FC Expo 2012 Day Two

02 Mar 2012

The FC Expo attracts companies from all over the world and today we have spent time visiting companies from outside Japan who team up to showcase their country’s capabilities and exhibit on country pavilions.

 

Canada

On the Canada pavilion, Greenlight Innovation is introducing its fuel cell and battery test stations. Battery testing is a relatively new feature, but with the vast majority of commercial fuel cell systems hybridised with batteries in transport, stationary and portable applications we think this is a sensible move extending Greenlight’s expertise in this field. In the future, test equipment for combined battery and fuel cell systems could evolve out of this technology. A review of Canada would not be complete without mentioning Ballard which is promoting its range of megawatt-scale stationary systems which can run using hydrogen from biogas, or a by-product of the chemical industry. Fuel cell modules for buses are also still a key product, and increasing interest in Europe is supporting this business.

 

United States

On the USA pavilion, Pdc Machines Inc is displaying its range of hydrogen compressors which can be used in a modular fashion and process hydrogen from both high and low pressure electrolysis. It has provided this technology to a range of hydrogen refuelling systems for the materials handling and transportation markets and recently assisted Boeing with compressors for a hydrogen station to refuel unmanned aerial vehicles. TDA Research has joined the USA pavilion for the first time this year, with its range of sulphur removal technologies for hydrogen purification. The technology changes colour when it has reached the end of its useful life and this can be used as a visual indicator to change the purification material before it is detrimental to the fuel cell’s activity. Automated detection systems can also be installed for this, providing notification when the material needs exchanging. This can be especially useful in remote locations where access to the fuel cell installation is difficult. Sulphur can be removed down to levels of less than 4 ppb using the technology, and it can be used with a range of fuels from LPG, to biogas and fossil fuel methane.

 

Finland

The Finnish pavilion hosts SOFC manufacturers, research organisations and system integrators and activity in the country has been strong for many years. Current work is targeting a large scale demonstration project called Demo 2013, to be held in a Helsinki port facility from next year and will include fuel cells for materials handling, backup power and stationary power generation. Much more information about activity in Finland can be found in Fuel Cell Today’s recent report Fuel Cells and Hydrogen in Finland, published earlier this week.

 

France

The energy mix in France is dominated by cheap, abundant nuclear power. Nearly 80% of the country’s energy supply is nuclear and unlike Japan and Germany, there is no strong pressure to move away from this set up. As such the market for stationary fuel cells is limited, and fuel cell adoption of any kind has been slow – there are just two large fuel cell labs in the country; the majority of French fuel cell companies rely on the export market.

Despite this, the French government is interested in energy storage solutions. In 2009 it formed the HYPAC platform in partnership with an industry grouping and research bodies. The platform aimed to create a roadmap for hydrogen in France, published last year; the platform is now issuing calls for proposals and is spurring demonstration projects.

Formed four years ago and commercial for the last eighteen months, McPhy Energy provides hydrogen storage and low pressure electrolysis solutions. Its products are flexible and designed for both industrial and commercial use – the systems can adapt to defined limits on either energy price or energy demand. The company is now actively involved in a French government funded energy storage project that aims to valorise renewables and hydrogen. Another project on the French island of Corsica is combining a 500 kW photovoltaic system with a hydrogen storage and fuel cell system to balance and optimise its grid output.

Although fuel cells may not have a strong market in the French stationary sector, a French hydrogen mobility project is under development and there is strong interest in the use of hydrogen vehicles, particularly if they can be fuelled with hydrogen from energy storage systems. In education, Pragma Industries has seen some success in selling demonstrative products to French high schools and universities and also sells fuel cell test stations for the export market.

 

Taiwan

The Taiwan Fuel Cell Partnership is already more than fifty members strong; the Taiwanese market for hydrogen and fuel cells is focusing on backup power and scooters, with demonstration projects underway for both. The telecoms backup projects are using a mix of Ballard-powered systems and domestically produced systems; Yangtze was demonstrating its Taiwanese MEAs at the Expo. Young Green Energy is developing a compact 185 x 103 x 78 mm 20 W continuous (40 W maximum) output PEMFC system. Fuelled with 25 Wh solid state sodium borohydride cartridges, the system has one 20 W DC and two USB outputs. The product has been two years in development and Young Green are now looking for OEM partners to commercialise the product in either domestic or export markets; the company sees the product being used primarily for emergency personal and military use. The FC-20P01 product should cost about USD 400, with cartridges at USD 4 each.

 

Germany

Germany is a world leader in the adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The German pavilion was the largest of the country pavilions and was receiving strong traffic, not least of all thanks to its afternoon business card for beer exchange. With a commitment to remove all nuclear power from Germany stringent targets have been set for the adoption of renewable energies: 35% by 2020, 55% by 2030, and 80% by 2050. The German grid supplies 600 TWh annually but at present there is only 0.7 TWh of energy storage – with the increasing amount of renewable energy grid balancing will become an increasingly important issue; with fast response times hydrogen storage and fuel cell electrification have potential to help mitigate this issue but will be competing against potentially cheaper gas turbines. The transition to non-nuclear would also require an additional 4,100 km of high voltage lines; this would be an expensive and difficult operation and distributed generation may be the best way to avoid this; once again fuel cells have great potential in this area as they can integrate into the low voltage grid. One company hoping larger stationary systems will flourish in Germany is Becker, which produces vacuum pumps and compressors for a number of industries, including fuel cells of 5 kW and above. A third driver for fuel cells in Germany comes from gas companies, who are seeking ways to stay relevant in the renewable electricity future.

Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited (CFCL) see Germany as a key market and with a BlueGen production factory located near Düsseldorf, the company was present on the German pavilion. CFCL began commercial sales with its German partner sanevo blue energy recently and the initial shipment of 100 units sold out within four weeks. At present there is no government subsidy scheme in place but this is likely to change in the future.

The Fraunhofer Institute is the largest applied research organisation in Germany and its Future Foundation has financed several research branches including the ceramic-focused Fraunhofer IKTS. The company is non-profit and produces SOFC technology and solutions for those who want to make systems. One commercial partner of Fraunhofer IKTS is Ezelleron, which produces micro-tubular SOFC. The company serves as an integrator but is also developing its own products including the go::batt 125, a 25 W continuous output portable SOFC with one 12 V and four USB outputs; this unit is targeting similar applications to the Young Green Energy product.

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