RMP is 501(c)3 non-profit organization registered in Michigan. We are committed to protecting fresh water resources by advocating for: sustainable energy production, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, remediating environmental pollution & rethinking waste management.
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 added a new data repository for hydrogen stations in Q2-2020. 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. All this data (and more) goes into RMP’s interactive map of hydrogen infrastructure in the USA & Canada you can see by clicking here. Ok, on with the report…
Could the future of renewable energy lie in a basic household chemical under your kitchen sink?Ammonia might power your household cleaning and fertilize your plants, but it could become an important zero emission energy carrier for moving clean energy around the world economically. Oil & gas, which make up most of our current energy supply, can easily be shipped & stored, but renewable energy that travels through the power grid as electricity cannot.This prevents renewables from becoming a bigger player in the world market of produced & distributed energy.It’s also why researchers are working to streamline current processes to convert solar & wind energy into liquid ammonia which would allow it to be shipped around the world & stored as easily as petroleum products for those hot evenings & cloudy days when the wind isn’t blowing & the sun isn’t shining.
We need to master our ability to create cheap green hydrogen for essential ammonia production even if we leave the BEV-vs-FCEV passenger car debate completely out of the picture. The conventional manufacture of ammonia (NH3) is a dirty process.But without ammonia, we would not be able to produce food for nearly 60% of the world’s population1.Ammonia is made from nitrogen & hydrogen. Nitrogen molecules are separated from the air we breathe and hydrogen is generally derived from either natural gas or coal in a process which creates greenhouse gasses or about 1.8% of CO2 emissions worldwide2.Once you have the nitrogen & hydrogen segregated, the Haber-Bosch process is employed to make ammonia.
Projects are underway around the world that will change how ammonia is manufactured by using renewable solar & wind energy to create the hydrogen from water instead of steam reformed natural gas.The implications of making “green ammonia” are bigger than just fertilizer too. Liquid ammonia is also an energy carrier with a higher energy density (11.5 MJ/liter) than liquid hydrogen (8.5 MJ/liter)3. Ammonia is easier and much cheaper to store & transport than liquid hydrogen because infrastructure & equipment can be used that already exists (e.g. propane infrastructure).While there are many places around the world working on green ammonia pilot plants (Oxford, United Kingdom – Fukashima, Japan – Iberdola, Spain – & more) RMP thinks Australia is the world leader in the large scale pilot manufacture of green ammonia.Australia has abundant renewable energy resources & potential resources available to boost their economy through the manufacture of green ammonia.
Practical Manufacturing of Green Ammonia & Its Energy Storage Potential
There are a number of reasons why Australia is the primary focus of RMP’s first report on green ammonia.Australia is in the spotlight because of its massive resources and investment in renewable solar & wind energy.Australia currently has 95 large renewable energy infrastructure projects that are in construction (or due to start construction soon).These projects will deliver over $19 billion in capital costs, 11,007 MW of new renewable energy capacity and create 13,567 direct jobs4.Each year terawatt hours of electricity are curtailed5 or go to waste because the electricity cannot be used at the time of generation.It’s a problem that has and will continue get worse as more renewable electricity generation capacity comes online.
Battery storage solutions that only last for 24 hours or as peakers are great and serve very important purposes. Battery storage projects also have great payback as short term energy solutions. However, short burst solutions are part of the problem with massive demand for energy as they only satisfy a fraction of what is needed for base-load power over extended durations. We need solutions like ammonia that will have costs scale down as usage scales up because of solar, wind, & hydrogen abundance. Short term battery solutions become too expensive as they scale larger than the peaker size. Batteries also are not the right solution if we need energy for days, weeks, months, and seasons.It is one of the toughest problems to solve with renewable energy that has its highest output during hours when humans don’t need electricity and vice versa.We need a way to store massive amounts of wasted electrical energy so we can have it back when we need it.As more and more renewable energy comes online, cumulative curtailed electricity numbers will continue to climb without the means to store excess generation.
When in liquid form at ambient temperature, ammonia has an energy density of about 3 kWh/liter and if chilled to negative 35 celsius, ammonia’s energy density approaches 4 kWh/liter6.Australia can use their vast renewable resources to achieve economical manufacture, production, and storage of green ammonia by simply buying electrolyzers that turn water into H2 & O2. Australia can be on their way to making more green ammonia with proven technology that is easy to deploy.While ammonia is an absolute societal necessity for agricultural fertilizer in an established world market, it also has even bigger economic potential as a carrier of energy. Energy is a new market for ammonia that will displace oil & gas market share.
