydrogen infrastructure in North America that will be the focus of this article:  1) On March 5, 2020 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the Fuel Cell Energy & Toyota collaboration micro grid project that will use directed biogas from cow manure to produce 100% renewable #hydrogen for Class 8 trucks at the Port of Long Beach & the Port of Los Angeles. 2) On January 31, 2020 Air Products & the Orange County Transit Authority opened the largest fast fill hydrogen refueling station in America at OCTA’s Santa Ana Bus Base on the banks of the Santa Ana River in Southern Los Angeles.

The significance of the Project Portal approval is well conceptualized with a famous economic analogy.  One of my favorite authors, Reed Jacobson, once wrote something in a computer programming book that has stuck with me for over 20 years:  “Long before Henry Ford, and even before Marc Brunel, the economist Adam Smith reasoned that in a single day, a single worker could make only one straight pin, but ten people could subdivide the work and create 48,000 pins in the same day—an almost 5,000-fold increase in productivity.”   The concept Reed was teaching in that one sentence was the concept of writing a ‘loop’ in a computer language.  A loop is a chunk of computer code called a subroutine that specializes in one purpose & therefore can execute its special purpose very fast.  If you spend the time to get that loop set up correctly, its payback to you in terms of run-time execution & lines of code reduced, is 5,000-fold.  That powerful concept has helped improve productivity in our economy for hundreds of years in many different industries as well as helped me write more effective code for over twenty years now. Continue reading “USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2020-Q1”

USA’s First Hydrogen Passenger Rail – San Bernadino California

America’s first hydrogen fuel cell train is expected to be operational in San Bernadino California in 2024 and there’s a cool connection back to Michigan State University. Hydrogen fuel cell powered trains are already in public service in both Germany & China. Hydrogen fuel cell trains create their own electricity onboard by running hydrogen from a tank & oxygen from the ambient air through a fuel cell. That electricity powers a motor that runs the wheels & on-board “right-sized” battery pack that buffers electricity flow and the only emission is potable water. Hydrogen fuel cell trains are being hash tagged on Twitter as #Hydrail.

The San Bernadino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) has begun mainline construction on the Redlands Passenger Rail Project, which is bringing the next generation of passenger rail service to the East Valley. To celebrate this momentous occasion, SBCTA had a Groundbreaking Event on July 19,2019 near the corner of Third Street and Stuart Avenue in Redlands.

california hydrogen train
The Redlands Rail project in San Bernadino California is already under construction & will be operational by 2021. A hydrogen fuel cell powered train is on order from Stadler that should be operational on the new route by 2024. If you want to see a real world Google map of the rail route, click here. (click image to enlarge)

The Redlands Passenger Rail Project will add a nine-mile rail connection between the University of Redlands and the San Bernadino Transit Center, a multi-modal transit hub that can provide access to all points west. When completed, the project will house the Arrow commuter line, featuring specially designed zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell powered trains. The zero-emission units will be the first of their kind in North America. The Arrow system is expected to be operational in 2021 & up to date information about construction on the project & road crossing closures as the construction plays out can be Continue reading “USA’s First Hydrogen Passenger Rail – San Bernadino California”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2019-Q4

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report. Each quarter RMP looks back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements and we compare the current AFDC database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed. The AFDC database is updated by the US Dept of Energy & can be found by clicking here.   AFDC stands for Alternative Fuels Data Center and it’s where the US government keeps stats on all alternative fuels’ infrastructure.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand in RMP’s own data tables. Ok, on with the report…

At the end of 2019-Q3, the 41st HRS had just come online in Oakland California on 9/20/2019. This Shell station remains unique in California because of its 800kg capacity of liquid H2 and dual dispensers.   In 2019-Q4 we had two more public stations come online in California that were also in the San Francisco area: the San Francisco 3rd street station came online 11/6/2019 and the San Francisco Harrison Street station came online 12/2/2019.   This brings the total number of public stations open in California up to 43 to end the decade.  A second public H2 refueling station came online in Vancouver British Columbia as well.

