By John Addison (5/11/11)
Shell Opens Third Hydrogen Station in Southern California
Shell announced the opening of a new demonstration hydrogen station in Torrance, California, the first in the US to have hydrogen delivered to the site directly from an existing underground pipeline. Excess hydrogen is typically available on the hydrogen pipelines used by oil refiners. Hydrogen is used to provide cleaner gasoline and diesel. Although hydrogen is most often reformed from natural gas, it is also available from the electrolysis of water wastewater treatment byproduct, and chemical plant byproduct.
Southern California has been the center for test deployment of hydrogen fuel cell cars. The West Coast has been the area of greatest use of hydrogen fuel cell buses, including the 20 hydrogen buses in Whistler, Canada that transported about 100,000 visitors during the last Winter Olympics.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars provide a way to give an electric car a range of up to 400 miles with hydrogen PEM fuel cells that supply added electricity to an electric drive system. GM successfully piloted 100 Equinox fuel cell vehicles during its Project Driveway. Toyota is planning to test 100 new fuel cell SUVs as it prepares for 2015 commercialization. Toyota FCHV Test Drive. 200 of the new Mercedes-Benz B-Call F-CELL are being put into use. Several automakers are targeting 2015 for the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles.
50,000 Commercial Hydrogen Cars by 2017 from Toyota, Honda, GM, Mercedes
Between 2008 and 2010, the fuel cell industry experienced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27% according to the new Fuel Cells Annual Report 2011 from Pike Research. The California Fuel Cell Partnership forecasts over 50,000 hydrogen vehicles on California roads by 2017.
“Shell is pleased to be an active participant in the development of hydrogen-fuelled transportation, one of a small number of options to reduce road transport emissions in the longer-term,” said Julian Evison, General Manager of Operations for Shell Alternative Energies. “Demonstration hydrogen filling stations allow us to evaluate a range of different technologies and learn valuable lessons about costs, consumer behavior, how to safely store hydrogen at different pressures and how to dispense it efficiently to different vehicles.’’
Initially, Shell expects 10 to 12 drivers to fill their tanks each day at the Torrance station’s two pumps, which provide hydrogen at both 350 bar (5,000 psi) and 700 bar (10,000 psi) pressure. Current fueling capacity is 48 kg. of hydrogen per day, equivalent to dispensing 48 gallons of gasoline. To exceed 200 mile range, most new fuel cell cars require 10,000 psi. Honda is the sole achiever of long-range at 5,000 psi with the Honda FCX Clarity. Only a handful of California stations support the high pressure fueling.
The close proximity of the hydrogen pipeline to TMS campus led Toyota to think beyond vehicles to consider additional ways to use hydrogen. In 2010, Toyota partnered with Ballard Power Systems to install a one-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell generator to offset peak electricity demand on campus. The fuel cell generator will be fed directly from the hydrogen pipeline through an existing tap on the TMS property. Pipeline hydrogen used on campus will be offset with the purchase of landfill generated renewable bio-gas.
The stand-alone station in Torrance offers only hydrogen and will be open 24 hours a day. Local fuel cell vehicle drivers will be trained to use the dispensers using personal access codes. The station is located on land provided by Toyota at the perimeter of its US headquarters.
Shell Delivers Hydrogen 24×7
“Vehicle demonstration programs and demonstration stations like the Torrance station are a critical next step in preparing the market for advanced technology vehicles,” said Chris Hostetter, Toyota GVP of Product and Strategic Planning. This is the third demonstration station Shell has developed in the region. Shell opened the first integrated gasoline/hydrogen station in California in 2008 (in West L.A.) and a smaller sister station in Culver City in 2009. Shell is planning on building a hydrogen refueling site at one of its gas stations in Newport Beach later this year.
The station has been anticipated for years due to the potential of pipelined hydrogen to be less expensive than gasoline. It is now open after years of delay thanks to support from Toyota and Shell, who were not initial project partners. The much touted California Hydrogen Highway was never funded.
