DOE H2&FC Reviews’03

DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Merit Review Meeting
May 19-22, 2003, Berkeley, CA

(See UFTO Note 10 June 2002 for last year’s meeting.)

“Annual Review Proceedings” are (will be) available:

DOE’s new organization for hydrogen and fuel cells is in place. Steve Chalk heads the program, and has about 20 direct reports for the many sub-areas. The org chart and key contacts list are available here:

Of course, the program got a huge boost when the president announced the $1.2 billion Hydrogen Fuel Initiative and “FreedomCar” program in the state-of-the-union address this past January.

In a plenary opening session, Steve Chalk gave an overview of DOE’s response, based on a major planning effort involving many stakeholders. (This is all heavily documented on the website.) He showed budgets steadily growing over the next several years.
H2: $47, $55, $77 million (FY 02, 03, 04)
FC: $29, $40, $88 million

The Plan involves a decade of R&D, with commercialization decisions towards the end, and subsequent “transition” and “expansion” in the marketplace. Meanwhile, “technology validation” projects will attempt semi-real world demonstrations of complete integrated infrastructure elements, e.g. refueling stations (major RFP was announced May 6 for a 5 year “learning demo” of hydrogen vehicle infrastructure.)

The DOE Secretary will have a new Hydrogen Policy Group (heads of EE, FE, Nuclear, etc.) and the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Committee. Lower down, Steve Chalk will work with the Hydrogen Matrix Group and an Interagency Task Force. Of particular note, a new Systems Integration and Analysis office will be set up at NREL, and several “virtual centers” at national labs focused on specific technical areas.

In each area, goals have been established for the various cost and performance parameters. (e.g., by 2005 electrolytic hydrogen at 5000 psi should be produced at 65% efficiency, for under $3.75/kg. By 2010, moving hydrogen from central production sites to distribution facilities should be under $0.70/kg.) [One kg of H2 is about equivalent in energy content to one gallon of gasoline, making comparisons easier.]

When Chalk’s powerpoint becomes available, it will be worth reviewing if you’re interested in how all of this is going.

This year’s annual review meetings drew a large crowd again. A subset of projects were chosen from each technical area for 20-30 minute presentations, while other investigators were asked to do poster papers instead. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell sessions were held in parallel (last year they were on separate days), making it impossible to cover everything. A two inch thick binder had all the vugraphs, however, and all of it be posted on the website.

Here are the session headings:


– Production -Biological & Biomass Based
– Production -Fossil Based
– Production -Electrolytic
– Production -Photolytic and Photoelectro-chemical
– Storage – High Pressure Tanks
– Storage – Hydrides
– Storage – Carbon & Other Storage
– Infrastructure Development -H2 Fueling Systems & Infrastructure
– Codes & Standards

Fuel Cells

– High Temp Membranes/ Cathodes/ Manufacturing
– High Temp Membranes/ Cathodes/ Electrocatalysts
– Fuel Cell Power Systems Analysis
– Fuel Processing
– Direct Methanol Fuel Cells
– Fuel Cell Power System Development
– Fuels Effects
– Sensors for Safety & Performance
– Air Management Subsystems

A few highlights:

– Codes and standards were compared to the “iceberg below the surface” (i.e. that sunk the Titanic). The voluntary standards-making process in this country, along with the 40,000 independent local jurisdictions, represent a huge educational and process challenge to make society ready for hydrogen. The recently announced fueling station in Las Vegas needed 16 separate permits, and the local fire marshal was the toughest to deal with.

– Carbon nanotube storage is living on borrowed time. It has the distinction of a stern “Go-No go” decision that’s been put in its path (2005), and the science seems not to be making the greatest progress.

– Another Go-No Go decision is set for late 2004, for onboard fuel processing.

– Photolytic H2 production makes slow progress, but researchers close to it acknowledge it’s practical application can only happen if the right materials are found. The search continues using “combinatorial” methods. (see UFTO Note 2 April 2003).

– The fuel cell work seems mostly to do with the tough slugging it out with materials and costs, finding formulations and configurations that gradually improve the situation. A fair amount of attention is going towards higher temperature PEM cell membranes, where hydrogen purity is less of an issue, however no breakthroughs seem imminent.

– Quite a bit of attention is going to fueling systems. Several projects involve the building of equipment and actual demonstration fueling stations and “power parks”. DTE and Pinnacle West are the only utilities that seem to have really pursued this; each has a major demonstration project in development.

In view of the volume and technical nature of this material, let me suggest that I can dig deeper into any particular area of interest to you, but that otherwise the DOE website has all the documentation on the programs and specific projects.

Other Hydrogen news:

You may have seen Wired 11.4 (April). The cover story is by Peter Schwartz, the famous futurist, who proclaims that a full-blown hydrogen economy is urgent and inevitable. I saw him present the argument at a seminar at Stanford recently, and found it very short on practical specifics and less than compelling. For one thing, he asserts that nuclear will be the major source of energy to make hydrogen a decade or two from now.