As we end of one decade & the start another, it’s exciting to look forward to the 2020s with so much ground work laid in the Hydrogen Economy through the 2010s. RMP has been following hydrogen infrastructure very closely through the 2010s & will continue to do so into the 2020s. At this decade milestone after so many steps forward in the Hydrogen Economy, it would seem appropriate to name past decade the “Hydrogen Economy Demonstration” decade and the upcoming decade the “Hydrogen Economy Scaling” decade. Really what we’ve seen over the past 10 years is that hydrogen just works & has great economic benefits. As the Hydrogen Economy scales up, cost costs go down & good paying jobs for Americans proliferate. Continue reading “USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2019-Q4”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2019-Q3

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report. Each quarter RMP looks back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements and we compare the current AFDC database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed. The AFDC database is updated by the US Dept of Energy & can be found by clicking here.   AFDC stands for Alternative Fuels Data Center and it’s where the US government keeps stats on all alternative fuels’ infrastructure.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand in RMP’s own data tables. Ok, on with the report…

Hoda Talebian is one of three authors at Canada’s University of British Columbia in Vancouver that recently published a paper in Science Direct that lays out an optimization framework for regions with low hydrogen demand.  The paper explains how hydrogen can be cost competitive with gasoline on Canada’s west coast.  Omar E. Herrera & Walter Mérida are also named as authors of this new study.

The third quarter of 2019 has for the most part been a disappointment for advocates of zero emission hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure developments. It was only in the last couple weeks that we received some good news to end the quarter on a high note to carry some momentum into 2019-Q4. While in general there seems to be an abundance of positive momentum for hydrogen advancements in the headlines, the simple truth is there is one metric that matters more than any other: the number of refueling stations open & their uptime. This key infrastructure metric has been flatly disappointing throughout 2019-Q3. Hydrogen refueling station openings & planned capital expenditure announcements to create more infrastructure have seemed to stagnate over the last two quarters as well. Let’s get this quarter’s disappointing news out of the way and then circle back to the positive developments that happened in just the last couple weeks.

This is the second quarter in a row that there are no new records showing new planned stations in the AFDC database. The only activity on the station update list is that the US government has removed military stations from the database. No new stations on the list 🙁 . This is a key metric that we all have to be real about, it’s the A#1 bottleneck holding back faster uptake of hydrogen fuel cells.   Automotive manufacturers have the capability to begin ramping up mass manufacturing production lines to start building fuel cell vehicles faster, but will not do so until the fueling infrastructure warrants the effort.

Fig1 – H2-CA.com is using a cool feature from CAFCP.org to pull in the station statuses in real time to show whether they’re online & how much H2 they have to dispense.  In this photo, we see the hard hit West Bay area of San Francisco suffering  from the “Santa Clara” incident.

Further exacerbating the slow increase in the number of stations on the list over the past two quarters are the number of stations listed as open but the tanks are empty. For all practical purposes to drivers, these stations do not exist. The problem has been worst in the San Francisco Bay area as indicated in Fig1 which shows 6 of the 7 stations in the West Bay area are off-line and the 1 and only station operating has 45kg on hand as of 9/18/18 6:45PM. These refueling locations cannot stay filled and therefore cannot stay open because of delivery issues. If you’re reading this you probably already know hydrogen’s abundance in our universe is not the problem, hydrogen production & delivery logistics are creating this problem. The hydrogen logistics issues through Q3 stem from one event in Santa Clara that halted most shipments.

The explosion at the Air Products hydrogen production facility on June 2, 2019 has impacted delivery to all stations in Northern California. Hydrogen distribution constraints & production locations need to ramp up to provide the redundancy needed to give consumers the confidence they will need for adoption to continue to increase. The Air Liquide project to invest $150 million USD to build a hydrogen liquefaction plant announced in November of 2018 is something RMP mentioned in our 2018-Q4 report. The new Air Liquide facility should be capable of producing 30 tons of hydrogen per day and that’s enough for about 35,000 vehicles.

Hydrogen advocates should not despair RMP’s lamenting of Q3 glum news as there is hope & progress ahead of us. We must remember hydrogen fuel cell adoption is a lot like the bunny hop. We take three jumps forward then we take a jump back. Then another three steps forward and then one back again. Let’s look at the bright side here before we get into the numbers by looking at some of the following “good” bullet points of how we can expect to take another few “bunny hop” leaps forward soon.  Below are few bullet points of how things look brighter looking forward.