In addition to Shell Hydrogen and Toyota, project partners for the Torrance hydrogen demo station include Air Products, the US Department of Energy and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The California Hydrogen Highway Network now extends from Chula Vista, near the Mexican border, to Arcata, near the Oregon border. You are invited to a virtual tour of 800 miles as we visit some of the more interesting stations.
The City of Chula Vista pioneered its hydrogen station almost four years ago. Currently it has one shared fleet fuel cell vehicle, the Honda FCX. Chula Vista has taken the Honda to Torrance and back without refueling, demonstrating the vehicle’s 190 mile range. The new Honda FCX will have a range exceeding 300 miles. ISE Corporation has also paid for a number of H2 fill-ups in Chula Vista. In nearby Poway, ISE builds hydrogen and hybrid bus and heavy vehicle drive systems.
Driving up the coast, we pass two stations in progress. One will use direct solar electrolysis to make hydrogen, the other station is still a secret. We next arrive in Oceanside, home of the United States Marine Corp’s Camp Pendleton. This Marine operation has taken a leading role in making the nation more energy independent. Camp Pendleton has hundreds of electric vehicles, uses one million gallons of biodiesel annually, and has a hydrogen station just outside the USMC guarded perimeter so that public access is available. The USMC has tested a GM hydrogen truck and GM Equinox fuel cell vehicle. In a few months, vehicle use will expand when Camp Pendleton brings online its onsite reformation of natural gas and adds more hydrogen vehicles.
Irvine has the state’s sole public station offering 350 and 700 bar pressure. Although Honda is achieving 300 mile range with 350 bar, other auto makers such as GM need 700 bar to eventually exceed a 300 mile range. The Irvine station is at the convenient major intersection of Campus and Jamboree. It provides limited public access. The station is used by the University’s Toyota FCHV hydrogen vehicles. These Toyota’s have also been successfully used by local corporations and an individual in a special lease program. The U.S. Postal Service also uses this station for its hydrogen fuel-cell van.
Diamond Bar is home to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD). AQMD is committed to improve the health and air quality of the millions who live in Southern California. For years, AQMD has pioneered and helped fund alt-fuel vehicles, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen vehicles. It facilitated the purchase of 30 Toyota Priuses modified to run on hydrogen, thereby bringing the cost of a hydrogen vehicle to less than $80,000. AQMD’s public station produces hydrogen with a mix of grid and solar electrolysis. The station is actively used by AQMD’s hydrogen DaimlerChrysler, Honda, and Quantum Prius vehicles. UPS also uses the station for a hydrogen delivery vehicle. The station has been popular with other fleets when traveling north or south.
Torrance is home to several hydrogen stations. The U.S. headquarters of Toyota and Honda both have stations and both use solar electrolysis. A new public station is coming online that is likely to sell hydrogen for less than equivalent gasoline prices by tapping into the existing hydrogen pipeline that runs from Carson to Torrance.
Los Angeles is home to a growing number of hydrogen stations. L.A. is the number one target market among auto makers, hydrogen fuel providers and the DOE for expanded use of hydrogen in transportation. The most interesting station is probably the BP public access station at LAX. Drive-up with a credit card and fill-up just like any other station. Currently the station is mainly used to fuel the fleet of five Mercedes F-Cell vehicles that are part of the LA Airport fleet. The airport is considering converting other vehicles to use hydrogen.
In downtown Los Angeles, hydrogen blending is being added to Trillium’s CNG station. The nation’s largest natural gas bus fleet, LAMTA, will experiment with a bus running on a blend of 30% hydrogen and 70% CNG.
Although traveling Southern California provides enough stations to keep even limited range hydrogen vehicles refilled, getting to Northern California is a problem. Currently hydrogen vehicles are successful only in local fleets. Individuals continue to buy gasoline vehicles for convenient and fast refills.