Along the same lines, the June issue of Business 2.0 came last week, with a feature story about the head of Accenture’s Resource Group, Mary Tolan, and her blunt challenge to the energy industry to go invest like crazy to make the hydrogen economy happen quickly. She says it’s the only way the oil majors in particular will be able to continue to make big profits in the future. She apparently let loose with this at CERA Week, back in February. Business 2.0’s website ( won’t have it online for a few weeks, but I was able to locate a reference to an Accenture utility industry event that outlines the argument.

Curious to know what you think. In my own opinion, both sound over the top. We’ve got a ways to go before the technology, or the society, will be ready for hydrogen on a massive scale. I’ve written to Ms. Tolan to see if I can get more details as to their reasoning.

Cleantech Venture Forum II

Cleantech Venture Network’s second venture forum in San Franciso, Apr 30- May1 was a great success. Over 260 people in attendance included mostly investors, along with representatives of the 23 companies selected to present (from over 200 companies that applied).

You may recall reading about Cleantech Venture Network in UFTO Notes 26 July, 1 October ’02.

The surge of interest in cleantech was noteworthy. Many new faces were there, some of them very prominent VC firms whose usual sectors of IT and telecom have lost their lustre. These investors seem to be checking out energy tech and cleantech to see what the opportunities are, and whether it might represent a “next big thing”. Some of them are actually doing deals, too. Panels sessions discussed this very trend, while others went into water, Asia, and the overall outlook for investing in cleantech. The new issue of the Venture Monitor, due in a couple of weeks (for members only!) will have details from the panel discussions.

The presenting companies ranged from a successful biopesticide company (better, cheaper, safer than chemicals…really), to several hydrogen, fuel cell, and solar PV companies, and some water and waste management. (The PV companies were described in another UFTO Note just recently). Here’s the list. (If you want additional information, please contact me. I’m not including details here in the interests of brevity, but I can send you a version with longer descriptions, as well as individual company’s own writeups. Some may appear in future notes.)

AgraQuest, Inc. – Natural pesticides
aqWise – Wastewater treatment retrofit increases throughput
CellTech Power – Fundamentally new solid oxide fuel cell acts like a refuelable battery.
FiveStar Technologies – Advanced materials via cavitation technology
Global Solar – thin film PV in production
H2Gen – On-site hydrogen generation via small scale steam methane reforming
Hoku Scientific, Inc – PEM fuel cell membrane to replace Nafion
HyRadix Inc. ? Small scale hydrogen generators via thermal reforming
Integrated Env. Technologies – Waste Treatment via Plasma
iPower – Distributed Generation ? New genset
Mach Energy ? Energy management services to commercial buildings
PolyFuel Inc – Direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) systems
PowerTube – Geothermal powerplant downhole
Powerzyme – Enzymatic fuel cell
PrecisionH2 – Hydrogen, power and carbon from methane, via cold plasma (no CO2!)
Primotive – unique electric motor/generator
QuestAir – Gas purification via pressure swing absorption
Raycom Technologies – Thin film solar cells via high volume sputter coating
Sensicore – Sensors monitor water quality cheaply
Solaicx – Polycrystalline silicon PV
Solicore – Thin film lithium batteries
Verdant – Wave power via underwater windmills

Here’s a definition of “Cleantech”, from the website:
**The concept of “clean” technologies embraces a diverse range of products, services, and processes that are inherently designed to provide superior performance at lower costs, greatly reduce or eliminate environmental impacts and, in doing so, improve the quality of life. Clean technologies span many industries, from alternative forms of energy generation to water purification to materials-efficient production techniques.**

I strongly suggest you consider an investor membership, for dealflow, Venture Monitor, networking and other benefits. ( The next Forum will be held this Fall in New York.

Leveraging the Feds

Federal research programs represent an opportunity for private industry to get additional resources applied to their RD&D projects and other business goals. Many companies, and a few utilities, have been successful at this for a long time.

This discussion is an initial introduction to what it takes to tap the Feds, and DOE/Labs in particular. If there is interest, UFTO stands ready to dig deeper.

The good news is that: it can be done, as evidenced by the companies that do it successfully and repeatedly (“best practice”). The bad news is that it isn’t easy, especially starting fresh. “Startup costs” may be considerable, and the ongoing costs are significant as well, particularly administrative. Companies with a lot experience have advised: don’t do it for a couple $100K; be in for the long haul; it’s a means, not an end; and start with knowing what you want to do. Bottom line– there are resources, programs, and mechanisms that can lead to leverage, but if you want to drink, you have to go to the well.

Federal Tech Transfer

Starting in the early 80’s, Congress and executive orders have been steadily reshaping U.S. federal research policy to expand the importance of technology transfer. Over time, it has become easier and easier for federal agencies to grant private parties the rights to technology and IP developed at federal labs. Working with industry is now the norm.

The emphasis on tech transfer is aimed to get results of federal R&D programs into use — thus fulfilling a (new) mission to help U.S. industry be more competitive. Where these efforts provide resources, industry gets a chance for leverage –it’s just the other side of the same coin.

Where federal spending is targeted at policy goals (such as conservation or advancing a new technology), utilities can be particularly appropriate partners. Another point to keep in mind–the labs are always looking for ways to maintain funding for their programs. An outside funder can gain tremendous leverage by adding resources to ongoing programs which can adapt to meet the funder’s own requirements.