  • 15 of California’s “open” stations are either empty or off-line because of the “Santa Clara” set back. When Air Products’ Santa Clara facility comes back online and normal deliveries resume, drivers in the San Francisco bay area will feel like multiple stations came back online all at once. It will be a big relief to get distribution back to normal for stations that are ready to receive & dispense hydrogen to consumers. And, as facilities like the Air Liquide liquefaction plant come online, the redundancy of having more production locations will help make situations like the “Santa Clara” incident less likely to occur in the future.
  • 7 stations are currently commissioning to come online in California soon. With the other 15 that should come back when distribution issues are resolved, the “real feel” of stations coming online in California could be more like 22 new stations coming online all at once. This could make a lot of drivers very happy.
  • The 41st Hydrogen Refueling Station (HRS) that just opened in Oakland California on 9/20/2019 is a giant leap forward in HRS capability. This station will have a capacity of 800kg making it more than three times larger than any of the previously opened First Element HRS stations under their True Zero brand. The station will also offer two fueling points so two cars can refuel simultaneously. 800kg of H2 can provide over 26,500 kWh of energy to about 160 cars per day. When the fuel tank is empty, just refill and keep going (see John Hunt’s tweet below). The Oakland station shows that by using liquid hydrogen technology, new stations can scale reliably as the number of drivers increase. The first 40 stations were/are what I would call “demonstration stations”. This new Oakland station is much bigger and more a “normal commercial use” station.  Hydrogen refueling stations can also be a much bigger too if necessary, hydrogen can scale to support everyone cost effectively relative to other zero emission technologies like battery electric vehicles.

  • Momentum with companies announcing hydrogen product developments and investments into hydrogen companies is at a fever pitch. If you follow HyTwit (hydrogen twitter) there are more hydrogen advocate twitter accounts & news articles being shared than ever before. I saw a recent tweet storm for a 100 bus order in Zhejiang Province in China for example which is the biggest single bus order I have ever seen in following hydrogen headlines for over 5 years now. New bus orders, advanced VTOL aircraft, storage applications, & stationary applications for hydrogen fuel cells are popping almost every day. RMP has included some of the highlight stories from this past quarter below in the Important Headline Links section.

Let’s look at the data updates from 2019 Q3:

Ok, let’s get into the numbers (or lack thereof) from the AFDC database and then after that, RMP will go over numbers of FCEVs on the road using IHS Markit data in the final remarks section to close out this article.

New H2 Stations That Opened To The Public 2019 Q3:

By the nick of Q3’s chinny chin chin, 1 HRS station opened on 9/20/19 just before the quarter ended on 9/30/2019. While it was only one and at the last minute, the Oakland station just described in the bullet point above is not just any station. The new Oakland California station has an 800kg capacity.  Liquid hydrogen stations like the new Oakland California station demonstrate how hydrogen scales to meet the needs of energy hungry consumers with the ability to refuel 160 cars per day from two pumps.

H2 Stations Removed from the AFDC Database 2019 Q3:

All of the US Military stations were removed from the AFDC database over the last quarter. RMP has doubts that these stations were closed per se but probably removed from the data set for other reasons. Luckily RMP has the locations of the military stations from previous downloads so RMP will keep them on RMP’s map of all hydrogen stations in the USA until it can be determined what their true status is. We know General Motors & Honda will begin mass manufacturing of gen2 fuel cell stacks in Brownstown Michigan next year. General Motors #1 customer for advanced hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems is the US Military. The US Military is focused on using JP8 to make hydrogen for their vehicles & reclaiming the water produced from the fuel cell for soldiers to drink.

H2 Stations Added to the AFDC Database 2019 Q3:

Unfortunately, there were zero new records for HRS added to the AFDC database in 2019-Q3. As stated in the opening remarks of this article, this is the most important statistic in hydrogen FCEV adoption. There is no more meaningful metric at this point than the number of stations on the list and open. The main point of this quarterly publication is to watch this important metric. It really is this simple: build the stations & the cars will sell. For point of reference, the Oakland station that just opened has been on the AFDC database for well over a year. It was on 12/31/2018 that RMP announced the Oakland station moved from a status of Planned to Under Construction. It’s important to see new records on the database for hydrogen stations as it takes time to get permitted, planned, built, commissioned, and then finally opened. We hope to see some new records on the database soon to keep the momentum going. One station RMP is very hopeful to see is the forthcoming Fuel Cell Energy & Toyota collaboration station at the Port of Los Angeles. The Port of Los Angeles station for Class 8 vehicles will be the most game changing refueling station in the world. Looking forward to reporting that station in this section soon.