As we leave Southern California, we say goodbye to a number of other clean fleet operators who are piloting hydrogen and other electric propulsion vehicles. These operators include Sunline Transit, SCE, and a number of leading cities such as Santa Ana, Riverside, Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
In Northern California, VTA in San Jose carries hundreds of daily riders on its three hydrogen fuel cell buses. In Oakland and Berkeley, AC Transit carries over 1,000 riders daily on its three hydrogen buses that are plug-in hydrogen hybrids with an added 90kW of batteries per bus. AC Transit supervisors’ fleet of Kia and Hyundai vehicles is growing to ten vehicles. By 2009, twelve hydrogen buses will be carrying thousands of daily Bay Area passengers.. Other hydrogen stations are coming online in San Carlos, San Francisco and Emeryville.
Next stop is West Sacramento, home of the California Fuel Cell Partnership where the latest exciting vehicles are constantly being driven. The State of California often fuels its fleet of hydrogen vehicles at this station, or at nearby U.C. Davis. Large public utility, SMUD, is building a new station with 80kW of solar PV for solar electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water. SMUD currently uses seven hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
From here we can head north into magnificent mountains, redwood forests, then dramatic cliffs over the ocean as we head towards Oregon. Before reaching the next state, we arrive at California’s northern most hydrogen station at the Schatz Research Center at Humboldt State University. Station funding was the result of an student team’s national award-winning proposal for of an energy park. Longer term, nearby Diversified Energy and Evergreen Pulp are seeking funding for developing biomass energy with hydrogen as a byproduct..
In Canada, Vancouver continues to expand its own hydrogen highway in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics. 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses plus more HCNG buses are budgeted for the Olympics. In a green approach, 200 kg/hour of waste hydrogen is being captured for fuel.
We will see if Portland and Seattle develop hydrogen stations that would extend a West Coast hydrogen highway over 2,000 miles in length to Whistler, Canada.
Hydrogen transportation continues to grow in California for several reasons including falling vehicle costs, falling fuel price costs, state law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, regulations targeted to reduce billions of dollars of health damage due to criteria pollutants, and state law to reduce petroleum dependence. California leads the nation in use of solar power, wind power and hydrogen transportation.
Skeptics have valid reasons to doubt hydrogen’s long-term success. The idea of a hydrogen highway was over hyped. A number of stations have hydrogen brought in on diesel trucks from remote reformation of natural gas to hydrogen. This approach offers no source-to-wheels greenhouse gas advantages over gasoline.
Many of the leading hydrogen stations are achieving major source-to-wheels advantages with renewable electrolysis, onsite reformation of natural gas, and use of byproduct and waste hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel cells also extend the range and “recharging speed” of electric vehicles without adding internal combustion engines and the use of petroleum. Hydrogen may be displacing 100 million gallons of gasoline and reducing 500,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions in California by 2020.
Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) opened the first public access hydrogen station in the nation in October 2004. The station supports the fleet of five hydrogen vehicles used daily near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It is available to the growing hydrogen fleets at the City of Los Angeles, UCLA, Toyota, Honda, and soon others. It is part of the California Hydrogen Highway.
The station is a jointly funded by BP, Praxair, LAWA, South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy, all of which helped fund the $1.5 million construction cost. For station funding partner, BP, this is part of their $8 billion investment in alternative energy. Industrial gas giant, Praxair, is the station operator.
Within transportation, aviation accounts for about 13% of CO2 discharges according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Because the entire industry is committed to jet fuel, reducing this percentage will be difficult. Airport operator, LAWA, has no control over the airplane emissions in the air. On the ground, electric generators are available so that running the tail jet engine is not required to run air conditioning and other accessories. LAWA has taken an active role in reducing the emissions of ground vehicles. These vehicles account for about 50% of airport emissions.
Since 1993, LAWA has been buying vehicles which reduce smog-forming emissions and which reduce greenhouse gases. LAWA now has 490 alternate-fuel vehicles at the four airports which it operates – LAX, Ontario International, Palmdale and Van Nuys. At LAWA, I met with Dave Waldner, Alternative Fuels Fleet Manager, who has been reducing emissions for over 13 years. He is justifiably proud of running the second largest alt-fuel fleet of airport vehicles in the country.