If a private company wins a government award to develop new technology, it usually has to come up with matching funds (especially if it expects to hold on to the resulting IP). From the company’s point of view, their portion is leveraged substantially compared with a go-it-alone approach. (In the case a startup, an equity investor who provides the matching funds will find that his money goes that much farther.)

For a good overview and introduction to federal tech transfer, see the Federal Lab Consortium’s “Green Book”, available online or in hardcopy. (scroll down, on left margin under “Resources”)

There are many contracting mechanisms for working with the government, ranging from outright grants to actual fee-for-service. National labs in particular like to say that contracting should not be an obstacle, that they will find a way to make it work. (Non-U.S. companies shouldn’t be discouraged from looking into opportunities– there usually are ways to deal with restrictions that might otherwise interfere.)

– CRADA (Cooperative R&D Agreement)
– Cost Share/Cofund
– Licensing
– User Facilities
– Work-For-Others
– Personnel Exchange
– Data & Information Exchange
– Consulting & Technical Assistance (by Lab personnel)
– Contracts
– Financial Assistance
– Grants (SBIR, Clean Coal, STTR, TRP, ATP, etc.)
– Consortia (“Industry Partnerships”)
– Informal Collegial Contact!

The main agency for energy is obviously DOE, and other agencies have extensive energy programs as well (e.g., DOD , NASA, Commerce, EPA, Agriculture, Transportation, Interior, etc.). Within DOE, two major programs account for most of the relevant activity:
– Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EREN)
– Fossil Energy (FE)

Solicitations are handled by headquarters, regional program offices, or labs. NREL and NETL in particular seem to be heavily involved in supporting headquarters with administering solicitations and managing programs.
NREL-Nat’l Renewable Energy Lab, CO
NETL- Nat’l Energy Technology Lab; WV, PA — formerly METC & PETC

Solicitations Listings

EREN provides this site as a general starting point

DOE’s Seattle Regional Office publishes a comprehensive compilation of solicitations — from multiple agencies and foundations — relating to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable development. They maintain online a 15-20 page “Open Solicitations Summary” and also send out a monthly email announcement of all new items.
Go to “Open Solicitations” link to see the new monthly listings. Also note instructions on how to be added to the email distribution. The link “Open Solicitations Summary” will take you to the archive where you can download the complete list. (Be sure to look at the last page of the summary for additional information about sources of information.)

On behalf of Fossil Energy, NETL provides alerts, solicitations, CRADA lore, etc., at:
The “Solicitations” link gives a list of current and future opportunities (plus a link to archives).

All DOE solicitations are now handled through the new centralized Industry Interactive Procurement System (IIPS). It is used to post solicitations and amendments, receive proposals/applications, and disseminate award information. Entities wishing to participate in these solicitations will need to register at the IIPS Webster. Proposals will only be accepted through IIPS, unless otherwise indicated within the solicitation document.

IIPS takes some getting used to. “Guest” users can see most everything, but navigation is not easy. Guest users click on “Browse Opportunities”, and are stuck scrolling through 100’s of listings by number. It’s worth registering for a password, otherwise you can’t use the “Main View” which gives you much better sorting capabilities (e.g., by contracting office).
>> or

[Caution: Don’t be surprised to see that “solicitations” in IIPS include everything DOE buys, from research (RFPs) to light bulbs to janitorial services. The Seattle list is a valuable filter.]


Some additional links that provide information and guidance on working with the government:

Argonne National Lab Tech Transfer Office

Laboratory Coordinating Council
Specifically geared to the major “Industries of the Future” from the DOE Office of Industrial Technology.

DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program
— Sign up to receive notices (right margin, at the bottom)


Advanced Technology Program: partners with the private-sector to develop broadly beneficial technologies. ATP applies across almost any technology area–R&D, (*not* commercialization). Proposal teams often include private companies, startups, labs, universities, etc.


Utilities and DOE

Some utilities have been working closely with DOE for a long time, and others are just now entering the game.

Electricity Advisory Board
Established Nov 2001 to advise on electricity policy issues. Specifically, the DOE’s electricity programs; current and future capacity of the electricity system; issues related to production, reliability and utility restructuring; and coordination between the DOE and state and regional officials and the private sector on matters affecting electricity supply and reliability. Chair is Lynn Draper, CEO of AEP. Many of the CEO members come from utilities that are household words in DOE. (NiSource, DTE, SoCo, etc.)

The Clean Coal Program, which began mid 80’s, has funded major projects with companies like AEP, Tampa Elec, SoCo, etc. The recent solicitation (Clean Coal Power Initiative Round One Proposals – 8/02) attracted a number of new players (Ameren, IP&L, LG&E, Wepco, etc.).

Efficiency & Renewables likewise sees old and new companies at its conferences and responding to its solicitations, particularly in DG, Storage, Hydrogen, etc. (SCE, Nipsco, DTE, Com Ed, SRP…)


Here is some advice compiled from conversations with people at DOE and in the utilities.

Know what DOE is trying to do that fits with your company’s goals
(attend workshops, review meetings, conferences etc.)

