H2 from Multiple Fuels & Polymeric Membrane Separation

So much is going on in hydrogen these days, but one still wonders whether truly novel developments will ultimately be the key to making H2 an economic and practical part of the energy system. H2fuel, a small technology development company in Chicago, has two important innovations that may be examples the kinds of breakthroughs that are needed.

1. Fuel Processor — Simpler cheaper integrated autothermal reformer system–sulfur tolerant

2. Polymeric Membrane — A unique new membrane that removes CO2 and H2S, by a chemical mass transport, not physical separation, while reducing CO.

H2fuel is jointly owned by Avista Labs(70%) and Unitel Fuel Technologies (30%). H2fuel is looking for investors. A business plan is available.

Lee Camara, Unitel, 847-297-2265
Mike Davis, Avista Labs, 509-228-6685

Here are some technical details, adapted from a 4-page summary the company has prepared, complete with color graphics. (download – password required):

Fuel Processor

A couple of years ago, H2fuel took over funding of work at Argonne on an autothermal reformer (ATR), and introduced new sulfur-tolerant catalysts. A key goal was to process any number of standard (sulfur bearing) fuels in the same device. The system now promises low cost, simple operation, ease of manufacture, rapid cycling (load following), and ease of manufacture.

Sulfur-tolerant water gas shift (WGS) catalysts have been qualified for both medium temperature and low temperature applications. One of the most significant breakthroughs is the elimination of the zinc oxide bed, thus allowing the H2S produced in this processor to go right through the reactor without any deleterious effects. The H2S is continuously removed by a new subsystem downstream (see below).

The CO produced in the fuel processor, ~1%, depending on the fuel, acts as a PEM fuel cell poison because it affects the anode electrocatalyst. H2fuel has developed a unique method for reducing the CO level to below 10 ppm, thus eliminating this problem.

H2fuel’s new hydrogen processor, with its sulfur-tolerant autothermal and water gas shift catalysts, and without the need for a zinc oxide bed, has been tested continuously for over 2500 hours with natural gas containing ~20 ppm sulfur compounds. During this period, it has successfully completed several load-following tests and maintained an output gas composition (dry basis) of 45% H2, 15% CO2, 1% CO, 0.4% CH4, balance N2. This reactor continues to be tested; however, the fuel is being changed to regular gasoline, and later to fuel grade ethanol.

Polymeric Membrane

On a separate front, under the auspices of a R&D program originally started at the University of Kentucky, and now being continued at Ohio State University, H2fuel has a controlling position in the IP developing polymeric membrane products and support devices to facilitate the removal of H2S and CO2 from the reformate product streams. The key component of this membrane separator is a surface layer that reacts with H2S and CO2, but not with H2 and CO. The membrane transports the reaction products from one side of the membrane to the other by mass transport. The H2S and CO2 desorb on the other side and are swept away. The H2 and CO don’t react with the membrane and are retained on the reformate side. A second membrane stage incorporates a catalyst to deplete the remaining CO in the reformate to less than 10 ppm.

This membrane technology can be used as well to clean up H2 from other production processes. Some major fuel cell companies have made clear their interest once higher temperature operation of the membrane is accomplished.

EPRI Distributed Resources Venture Forum

— Business Venture Forum for Emerging Distributed Resources Technology Companies, Investors, and Market Channels
— 7/25/2001 – 7/26/2001

Agenda download is still available:

EPRI solutions’ Second Annual Business Forum was designed to bring together leading Distributed Resource (DR) technology companies, the energy utility industry, and energy industry investors for the exchange of information related to business and investment opportunities. The Forum was structured as a venture fair with 15-minute presentations from 13 leading DR companies, followed by an afternoon of “breakout” sessions, for small group/individual meetings with the company representatives.

EPRI will issue a CD with all the presentations. Most were provided in hard copy in a binder. Additional company materials were selectively provided at the breakout sessions.

We’ve seen a number of the presenting companies before, as they’ve appeared at other similar events over the last couple of years. Side conversations also led to some interesting additional leads.

These notes are intentionally brief. If you’re interested in contacts or more details for any of these companies, let me know.


Dais Analytic – yet another small company pushing PEM. Distinctions include “great” reformer technology, about which nothing was disclosed, and a proprietary membrane material. The membrane is the subject of a major JV with a major chemical company (unnamed), and holds great promise in an air-to-air heat exchanger, MERV, which exchanges not only heat, but also water vapor. MERV greatly reduces heating and A/C loads by preconditioning incoming fresh air. This company’s “dual” play is either appealing or not, depending on your investment philosophy (and your view of PEM’s prospects). MERV appears to offer prospect of early real revenues while awaiting PEM to ripen. On the other hand, it’s two different businesses, which can be hard for a small company to do effectively.