The Yara Pilbara Renewable Ammonia Feasibility Study is for a demonstration-scale renewable hydrogen and renewable ammonia production and export facility on the Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia.Yara’s Burrup Peninsula facility currently produces ammonia by using natural gas as a feedstock for its steam methane reforming process, which produces fossil-fuel based hydrogen. The hydrogen is then used to feed an ammonia synthesis process to produce ammonia. Yara is investigating producing renewable hydrogen to feed its ammonia production process, which will reduce emissions produced by the facility.
In collaboration with global energy company ENGIE, the Yara Pilbara Renewable Ammonia Feasibility Study will investigate the feasibility of producing renewable hydrogen via electrolysis powered by onsite solar PV. Yara’s objective is that for the demonstration plant, up to three per cent of the hydrogen consumed on site will be renewable hydrogen. The blended hydrogen will subsequently be converted to ammonia and sold for further processing into domestic and international markets. The feasibility study will also investigate using seawater for the electrolyzer.
The feasibility study will help manufacture 30,000 tons of green ammonia that Yara currently would make using fossil fuels. The study will be the first step on the path to achieving commercial scale production of renewable hydrogen and ammonia for export7. In the long term, Yara is aiming to produce hydrogen and ammonia entirely through renewable energy. This approach will allow Yara to avoid any major augmentation to the existing plant and therefore minimise the cost and time needed to produce renewable ammonia.
This project has the potential to ‘unlock’ the value of vast areas of vacant Pilbara land by supporting the development of a new industry that captures solar energy for conversion to hydrogen and other valuable products.Because project’s like Yara Pilbara are likely to surpass feasibility expectations similar to most renewable hydrogen projects, its $3.76m price tag is being funded in part by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) with a $995k investment.The Australian government recognizes how making green ammonia for export can literally transform the continent into an economic powerhouse as renewable generation scales up.
Australia’s government and scientific community want to make green ammonia a significant part of their future economic plans.Australia has renewable resource potential to produce so much more energy than Australians alone can consume which means ammonia has huge export potential which can quickly increase sovereign wealth.A challenge associated with using ammonia as a zero carbon energy carrier is “cracking” the ammonia back into its constituent elements nitrogen & hydrogen.In order to make green ammonia more attractive as an export product, the Aussie’s are attacking this challenge with their top scientific researchers.Enter Australia’s CSIRO.
Cracking Green Ammonia
CSIRO is Australia’s national science research agency.The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), says their mission is to shape the future. CSIRO says it does this by using science to solve real issues to unlock a better future for Australia’s community, economy, & planet.You may remember it was about two years ago to the month (8/08/2018) that CSIRO published a blog post about the successful refueling of a Toyota Mirai & Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel vehicle with ultra pure hydrogen “cracked” from ammonia using a brand new membrane technology created by CSIRO scientists.The news humbly/quietly signaled a paradigm change in zero carbon energy for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like busses, trucks, trains, airplanes, and passenger vehicles.Ifyou have abundant renewable energy to produce green ammonia and a method to crack that ammonia back into hydrogen on demand, you literally have a game changer for green energy.
CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall was one of the first to ride in the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo vehicles powered by ultra-high purity hydrogen, produced in Queensland using CSIRO’s membrane technology.The membrane separates ultra-high purity hydrogen from ammonia, while blocking all other gases.It links hydrogen production, distribution and delivery in the form of a modular unit that can be used at, or near, a refueling station.This means that the transportation and storage of hydrogen – currently a complex and relatively expensive process – is simplified, allowing bulk hydrogen to be transported economically and efficiently in the form of liquid ammonia.
“This is a watershed moment for energy, and we look forward to applying CSIRO innovation to enable this exciting renewably-sourced fuel and energy storage medium a smoother path to market,” Dr Marshall said.BOC Sales and Marketing Director Bruce Currie congratulated CSIRO on the successful refueling of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, which proved the effectiveness of CSIRO’s membrane technology from generation, right through to point of use.With this successful demonstration under CSIRO’s belt, the technology will be increased in scale and deployed in several larger-scale demonstrations, in Australia and abroad.CSIRO’s membrane technology will make green ammonia more attractive to foreign consumers who want to import the zero carbon energy carrier into their smog & CO2 belching countries.This is particularly relevant for enormous nearby markets like China, Japan, and South Korea who have committed to hydrogen economies to decarbonize and de-smog their cities.
