11-05-25 Integrated Hydrogen Projects in Hawaii

Integrated Hydrogen Projects in Hawaii

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25 May 2011PDF (595 kb)

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11-05-25 Integrated Hydrogen Projects in Hawaii

I recently returned from the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell 2011 conference in Vancouver where I saw for the first time the number of demonstration projects showcasing fuel cell technology. The next stage for these individual projects is to integrate their applications with refuelling technology, moving towards the ultimate goal of the hydrogen economy. One project which caught my eye is doing exactly this; with a 90% dependency on imported oil, Hawaii is America’s most fossil fuel dependent state and suffers from some of the highest fuel prices, and the highest electricity prices, in the USA. This dependency has given the islands a strong drive towards sustainable energy solutions - embodied by the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, launched in 2008 in collaboration with the US Department of Energy (DoE). With a roadmap aiming to achieve 70% clean energy use by 2030 there has been significant interest in the use of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as a major part of the state’s new energy ecosystem.

The DoE has long had its eyes on Hawaii as a hydrogen hotbed. In 2002 it announced a contract with the Hawaiian DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism) to develop one of three hydrogen “power parks” – a small-scale hydrogen-powered distributed generation system. The DoE saw these as the beginning of the transition to a hydrogen economy. The project was delegated to the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) and finalised in April 2009 with a combined budget of US $2.4 million and a further $0.6 million invested in 2011 by the State of Hawaii. The project objectives include: supporting the operations of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) hydrogen shuttle buses until 2013, installing a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure at HAVO, validating fuel cell system performance in the harsh SO2-rich Hawaiian environment, and attracting new investment for a Big Island hydrogen infrastructure.

The Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative (H2I), launched late last year, is a consortium of twelve companies, agencies and universities launched by The Gas Company (TGC) and General Motors that aims to make Hawaii the first US ‘hydrogen state’. This will begin by providing twenty to twenty-five hydrogen stations installed in strategic locations around Oahu island (population one million) by 2015 – the year in which several automakers, including General Motors, plan to commercialise fuel cell vehicles.

TGC is Hawaii’s largest utility and currently delivers approximately 5% hydrogen in its utility synthetic gas (syngas) stream with a potential maximum of 7,000 gallons gasoline equivalent H2 per day. This blended hydrogen will be removed from the stream at strategic locations in TGC’s 1,000-mile Oahu pipeline by pressure swing adsorption (PSA) technology for use by the planned hydrogen refuelling stations. A PSA-based refuelling system at a station will cost US $300,000 to $500,000 to deploy – up to four times cheaper than standard hydrogen refuelling stations in the USA. TGC plans to increase the level of hydrogen in the syngas stream by up to double with its renewable biogas initiative, which adds plant oils and animal fats as syngas feedstocks.

Oahu will also see the construction of Proton OnSite’s largest capacity FuelGen 65 hydrogen refuelling station as the result of a $1.7 million contract with the US Army’s Tank-Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) announced earlier this month. The generator produces 65 kg of hydrogen per day, a five-fold increase over Proton’s existing systems, and will be installed at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) to fuel a fleet of GM Equinox FCVs being rolled out there. This will supplement a Powertech unit due to come online in July, supported by the HNEI project.

The developments in Hawaii are important in several ways. On a national and international scale the successful deployment and operation of this hydrogen network will prove to the public and government leaders alike the versatility, efficiency, performance and safety of the technology; as well as demonstrating more economical hydrogen innovations. On a local scale, a renewable ecosystem will have not just environmental, but also economic benefits for Hawaii; fuel surcharges currently impact over 80% of goods sold in the state. Most importantly it will inspire confidence and fresh enthusiasm in hydrogen.

It will be interesting to see how far Hawaii comes by 2015.

Jonathan Wing     Market Analyst



Image: GM Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicle in Hawaii (Source: FCHEA)


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