Get to know the people and programs, and understand what they’re up to.
( might be able influence what goes into an RFP)

Information/access is public, but only some companies bother to look.
extent of involvement depends on objectives

Work out a strategy, pick out a couple of areas, and put foot in the door.

Key is to find a (programmatic) match and a (contracting) vehicle.
(most DOE work is competed and cost-shared)

Follow the solicitations; understand procedures

Congressional earmark is a possibility, but doesn’t make any friends in DOE

Companies participate (in R&D/DOE) for variety of reasons
(PR, reg. pressures, …and sometimes… actual business goals!)

Don’t need to be insider (but it doesn’t hurt). DOE welcomes new faces and new ideas.

2002 Fuel Cell Seminar

Fuel Cell Seminar
Nov 18-21, Palm Springs, CA

The Fuel Cell Seminar has been held every two years* since 1978. Until recently, it’s been essentially a scientific forum. The 2000 event (in Portland OR) saw a major change into a full blown trade show. That trend continued this time, with 50% larger attendance (3000) and many more than twice the number of exhibitors (125). The event is very international, with huge contingents from Europe and Asia. For the first time, simultaneous translation in Japanese was provided. (*From now on, they’re going annual–the next one will be in Miami, Nov ’03.)

The mood this time, however, was distinctly different. Recall that January 2000 started with a runaway boom in stock prices and excitement over fuel cells. By November, that surge was still strong, and the event had the feel of a celebration. In contrast, this year the mood was almost grim, or at least very subdued. Beyond the effects of the wider economic doldrums, the reality has set in that cost and performance of fuel cell technology just aren’t there yet. Fuel cells are still years from being ready for a meaningful ramp-up in commercial market penetration. Investment bankers and venture capitalists, who were very much a presence in 2000, were few and far between this time.

A great many of the exhibitors were suppliers to the industry, offering membranes, catalysts, pumps and valves, test equipment, etc. Thus the comment that people were there to sell to each other, not to sell fuel cells to real customers. (The only customers appear to be governments–see below.) It is possible to spin this positively–companies like 3-M and Agilent wouldn’t be bothered if they didn’t see a big opportunity down the road. The large attendance could be viewed in the same light. The saying goes that it’s a matter of when, not if [that fuel cells will be a practical reality on a large commercial scale].

Keynote Address
S. David Freeman was blunt (as usual) in his keynote address–fuel cells have not achieved financial viability; the fuel cell car is a huge publicity stunt–not yet a practical reality; and distributed generation (via fuel cells) doesn’t have the political appeal that renewable energy enjoys. He urged the industry to pay more attention to the question of fuels for fuel cells, and suggested that it’s in everyone’s interest to deploy hydrogen burning IC engines, to build up the hydrogen infrastructure independent of and in parallel with fuel cell development.

Four keynote lectures followed:
– DOE Fossil Energy Fuel Cell Program (Victor Der for George Rudins)
FE spends $250 million/year for stationary fuel cell RD&D, mostly on SECA and FC-Hybrids. SECA is the initiative whose goal is $400/kw planar solid oxide fuel cell. Contracts have been awarded to four industry teams to pursue various technical strategies.

– Stationary Perspective (Jerry Leitman, Fuel Cell Energy)
Stationary plants are commercially available today, and offer dramatic efficiency and emissions improvements over engines and combined cycle plants.

– Transportation Perspective (Andrew Schell, for Ferdinand Panik, DaimlerChrysler)
Fuel cells in transportation are a necessity to gain the “freedoms” (i.e. of choice, from emissions, from oil dependence, etc). Applications will ramp up over the next 7 years to become truly commercial. New fuel insfrastructures must be deployed. (In January, DOE replaced the PNGV with FreedomCAR, concentrating on hydrogen and fuel cells

– Portable Perspective (Laryy DuBois, SRI)
There is no Moore’s Law for batteries. The price paid per kw is high compared with large scale power, creating an opportunity for fuel cells. Drivers include longer runtime, fast recharge, unlimited recharge, etc. A dozen companies at least plan to be selling products sometime in the next 3 years. Concentration is on direct methanol or PEM, with at least one SOFC to run on butane. The competition isn’t standing still, with advances in batteries and ultracaps, as well as work on nano-heat engines and RF scavenging. (I have a pdf of this presentation-2MB)

– Fuel Perspective (Don Huberts, Shell Hydrogen)
Stationary, Transportation and Portable each have different requirements for refueling infrastructure, and no single answer will suffice. There needs to be a mix of technologies, primary energy sources, and delivery means.

Program Overviews
A series of presentations outlined programs and budgets deveoted to fuel cell developments funded by the European Commission, Germany, Japan, and the US (DOE). Strong long term commitments were evident, with expressed goals of meeting Kyoto requirements and reducing oil dependence through hydrogen and fuel cells. $100s of millions are budgeted. Notably, they all talk in terms of gradual progress up the adoption curve, with the bulk of activity over the next 6-10 years in demos and projects.

In addition to over 230 poster papers, parallel sessions included presentations on PEM R&D, SOFC, Commercialization and Demonstrations, Fuel Processing and DMFC/Portable. Many of the papers were highly technical and specialized, while others were little more than general overviews for companies and programs (some bordering on infommercials).