Worldwide Green Ammonia Distribution Logistics
Green ammonia will be competing with many other forms of energy that are fighting for investment dollars. Ammonia has a couple tricks up its sleeves with regard to affordability & return on investment.One of the key fuels that ammonia will compete with out on the open oceans is Liquified Natural Gas which has a very high volumetric energy content at 6 kWh/liter compared to ammonia’s 3 kWh/liter at ambient temperature or almost 4 kWh/liter if chilled to -35C.RMP created our map of all LNG facilities in the world when Cheniere was granted the USA’s first permit to export LNG in 2011.Green ammonia will have to compete with LNG that has grown significantly since RMP first wrote about Cheniere in August of 2015 just over five years ago.America now has 5 LNG liquefaction facilities permitted for export & built since 2015.These are huge investment decisions on plants that take years to build.Even the F.I.D’s on a new LNG plant can take years because of the risk of investing so much money over such a long horizon.
While LNG liquefaction has received significant investment in the past five years on assets that are expected to deliver for 25 plus year useful lives, LNG is at a severe disadvantage to ammonia for both maritime use & for maritime bunkering.While ammonia has big advantage over all other 100% green energy carriers with energy density, its real secret weapon against grey and potentially “blue” fuels, like LNG, is its ability to use existing infrastructure like that used for LPGs (e.g. propane). Financial investments with the strongest bang for their buck always win. Green ammonia will be a fierce competitor with regard to economic return on investment.
Because ammonia can be liquified at 7.5 bar at ambient temperatures similar to propane & butane, it has a huge advantage over LNG and should really hurt LNG investments as shipbuilders want 100% zero emission vessels.Ammonia easily fits this role of clean energy ambassador to enormous cargo ships with much cheaper bunkering costs. Ammonia bunkering costs will be orders of magnitude cheaper than LNG because of the liquefaction trains & cryogenic storage required for LNG.There is great irony here in that for 10 years we have heard that hydrogen suffers from a “chicken or egg” problem but the truth is the chicken or egg problem befalls LNG to a much more significant degree than ammonia which means hydrogen’s chicken or egg problem also could rapidly become yesterday’s story.
For LNG, the dilemma has been that shipowners have been reluctant to make the switch to LNG as bunker fuel in the absence of ports around the world able to supply it. Yet, the development of the required infrastructure is dependent on such demand. As ammonia is already produced and transported in large quantities around the world by ship, bunker supplies could be readily accommodated, though of course it will have to be expanded once the first ammonia powered vessels are realized, says Niels de Vries, a Naval Architect with C-Job Naval Architects in the Netherlands.
“Nowadays the main consumer of ammonia is the fertilizer industry,” he says. “This industry is supplied by ships which carry ammonia in bulk loads of up to 60,000 dwt. The industry’s existing infrastructure could be used to realize bunker locations for ships in the future, and current production offers the possibility of a smooth transition. There are ports available already that could supply the first ships.”
Shipbuilders are/were already ready to make an economic case for using ammonia as low emission fuel by combusting it and scrubbing NOx.But, with ammonia cracking technology like that mentioned by CSIRO that can turn ammonia to hydrogen on demand, you don’t need to combust it because you can use it in a fuel cell which has more than 2x the efficiency of a combustion engine with zero harmful emissions.All of the sudden, the economics you could use to justify ammonia as fuel have just gotten twice as good & your emissions drop to zero.It really bodes well for ammonia as a green energy carrier.Speaking of CSIRO’s technology to crack ammonia into N2 & H2, phys.org just published a recent article August 19, 2020 regarding a new low-cost membrane technology developed by the Korea Institute of Science & Technology (KIST) to decompose ammonia into high purity hydrogen & nitrogen.More evidence top research authorities like CSIRO & KIST are demonstrating scientists around the world are working fast to unlock the potential of green ammonia.You can bet there are some labs in the USA & UK that will be touting some similar breakthroughs soon.