Important Headlines Links from 2019 Q3:

July 30, 2019

Nel awarded $2M for heavy duty fueling compression tech from DOE. Nel shares award with Nikola. Link below is to Nel’s press release. Other link is listing of awards from DOE. Shows Nel at $2M and Nikola at $1.7M

https://news.cision.com/nel-asa/r/press-release–nel-proposed-for-a—2-million-award-on-project-regarding-fueling-of-heavy-duty-hydro,c2871480

https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2019/07/f65/FY19%20MD-HD%20Truck%20selections%20table_0.pdf


BIG NEWS w/ MICHIGAN TIES:
8/6/2019
GM Spring Hill Tennessee Plant converts to H2 fuel cells for material handling equipment.  GM is poised to enter the public fuel cell segment soon.

https://www.columbiadailyherald.com/news/20190806/spring-hill-pioneers-hydrogen-fuel-cell-technology-for-gm

Cool pictures in this article too.


8/9/2019
Ward’s writing about FCEVs.  Ward’s is a top notch site so when they write about hydrogen, we take notice.
https://www.wardsauto.com/10-best-engines/california-s-40-hydrogen-stations-push-toward-fuel-cell-viability


8/14/2019
ZeroAvia #h2 airplane 500 mile range.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90388931/this-plane-can-fly-500-miles-powered-entirely-by-hydrogen

https://www.zeroavia.com/


8/20/19
Hydrogen from Canadian bitumen by pumping oxygen into the oil reservoir:
https://phys.org/news/2019-08-scientists-hydrogen-gas-oil-bitumen.html


9/12/19

University of British Columbia in Vancouver Canada released a study explaining how Vancouver can launch hydrogen refueling infrastructure with a similar cost profile to the gasoline infrastructure currently in place.  Vancouver plans to launch six stations soon to cover the city and soon drivers could be able to drive from San Diego in the south all the way up the west coast to Vancouver in the north. Hoda Talebian, one of the authors of the study, is pictured above.

https://fuelcellsworks.com/news/canada-ubc-researchers-design-roadmap-for-hydrogen-supply-network-across-b-c/

Based off of this study
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360319919328617


9/18/2019
This is an article about Asia but I want to make the comparison that Asia is ten years ahead of the west. Good “explainer” article about hydrogen.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-hydrogen-explainer/explainer-why-asias-biggest-economies-are-backing-hydrogen-fuel-cell-cars-idUSKBN1W22VQ


9/18/19
Matthew Klippenstein (friend of RMP) said that BC government had published a paper (group of papers) on the hydrogen economy in BC. Very good stuff.

Listing of documents: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/organizational-structure/ministries-organizations/ministries/energy-mines-and-petroleum-resources/ministry-reports

Executive summary: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/zen-bcbn-hydrogen-study-final-v5_executivesummary.pdf


9/20/19
41st Station opens in San Francisco & it is a bad ass 800kg liquid h2 station that can service two vehicles simultaneously. Huge news for San Francisco zero emission drivers.
https://cafcp.org/blog/oakland-hydrogen-station-opens


Final Remarks for 2019 Q3

The story for infrastructure in 2019 Q3 has been told. To recap, it was very slow & frustrating for pioneer drivers demonstrating hydrogen fuel cell technology because of gas shortages caused by the “Santa Clara” incident. But, while the pendulum has swung to one direction for now, it should swing back with a strong momentum in the other direction soon for California drivers. There should be 15 HRS stations coming back online that are currently having distribution/delivery issues, 7 stations currently commissioning at the time of this article’s publication, and 1 new station in Oakland California that 3x larger than any previous First Element station. When regular distribution resumes from the Santa Clara production facility, it should feel like 23 stations opening over a short period of time to give drivers more coverage. There are  also an additional 15 California HRS stations in early to late stages of development in California. This strong momentum as we gear toward 2020 should restore comfort to drivers that their fuel cell vehicle is like any gasoline vehicle in terms of easy use. It will also allow manufacturers to sell more vehicles as infrastructure continues to grow. And what about those drivers? Where are they? How many of them are there?