Reflecting on the general state of the industry, governments appear to be the main customers for fuel cell companies, along with the big carmakers who are doing demos, partnerships, and their own development programs (GM was curiously quiet at this event). Otherwise, it just seems to be a swarm of similar sounding programs, and it’s nearly impossible to see any real differentiation that would indicate a possible eventual winner.

This is especially true in PEM, and also to some extent in SOFC. Fuel Cell Energy, of course, is the only US molten carbonate company, and they are just introducing a new and improved series of models into their 12 MW order backlog. They are “commercial”, but price remains an issue, as well as perceived technical risk on the part of buyers (the US Navy does seem to be keen on them for shipboard use). Meanwhile, companies like Plug and Nuvera have quietly stopped talking about residential.

As the long slow march of this technology continues, maybe the traditional approaches are just too difficult. Almost everyone seems to be pursuing the same old stacks with bolts around the edge, and the same handful of reformer technologies. Meanwhile, a number of “stealth” developments are underway, out of the spotlight, by people who are thinking different. They may just come along with novel new approaches that break through the age-old dilemmas of cost, manufacturability, and performance. One is almost tempted to think that if something is being presented at conferences, it’s not cutting edge, and it’s not the answer. (And it’s a safe bet that companies that do make presentations are probably not telling us about their really good stuff.)

Here is an example of such a possible “end-run”: Microcell Corp had a booth showing a very different configuration for a fuel cell system. Very few details were given, but they did tell me their cost goal is less than $100/kw. The cells are long thin hollow tubes (less than 1 mm in diameter) whose wall consists of the anode, electrolyte, and cathode, and which can be made by extrusion. The cells can be arrayed in bundles in a tube and header configuration, and high power densities are predicted. The company is in the 2nd year of a 3 year ATP grant, with cofunding investment by Pepco.

Ceramic Fuel Cell Ltd, of Australia, presented its new all ceramic SOFC stack technology which looks very promising. Temperature cycling is the big issue for SOFC’s and their latest set of innovations have resulted in a simple rugged design.

References and Publications:

Abstracts of the 2002 Fuel Cell Seminar–the book is 2 ” thick; also on a CD, available for purchase ($55 and $30, respectively). Contact:
Catherine Porterfield

European Integrated Hydrogen Project
White paper: “European Transport Policy for 2010 : time to decide ”

New releases (at the seminar):
2002 Annual Progress Report, H2, FC and Infrastructure Technologies Programs, 400 page book, or CD. Also online at

The new 6th edition of the DOE Fuel Cell Handbook (Oct 2002) was handed out at the Seminar. This comprehensive textbook (450 pages) can be ordered on CD at

Overview of Portable Power
The German company Smart Fuel Cell is among the many contenders in portable power, and appear to be making good progress towards commercialization. They were listed among Scientific American’s 50 Business Leaders (Dec issue)

They cite this helpful overview of the market on their website:

[web tips]
— The NETL website has its fuel cell materials under the Strategic Center for Natural Gas. Look under “End-Use” to find fuel cells.

— The DOD has a website which details a major residential PEM demo program, as well as the Army’s Fuel Cell Test & Evaluation Center (FCTEC), operated by Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) in Johnstown, PA

By coincidence, this article appeared right after the Seminar

More Rationalization Of Fuel-Cell Companies Expected
By Lynne Olver, Dow Jones Newswires — Nov 25, 2002

VANCOUVER — The fuel-cell industry is entering an “important phase” in which more corporate consolidation can be expected, according to Pierre Rivard, president and chief executive of Hydrogenics Corp. (HYGS). Rivard said the PC and telecom industries tend to have a few dominant players, and he expects a similar pattern in the fuel-cell business over the next three years.

“It’s typical that, post-consolidation, you might see two, three, perhaps four emerging, larger-sized companies and to me that’s very healthy,” Rivard told Dow Jones.

. . . . The article goes on to describe Plug Power’s acquisition of H Power, and Global Thermoelectric’s interest in finding a buyer or major partner for its SOFC business.,,BT_CO_20021125_005129-search,00.html?collection=autowire%2F30day&vql_string=olver%3Cin%3E%28article%2Dbody%29

DOE H2&FC Reviews

Hydrogen – Fuel Cells for Transportation – Fuels for Fuel Cells
— 2002 Annual Program/Lab R&D Review —

These three US DOE programs held their combined review meetings, May 6-10, 2002 in Golden CO. Proceedings are available on the Hydrogen Information Network:

……..[addendum July 17]………
The proceedings of the 2002 US DOE Hydrogen Program Annual Review are available on-line.

The 70 technical reports, each available as a separate downloadable file, represent the efforts of researchers and engineers at National Labs, universities, and in industry from across the US. They cover hydrogen production, storage, and use, with excellent papers on analysis and the Program’s technology validation projects. The CD-ROM will be available for purchase soon.

As you know, UFTO made its group visit to NREL on the Wednesday. I was there all week and caught four days of the review meetings.

The first big news was that all three programs are now combined into one, under the major reorganization of Energy Efficiency and Renewables (aka EE or EREN). (See UFTO News March 26–if you missed it let me know. Also These programs had been under separate offices (Power, Industrial, and Transportation).