Recent advances in renewable energy technology have set up the new 2020 decade for continued scaling in the manufacture of zero emission ammonia for sustainable energy.Because hydrogen is inexhaustible, abundant, and in every local community, it could mean economies of scale could make hydrogen very cheap as old petroleum infrastructure could be retrofitted for ammonia storage & distribution.Ammonia is already transported by ocean freight by big ships like Vigor’s 508 foot hull Harvest recently built supporting millions of labor hours in America’s pacific northwest Portland area8.The Harvest was built by American workers using over 9,000 tons of American steel & 4,400 tons of equipment.The Harvest has four cargo tanks, each capable of holding 5,500 tons of liquid anhydrous ammonia at very low pressure.This was the first ammonia vessel built in America since 1982! Think about all the jobs & labor hours America could generate to make even more ships like this that transport ammonia safely across our oceans.Speaking of safety, we need to talk about safety & toxicity in more detail.
Ammonia’s risk profile is similar in magnitude to methane or methanol. For ammonia, the main risks are related to health, as ammonia is toxic. Ammonia’s fire risk profile on the other hand is lower. Ammonia can be stored as a liquid either at -34 degrees Celsius at atmospheric pressure (usually applied for large scale applications) or at room temperature at 10 bar (usually applied for small scale applications).RMP’s stated mission as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization is to protect our fresh water resources. Toxic & water are two words that need to always be separate to protect drinking water.How does RMP recommend a toxic substance, ammonia, and reconcile that position with our mission statement of protecting Michigan’s and the world’s fresh water resources?
Reconciling ammonia’s toxicity with RMP’s mission of protecting freshwater
Ammonia is a product necessary for humans to survive.Ammonia is a naturally occurring compound being created in your body’s cells right now as you read this sentence.Ammonia will continue to be manufactured, stored, and transported in the future the same way it is now and has been used in industry for over 100 years.Like all energy carriers & fuels, ammonia is dangerous and must be handled with appropriate safeguards.RMP was founded on protecting fresh water and eliminating the use of fossil fuels.RMP specifically wants to eliminate crude oil from our energy mix first as it causes great harm to our fresh water resources.Crude oil, gasoline, diesel, and other fuel oils contaminate water wherever they are produced, stored, & distributed.Crude oil has environmental remediation costs that drain public budgets & and ruin our environment irreversibly no matter how much we spend to try to clean it up. Famous spills like the Exxon Valdez that happened in April of 1989 are still costing money to clean up today9.That’s just one example of literally thousands of major instances.Right here in our backyards of Michigan, we remember the Enbridge Line 6B pipeline disaster just over ten years ago that RMP wrote about on its 5 year anniversary. Ammonia is different in relation to environmental disasters; it’s not like fossil fuels.While ammonia can cause fish kills on release and can be deadly, its toxicity to the environment is temporary.
As soon as ammonia is released into the environment, it begins neutralizing.Spilled ammonia, while toxic, will quickly dissipate reacting with moisture to form ammonium. Ammonium then quickly binds to negatively charged soil, organic matter, and clays. Ammonium rarely accumulates in soil because bacteria will rapidly convert the ammonium that is not taken up by plant roots into nitrates (nitrification)9.Yes ammonia is toxic & can cause accidents that could turn deadly if they’re not handled safely; this is the same with all fuels.The difference with ammonia is that spill or release events will always be isolated and short term clean ups.When I think of a serious ammonia accident, I’m reminded of when I was young and I would share my scientific theories with my dad.My dad would remind me of La Chatlier’s principle of chemical equilibrium.Ammonia is a good example of something toxic that quickly finds an equilibrium with the environment to form something non-toxic.I’m glad my dad taught me about La Chatlier’s principle because there is going to be FUD surrounding ammonia just like any other fuel we use.RMP knows, no matter what form of energy we use, there will be people who oppose it [viciously].
RMP supports green ammonia as part of the solution of clean renewable energy that is safe for the environment.While dangers exist with ammonia like any other high energy density medium, imagine the flip side: without ammonia nearly 60% of the world’s population would perish from starvation. The possibility of an accident is the risk to pay to avoid certain calamity if there was no ammonia. When the ammonia FUD comes and people say the sky is falling, remember this paragraph. Ammonia has been in use around the world for a century. No one has any reason to panic, but ammonia certainly needs to be handled safely similar to any other fuel we use today.
Ammonia is found throughout the environment in air, water, soil, animals, and plants.
Ammonia does not last very long in the environment. It is rapidly taken up by plants, bacteria, and animals.
Ammonia does not build up in the food chain, but serves as a nutrient for plants and bacteria.
Again, the points listed above are not to diminish the serious toxic & safety hazards associated with ammonia and the importance of following strict safety protocols to prevent injury, death, or fish kills in an accidental release. Ammonia, like all other forms of substantial energy carriers comes with strict safety protocols for manufacture, handling, storage, and distribution.