He explained that early success started with compressed natural gas (CNG) in vehicles in 1993. Then liquid natural gas (LNG) was used in transit buses. LNG provided for longer-range than CNG. With oil prices increasing over 50% annually, CNG has proved to lower fuel cost. LAWA has secured very favorable long-term contracts, paying a little over $3.00 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas. CNG is also available to the many independent fleet operators and individuals using airports. LAWA encourages independent operators to use clean vehicles that use CNG and hydrogen. Clean Energy operates public CNG stations at LAX and Ontario.
An easy way to reduce emissions is to encourage people to ride together. For its own employees, LAWA has 70 Van Pools. There are also three pool fleets of 30 vehicles each. Many of these vehicles are hybrids, CNG vehicles, and five are new DaimlerChrysler F-Cell hydrogen fuel cell cars. The only emission from the F-Cells is water vapor.
LAWA has not faced some of the normal challenges in introducing hydrogen transportation. With 13 years of success with CNG there was no concern with introducing another gaseous fuel – hydrogen. Sensors and safety procedures similar to those required for hydrogen had long been used with CNG. Fire department approvals were straightforward. Vehicles are parked outside. The hydrogen fueling station is outside. In the event of a leak, hydrogen vents into the air and quickly disperses.
“To make hydrogen successful,” advises Dave Waldner, “commit to make it work and train all involved people.” Only people who have completed training are allowed to use the five hydrogen vehicles in the fleet. Only people on the list certifying training are given the security code to access the station. Security access for non-LAWA employee access to the public station is managed by Praxair.
At first glance the hydrogen station looks like a normal public gasoline station with the familiar green and white BP logo. 367 kilograms of hydrogen storage tanks are hidden behind an attractive educational display. At a second glance, you see that the logo says “bp hydrogen” and the pump and nozzle are distinct for hydrogen fueling.
At a cost of $13 per kilogram at the pump, hydrogen is more expensive than CNG, gasoline, diesel and other alternatives at the LA airport. Using the zero-emission vehicles is seen as an investment in the future and a commitment to lower overall airport emissions. Even at $13 per kilogram, Praxair is losing money paying for electricity to run the Hydrogenics IGEN 15 electrolyzer creates hydrogen from water; Praxair normally runs the unit only at night when electricity rates are lower. It is capable of producing 24 kg/day. Hydrogen is dispensed at 5,000 psi.
How might the use of hydrogen expand at LAX? Buses are a prime candidate. LAWA owns 62 buses. At the international terminal, they have three hybrid CNG buses that could be converted to hydrogen in one of three ways: HCNG with hydrogen blended with CNG, HICE replacing the small CNG engine with a hydrogen engine, or replacing the existing engines with hydrogen fuel cells.
Other CNG vehicles are candidates to eventually be replaced with hydrogen vehicles. In the short-term special funding or incentives would be required to motivate fleet owners to shift to hydrogen. Taxi fleets were early adopters of CNG. They received the strong revenue incentive of getting first priority in passenger pick-ups. They also receive a tax credit of $6,000 per CNG vehicle. The Ford Crown Victoria has been an ideal size for taxis and police. It is no longer available in CNG and there is no comparable large sedan with large trunk space in hydrogen vehicles. Dave Waldner commented, “Hydrogen vehicles would be suitable for most taxi fares. The average fare is 1.6 passengers requiring modest trunk space. Seattle International Airport has Honda Civic taxi fleets.”
The public is encouraged to reduce emissions in a number of ways. People from all of Southern California can take Amtrak to Union Station where express buses to LAX run frequently. Remote parking lots and hotels offer frequent bus service. People driving hybrids and CNG vehicles to airport parking lots receive discounted parking.
LAWA continues to be a model for major fleet managers who are committed to reduced emissions. For over twelve years, they have been expanding their fleet of alt-fuel vehicles. Through outreach meetings and education they have achieved strong departmental and employee acceptance. With their own success as an example, they have encouraged supporting fleets to shift to CNG. By following the same path that achieved large CNG success, Dave Waldner is optimistic that hydrogen will have a bigger future role at LAWA.