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Title: Low-Cost Hydrogen Distributed Production System Development

H{sub 2}Gen, with the support of the Department of Energy, successfully designed, built and field-tested two steam methane reformers with 578 kg/day capacity, which has now become a standard commercial product serving customers in the specialty metals and PV manufacturing businesses. We demonstrated that this reformer/PSA system, when combined with compression, storage and dispensing (CSD) equipment could produce hydrogen that is already cost-competitive with gasoline per mile driven in a conventional (non-hybrid) vehicle. We further showed that mass producing this 578 kg/day system in quantities of just 100 units would reduce hydrogen cost per mile approximately 13% below the cost of untaxed gasoline per mile used in a hybrid electric vehicle. If mass produced in quantities of 500 units, hydrogen cost per mile in a FCEV would be 20% below the cost of untaxed gasoline in an HEV in the 2015-2020 time period using EIA fuel cost projections for natural gas and untaxed gasoline, and 45% below the cost of untaxed gasoline in a conventional car. This 20% to 45% reduction in fuel cost per mile would accrue even though hydrogen from this 578 kg/day system would cost approximately $4.14/kg, well above the DOE hydrogen cost targets of $2.50/kg by 2010 and $$2.00/kg by 2015. We also estimated the cost of a larger, 1,500 kg/day SMR/PSA fueling system based on engineering cost scaling factors derived from the two H{sub 2}Gen products, a commercial 115 kg/day system and the 578 kg/day system developed under this DOE contract. This proposed system could support 200 to 250 cars per day, similar to a medium gasoline station. We estimate that the cost per mile from this larger 1,500 kg/day hydrogen fueling system would be 26% to 40% below the cost per mile of untaxed gasoline in an HEV and ICV respectively, even without any mass production cost reductions. In quantities of 500 units, we are projecting per mile cost reductions between 45% (vs. HEVs) and 62% (vs ICVs), with hydrogen costing approximately $$2.87/kg, still above the DOE's 2010 $2.50/kg target. We also began laboratory testing of reforming ethanol, which we showed is currently the least expensive approach to making renewable hydrogen. Extended testing of neat ethanol in micro-reactors was successful, and we also were able to reform E-85 acquired from a local fueling station for 2,700 hours, although some modifications were required to handle the 15% gasoline present in E-85. We began initial tests of a catalyst-coated wall reformer tube that showed some promise in reducing the propensity to coke with E-85. These coated-wall tests ran for 350 hours. Additional resources would be required to commercialize an ethanol reformer operating on E-85, but there is no market for such a product at this time, so this ethanol reformer project was moth-balled pending future government or industry support. The two main objectives of this project were: (1) to design, build and test a steam methane reformer and pressure swing adsorption system that, if scaled up and mass produced, could potentially meet the DOE 2015 cost and efficiency targets for on-site distributed hydrogen generation, and (2) to demonstrate the efficacy of a low-cost renewable hydrogen generation system based on reforming ethanol to hydrogen at the fueling station.
  1. (Sandy) Thomas, Ph.D., President Franklin D. Lomax, Ph.D, CTO & Principal Investigator, and Maxim Lyubovski, Ph.D.
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
TRN: US201110%%598
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
H2Gen Innovations, Inc
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and Infrastructure Technologies Program (EE-2H)
Country of Publication:
United States