Technical abstracts appear in two documents, each of which contain 2-3 pages on each of 38 presentations. Technical Papers from the meeting will be posted by mid-July 2002.

Session A – Production and Technology Validation
– Biological Hydrogen Production
– Fossil ? Base Production
– Renewable Production/Electrolytic Processes
– Technology Validation
– Separation And Purification

Session B – Storage, Utilization, Analysis
– Analysis Projects
– Hydrogen Utilization Research
– Technology Transfer
– Storage

– Fuel Cell Modeling/Analysis
– Fuel Cell Stack Components
– Membranes/MEAs
– Electrodes/Electrocatalysts
– Direct-Methanol Fuel Cells
– Fuel Cell Materials

FUELS FOR FUEL CELLS (13 papers): May 10
– Fuel Processing
– Water-Gas Shift Catalysts
– Fuels Effects

Complete papers for fuel cells are already posted, along with 20 poster papers.

—— ——— ————
DOE is required by law to do these reviews, and they are quite scripted and formalized. A panel of grey-beard expert reviewers sit in the front and ask probing questions and give sage advice to each of the researchers who present an update of their progress since last year. Meanwhile several hundred observers fill the rest of the room, and can ask questions if there’s time after the reviewers are finished. The format of the presentations were very tightly prescribed, with a number of required points to cover (e.g. ‘collaborations and outreach’). The Hydrogen program even banned fancy graphics and powerpoint, insisting on plain vu-graphs (bad experiences in the past with computer glitches).

Presentations covered projects funded by the three DOE programs. Most were from national lab researchers, with only a handful of industrials. As such the emphasis seemed to be heavily in favor of basic research/long-term R&D, and “analysis” projects, e.g. to estimate the costs and benefits of various infrastructure schemes. As such, it was a long five days, and only moderately rewarding at best (especially if one considers that developments with real commercial potential are not going to be talked about in public). As usual, the informal networking during breaks and receptions were at least as worthwhile. One can only hope that the reorganization will bring greater clarity to all of this work, along with a rethinking of the review process.

—— ——— ————
DOE staff gave overviews of the issues, programs, and progress–these are also on the website above.

– Storage is progressing well, notably pressurized tanks, but a breakthrough would be welcome
– Production is from natural gas in the nearterm, capitalizing on existing infrastructure, though not sustainable for the long term.
– Long term (20+ years) the goal is hydrogen from biomass, coal, nuclear* and waste.
(*by electrolysis, or better, direct thermal decomposition of water at high temperature)
– The essential end-use device- the fuel cell- continues to need huge cost reductions
– Safety, codes, standards, and fair trade issues are a major piece of the puzzle
– On-board vehicle reformers are only a transition strategy. Startup time and efficiency are key.
– Vehicle Insfrastructure Demonstration partnerships, involving the deployment of progressively larger fleets and charging station

DOE initiated a National Hydrogen Vision and Roadmap process in response to recommendations made in President Bush’s National Energy Policy. The Vision Meeting took place Nov 2001 and the Roadmap Workshop took place Apr 2002 in Washington, D.C. The summaries, the proceedings, and the individual presentations are available at:

This presentation contains a lot of information about the perceptions, priorities and programs: — Review of the Hydrogen Program (N. Rossmeissl, DOE)

National policy is indeed driving things. There is a draft report to Congress, following a workshop held in February, available now at:
“…an assessment of the technical, economic, and infrastructure barriers to commercialization of fuel cells for transportation, portable power, stationary and distributed generation applications. This full report is due November 5, 2002. In addition, the Department is to provide an interim assessment that describes the need for public and private cooperative programs to demonstrate commercial use of fuel cells by 2012.”

The FreedomCAR Partnership is the successor to PNGV, whose goal had been a very high mileage auto. Go to:
The new emphasis is on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Scroll down this long list of publications (probably a lot more than you wanted to know):
Note in particular, the 2001 Annual Progress Report for Fuel Cells for Transportation

The name “Freedom” is meant to represent freedom from foreign oil and emissions and freedom of choice, with myriad technologies and products. These programs address technical challenges such as cost (platinum), durability, fuel processing, air-thermal-water management, and higher temperature (=new membranes). Specific stretch goals: 60% efficiency; 325 W/kg; $45/kw (including storage!). For storage, 2 kwh/kg, 1 kwh/L.

JTEC New Solid State Heat to Electricity

The Johnson Thermo-Electric Conversion (JTEC) system is a solid state, thermodynamic, energy conversion device that operates on the Ericsson cycle, which is equivalent to the Carnot cycle. It can be configured to operate as either a heat engine (for power production) or a heat pump (for cooling). As a heat engine, the JTEC can use any source of heat, e.g. combustible fuels (external combustion), solar energy, or waste heat. Several proof of concept, component level experiments have been successfully conducted to establish its feasibility.

The JTEC employs fuel cell technology, however, is not a fuel cell. Hydrogen is the working fluid, not the fuel. As a sealed solid state system that generates electricity from heat, it is better compared to thermoelectric converters, but with significantly higher efficiency.