RMP hopes to have made clear in this article why theleaders and the scientific community in Australia are all in on green hydrogen & piloting green ammonia plants & commercializing technology to crack ammonia into N2 & H2. In less than one week, on August 27 & 28, 2020, the Australian Chapter of the Ammonia Energy Association will host their 2ND Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0 Conference (virtual this year due to COVID-19).The conference will be hosted from Monash University based in Melbourne Australia on the south coast.
China, Korea, & Japan are all in on green hydrogen and will leverage Australia as a regional trading partner.Australia can provide clean hydrogen energy in a format with a similar economics & logistics to petroleum without the nasty BTEX environmental traits that are silent killers of sovereign wealth. Europe is also expected to be a dominant green ammonia producer according to this article.
Currently, China must invest in all sorts of remote places places in Brazil, Africa, Canada, the USA, and the Middle east to get the coal, crude oil, natural gas, & NGLsit so desperately needs to provide energy & industrial feedstocks for its over 1.3 billion power hungry consumers.What if China could do away with crude oil boondoggles & all those far away countries and get clean green energy from domestic production supplemented by a nearby trading partner like Australia?This is why RMP writes about China’s extensive economic investments into the manufacture of green hydrogen & fuel cells all across China.The exact same goes for Japan & Korea.For those who find interest in the study of chemistry & economics, it’s not difficult to see why so many people around the world are investing sovereign wealth into green ammonia and the hydrogen economy.Green ammonia is a stepping stone on the critical path to a decarbonized society.
There are different battery chemistries (NiCd, NiMH, Lead Acid, Li-ion, low cobalt li-ion, lithium polymer) that compete with each other for practical real world applications.There are many different types of fuel cells (PEM, SOFC, PAFC, Alkaline) that also compete with each other for practical applications.All will have roles to play with some more dominant than others just like a sports team made up of great athletes.Similar to the way an artist needs all of the colors in the spectrum on their palette to paint a masterpiece, getting to 100% carbon free energy will need every battery chemistry & fuel cell type to compete with each other on the same canvass of human needs.Because different types of energy are competitors, it does not mean they must be enemies.This is true for humans too.
A lot of human energy goes into arguing about batteries vs hydrogen but clenched fists cannot reach for olive branches.All the battery chemistries & types of fuel cells can compete & coexist in an inclusive arena that understands we will need batteries for some green energy storage & hydrogen for other green stuff. For example, we will need green hydrogen to make green ammonia because ammonia is essential for life.And, as long as we invest in green ammonia to make it cheap & abundant, we should also use it as an energy storage medium with a high energy density that replaces the oil & natural gas we use now.Imagine blue skies & pure drinking water for everyone around the world.Think about so many people here in America and those around the world who should not have to breathe NOx & SOx pollution because they live near a power plant.We have hundreds if not thousands of people now living next to SOx & NOx fumes right here in Detroit near Zug Island & DTE’s River Rouge plant.I know Detroit needs big energy to forge metal & make the cars and trucks that keep America moving, but yuck.Just yuck.We gotta just stop with dirty energy.Ammonia can provide the energy needed to make clean steel in a very cost effective manner here in Detroit, the same way as it can in Australia or Asia.
RMP is a Michigan registered & federal 501(c)3 non-profit organization.RMP writes about and advocates for clean energy that helps protect our freshwater resources here in Michigan and around the world. RMP also makes maps of clean & dirty energy infrastructure using the Google Maps API.Follow us on Twitter and like us onFacebook. Please click here to make a tax deductible donation to RMP to help us keep publishing free content with no ads & energy infrastructure maps.
The featured infographic image for this post comes from the Iberdola Spain green ammonia pilot plant. The Iberdola green ammonia plant will be a $177M investment, create 700 jobs, and eliminate 40,000 tons of CO2 each year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hydrogen Headline Highlights 2020 Q2
March 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.
To add some context: Sometime in July, maybe August at the latest, we expect to see an announcement from the CA Energy Commission of funding for 40-50 additional hydrogen stations, pushing California past the 100 station milestone. #driveH2https://t.co/1ssyTiwvvW
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.
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?
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.
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…
All Superchargers are being converted to solar/battery power. Over time, almost all will disconnect from the electricity grid.
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 13vs 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.
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 acapacity 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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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”
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”
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…
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”