RMP’s report focuses on hydrogen infrastructure because it’s very important, but that doesn’t mean RMP doesn’t love cars & driving. Let’s break from talking about infrastructure and talk car data to end this article. RMP has been lucky enough to get current IHS Markit data for fuel cell drivers in the USA & Canada. IHS Markit publishes vehicle registration data & offers an advanced data query service to find exactly what vehicle registration data you’re looking for. As you can imagine, it takes time to compile such a large data set so the data lags behind the current date. The two most recent quarters’ data in the database are March 31, 2019 & June 30, 2019. Did you know there are over 283 million registered vehicles in the USA and nearly 29 million registered vehicles in Canada of June 30, 2019?

There are 6,557 fuel cell vehicles registered in the USA and probably a couple in Canada but the database shows no reporting for Canada as of now. Of those, 6,557 fuel cell vehicles in the USA, 6,479 (or 98.8%) are registered in California with Texas in 2nd place with 30 fuel cell vehicles. Michigan falls to 5th place with the number of fuel cell passenger vehicles falling from 10 to 5. Fig2 belows shows the number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by state across the USA.  The table below shows FCEV registrations by state in the USA & their increase or decrease from Q1 to Q2.

Fig2 – Listing of most current FCEVs registered by state ranked highest to lowest.  This table shows two most recent quarters and the increase/decrease from Q1 to Q2.  This data lags one quarter behind the current quarter. California has 98.8% of all registered FCEVs. This data comes from IHS Markit, the authority on vehicle registration data. Calculations by RMP.

Of the 6,479 fuel cell vehicles in California, most are in Los Angeles county which is poetic in a way. When it comes to air quality, Los Angeles has always been known for its famous smog, seen by the world in movies in surreal Hollywood sunsets since the dawn of the combustion engine. Just like an Aesop Fable, the people of Los Angeles were tired of being the butt of smog air quality jokes and started a ball in motion that will show the world how to purify earth’s air & water. It will be nice to look back on Los Angeles county as the global birthplace of hydrogen fuel cell mobility technology and have to explain to our grandchildren what smog used to be. The forthcoming station at the Port of Los Angeles will be a beacon for the rest of the world to see producing 1.2 metric tons of negative emission renewable hydrogen per day for Class 8 big rigs. In 3rd place on the California by county list you see Santa Clara county. The drivers in Santa Clara county and all around the Bay Area are feeling the pinch of the summer of 2019 but will hopefully be back to normal before too long. Not shown on the list below are 18 other counties in The Golden State with Santa Barbara county just missing the cut with 36 registered FCEVs. See Fig3 below for the number of FCEVs by county in California.

Fig3 – Listing of number of FCEVs registered in California by county. Table lists two most recent quarters of data (Q1-19 vs Q2-19) and calculates increase & decrease. Data source IHS Markit, calculations by RMP.

That’s it for 2019-Q3. We are looking forward to putting 2019-Q3 in the rearview mirror as we enter the final quarter before 2020. The year 2020 holds great significance for hydrogen fuel cell technology as RMP has been writing about the Summer Olympics in Tokyo as the premier of hydrogen fuel cell technology to the general public for over five years. Japan has been working to promote the Hydrogen Economy in Tokyo since the city was awarded the Olympics on September 7, 2013. The 2020 Summer Games will be the culmination of 6.5 years of hard work to showcase to the world what hydrogen fuel cell technology is all about.  2020 will be the first year the general public sees & gets introduced to how hydrogen fuel cells work.

Thanks for reading our quarterly report. Hope to see you back here at year end.

USA & CANADA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2019-Q2

hydrogen infrastructure report

Each quarter RMP looks back on the stories & data related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements in the USA & Canada.  The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) database hosted by the US Dept of Energy is RMP’s source for quarter over quarter comparisons and can be found by clicking here.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand in RMP’s own data tables.  Read the 2019 Q2 update… Continue reading “USA & CANADA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2019-Q2”