JTEC is at an early development stage, however there is reason to believe progress could be relatively rapid. The company has laid out a multi-year plan, with working prototypes “soon”.. Details are closely guarded — I have executed an NDA and visited the company — the concept appears to be quite solid.

Texaco has funded the company to do a brief study of commercialization prospects. The company is looking for investors and strategic development partners.

Johnson Electro-Mechanical Systems, LLC (JEMS), is a spinoff of Johnson Research & Development, Atlanta GA, a technology development company involved in a number of areas. Another spinoff, Excellatron, has a licensed lithium thin film battery technology from Oak Ridge National Lab. The founder, Lonnie Johnson, followed a distinguished career in aerospace with the development of the SuperSoaker, one of the best selling toys of all time.

Contact: Lonnie Johnson 770-438-2201

On Site Hydrogen for Generator Cooling

Proton Energy Systems, as you know, is one of the prominent new companies on the new “energy technology” scene, having done its IPO last Fall. One thing that sets them apart from other fuel cell companies is the fact that they have a successful commercial product line, namely the HOGEN hydrogen generator. While they continue development of an advanced regenerative fuel cell system based on PEM technology, the HOGEN is already entering the market, in many exciting applications. In discussions with David Wolff, VP of Marketing and Sales at Proton, I’ve learned that they are gearing up a significant effort to introduce HOGEN for generator cooling. I asked Dave to outline the main points of their story, so that UFTO companies could check into it sooner. Here is his note.

Thank you, Ed, for your enthusiastic support and knowledgable advice as Proton positions our products within the electric generator cooling market. As you are aware, electric generator cooling is only one of many exciting market segments for HOGEN hydrogen generators, but the electric generator cooling segment has many unique attributes which make this the right time for an onsite hydrogen solution. I will review the important issues in this e-mail.

Onsite hydrogen is not new in electric generator cooling:

– Onsite hydrogen via electrolysis is not a new idea for electrical generator cooling. General Electric sold electric generators equipped for self-generation of hydrogen using old-style KOH (potassium hydroxide – “caustic”) electrolyzers for many years during the mid-20th century. These systems were generally shipped to developing countries where the hydrogen infrastructure was non-existent, and the self-generation of hydrogen made it possible to have the high efficiency of a hydrogen cooled generator in these isolated areas. The downside to these old style electrolyzers was that they were very expensive, very labor intensive to operate (often requiring a dedicated staff of their own), were expensive to purchase, required constant maintenance, involved hazardous KOH electrolyte and asbestos cell separators, and had to be equipped with a compressor because they made hydrogen at a pressure of less than one psig.

How Proton’s HOGEN hydrogen generator has changed the playing field for hydrogen generators:

Proton’s HOGEN hydrogen generator uses innovative Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolysis technology instead of the customary liquid electrolyte technology to achieve electrolysis. But it is not just the interesting technology, but the total advantages of the system that make the difference:

– Very compact systems – our boxes are 10% of the size and weight of the “traditional” KOH systems, and half the size and 30% of the weight of the “advanced” KOH systems now being introduced by Stuart, Hydrogen Systems and others.
– One box, all-in-one “Plug and Play” design – our systems contain all required components in a single box for ease of installation.
– The average installation time for a HOGEN 40 hydrogen generator is a couple of hours: a 380 installation and startup takes one day start to finish.
– Unmanned operation – Proton’s HOGEN hydrogen generators operate unattended and require routine maintenance only once per year
– Fast delivery from stock – Proton has begun routine production of the HOGEN 40 hydrogen generator and they will be available for rapid delivery
– Process pressure without a compressor – HOGEN hydrogen generators deliver 150 psig or higher (depending on model) UHP grade hydrogen without the need for a mechanical compressor, eliminating the cost, electrical consumption, maintenance and operational complexity associated with the use of a hydrogen compressor.
– Highest purity – our systems deliver 99.999+% pure UHP grade hydrogen without the need for purification and without the risk of KOH carryover
– Aggressive pricing – our systems offer superior performance and are priced at or below the cost of a complete system offered by our competitors.

While Proton has introduced exciting new technology and convenience, some of the excitement is driven by changes in the electrical utility
market and industrial gas market:

– Under regulation, utilities used to have little incentive to reduce costs, since they were guaranteed a cost-plus profit – in essence
– the more they spent, the more they made. All this has changd under deregulation, and utilities are examining every chance to reduce costs.
– The cost reduction efforts have squeezed plant staffing, and the staff that used to be used to monitor the frequent hydrogen
– deliveries (hydrogen is a highly hazardous material and procedure is that the deliveries would be monitored by plant personnel) is no longer available. By eliminating or reducing deliveries, a HOGEN hydrogen generator frees up staff.
– The price of hydrogen has been rising at the rate of 10+% annually for the past several years (propelled by increases in natural
– gas, diesel fuel, regulation and labor) – the “cost to beat” for electrolysis is getting easier.

It is important to note that use of a HOGEN hydrogen generator may not eliminate the need to get delivered backup gas, and to have the ability to get hydrogen gas delivered for a generator refill (approximately once annually). The most cost-effective generator is sized to meet the steady-state needs of a generator, not the refill. For example, we know that a GE Frame 7 gas turbine requires approximately 21 cubic feet of hydrogen per hour for makeup gas, but requires 7500 scf of hydrogen to refill the generator after it has been purged of hydrogen. The refill gas is best supplied though a bulk delivery by an industrial gas supplier or some other supply method.

Also be aware that Proton’s fundamental business philosophy is that we will access our markets through qualified incumbent distribution methods. In the case of hydrogen supply, the incumbent method is through industrial gas companies such as Air Liquide, Praxair, Airgas etc. Since we believe that sites will continue to require backup storage (often rented) and delivered gas for refilling after a purge, we believe that Proton’s business goals and the customers’ total requirements for technology, products and services may be best suited by accessing HOGEN hydrogen generators through industrial gas suppliers.

Beyond products and services, industrial gas suppliers can supply financing services to electric utilities. We are finding that in the new business environment, that generating stations are looking for a maximum two year payback on capital expenditures. We are often right on the edge of a two year payback, and thus it is difficult for the facility to make the right decision. Financing via a full service lease from an industrial gas company makes it an operating expenditure rather than a capital investment and makes the right decision easier to implement.

Current models of HOGEN hydrogen generators deliver 150-200 psig hydrogen without a compressor. We expect to be building systems within the near future that can deliver 1600 psig and up without a compressor. This would eliminated the need for delivered backup hydrogen because the systems would be able to pressurize the existing tube banks present at many electrical generating plants to their working storage pressure – making our own backup gas.

While the opportunities in generator cooling for HOGEN systems are exciting in the U.S. and in Western Europe, there are even more exciting opportunities possible outside of these areas. In many developing countries, regional and national utilities have been so desperate for reliable hydrogen supply that decades ago they purchased a small number of old fashioned KOH electrolyzers with large reciprocating compressor which they set up at centralized sites and they fill their own cylinders which they then truck hundreds of miles to their various electric generation sites. Thus they have the worst of both worlds – high cost hydrogen, and high cost distriibution. Our proposed “White paper” (which may be the presentation that we give at Power-Gen Latin America in Oct ’01) will talk about replacing this far flung network with compact onsite hydrogen generators at each generation station, allowing the old central systems to be retired, decreasing costs and increasing reliability.

Hope this information is helpful. Thank you again for your enthusiasm and assistance.

David E. Wolff
V.P. Marketing and Sales
Proton Energy Systems
50 Inwood Rd.
Rocky Hill, CT. 06067
(860) 571-6533 x254
(860) 571-6505 FAX

Fuel Cell info; DOE DP Program

In the Jan 23 UFTO Note about the Fuel Cell Seminar, several sources of information on Fuel cells were provided. Here is some additional clarification of how four separate publications are related.

Fuel Cells 2000 is an activity of the Breakthrough Technologies Institute (BTI), a non-profit organization formed to promote the development and early commercialization of fuel cells and related pollution-free, efficient energy generation, storage and utilization technologies and fuels.

They publish “Fuel Cell Connection”, a monthly sponsored by USFCC, NFCRC, and NETL
(subscribe at
This will also get you the quarterly “Fuel Cell Catalyst”, (the Winter 2001 issue arrived this afternoon) and access to back issues:

Fuel Cells 2000 also publishes and distributes its own monthly “Technology Update”, summarizing recent events in the fuel cell industry

And, they publish “Fuel Cell Quarterly” — subscription requires a paid contribution of $25 or more.

All of the above mentioned organizations have extensive websites with lots of documents, links, lists, etc.


The January 2001 issue of Fuel Cell Connection arrived today, with 28 separate items. Here are two that are noteworthy.

9. NREL Establishes Center for Distributed Power
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has established a new “Distributed Energy Resources Center” to conduct research and provide information needed to efficiently develop additional power supplies from small, decentralized generating units. Research on fuel cells and microturbines will fall under the “Hydrogen and Natural Gas Systems” section of the center.

10. Guide to Doing Business with DOE’s National Laboratories Now Available
The Laboratory Coordinating Council of the DOE has prepared a guide to “Doing Business with the Laboratories of the Laboratory Coordinating Council. (LLC)” The guide is available online through the DOE Office of Industrial Technologies.

Even though the “LLC” is focused specifically on the Office of Industrial Technologies, this new document appears to be a good new resource about the whole subject.


Speaking of Distributed Power and NREL, the DOE program is really taking off.

On December 4, 2000, DOE released its “Strategic Plan for Distributed Energy Resources,” (dated September 2000) which outlines a national effort to develop clean, reliable and affordable distributed energy technologies over the next two decades. The goal of the plan is eventually to allow industrial, commercial and residential customers to choose from an array of distributed energy resource products and services. The Strategic Plan will focus initially on developing “next-generation” distributed energy technologies and addressing the institutional and regulatory barriers that interfere with the development of dis-tributed energy resources. The DOE also outlined six separate strategic areas it plans to address in the near future.

“The Strategic Plan for Distributed Energy Resources” can be found on the Internet at
(Generally thislast website is the one to pay attention to.)

The DP Program Review meeting was just held the week before last in Washington. Very soon I hope to be able to pass along detailed notes from the NREL folks who are handling the website.