Candent Technologies – a brand new stealth (til now) arrival on the microturbine front. Very experienced personnel coming out of Rolls Royce, (which decided not to do a microturbine) take a different design approach, and will target a 750 KW unit size, eventually as low as $350/KW. They specifically are avoiding the use of recuperators, as expensive and unreliable, and will use a high pressure spool instead. No new technology is involved, so they’re projecting a rapid development, direct to beta pre-production stage, skipping a prototype. Looking for $3 Million now, and $20 M in another round following demonstration.

PEPCo Technologies – GenerLink. Spinoff of PEPCo, selling an standby generator interface for homeowners. Said they have 2 investors that are going ahead (one is strategic, the other a VC). I have to agree with what I heard most people say– it’s hard to imagine there are very many people who would want this.

Pentadyne Power Corp. High speed flywheel, continuing development work by Rosen Motors. Targeting high power/short duration ride-through application. First units will be 120 KW for 20 seconds. Novel approach to safety containment using double shell with liquid in-between (originally conceived for onboard vehicle use, where heavy shielding is not possible). Claim very low standby loss/idling load, and low cost once in large quantity production.

Powerco US/Ocean Power — a new private marketing arm, formed as subsidiary to Ocean Power (NASDAQ PWRE). Initial focus on small stirling engine they acquired in Norway, but parent company has too many breakthrough technologies in its arsenal to believe, ranging from diesel CHP, dish PV, fuel cells…and they didn’t even mention desalination, another area they claim to have cornered.

Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd — Solid Oxide FC contender in Australia that appears quite credible. In the breakout session they showed a new all-ceramic stack configuration that is looking very promising. Market entry product is a 40 KW generator, to operate on straight methane (SOFC is autoreforming, so no fuel processor needed).

BCS Technology — a tiny company from Texas, founded 1990, with “self-humidified” PEM fuel cell stacks and MEAs. They’ve sold over 100 small stacks.

ALM Turbine — This company looked overly ambitious when they started raising money 1-2 years ago, but they say their progress is on track. Their first engine is just about ready for tests, and preliminary emissions data for their burner technology is promising. Their engine is completely scalable in size, from 25-350 KW, and they claim high efficiency, and high part load performance. Design relies heavily on exhaust gas recirculation.

Sixth Dimension — Until recently, it was difficult to understand what this company did, but they’re doing better at explaining it now. They’re a “network operating system” for communicating with any/all types, brands etc of energy producing, consuming and monitoring devices, e.g. meters, gensets, building control systems, energy analytics systems, etc. They put a “gateway” box on site which they call “Embedded Site Server”, to which 16 devices can be connected. Each device gets a smaller box called the “Power Tone Adapter” which can be outside or inside the device. The system of proprietary hardware and software makes possible all manner of clever monitoring and control functions. This sounds like what Encorp says, but they say Encorp can only do these things if you have Encorp switchgear. 6th is far more equipment-agnostic.

Alternative Designs Inc — ADI has unique stirling engine technology enabling operation at much higher temperatures, attaining efficiencies of 50% and greater. Other enhancements include an advanced regenerator, and simplified heater head design, leading to big cost reductions and higher reliability. [I am an advisor to this company.]

DayStar Technologies — Unique PV cell technology. Company first developed a “flat-plate concentrator” technology that was clever and intriguing, but would require extensive capital development. DayStar is now focused primarily on their own cadmium-telluride “thin-film-on-metals” solar cells. The cells are manufactured in sheets, which can be used whole, or cut into cells which can be a direct “replacement” for Si cells, at half the cost.

Rolls Royce — as noted above, RR decided not to pursue a microturbine development, despite having invested quite a bit of money in it. Instead, they’re going for a special purpose turbine to be combined with their own planar SOFC. Program began in 1992. This 1 MW hybrid is to be ready by 2005. RR will fund most of the program internally, but will seek strategic partners for funding, and technical/marketing support, leading to a possible spinoff company.

Vanteck(VRB) Technology Corp. — (public company, CNDX symbol VRB ) commercializing the vanadium redox battery technology, and in particular VESS, for Vanadium Energy Storage Systems. The company is in the midst of straightening out a particularly messy history of corporate ownership of IP and market rights, but assuming that can be done, are focusing on the US market. This is flow-battery has some uniquely attractive features, including high round trip efficiency, and freedom to size a system’s power (KW) and capacity (KWH) separately (either aspect can be added to over time). In concept, this is very similar to the Regenesys battery, but with different chemistry, and targeted at smaller systems. The first commercial installation outside Japan is starting up now — a 250 KW/ 520KWH unit at ESKOM, in South Africa.

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

Ballard and GPU Joint Venture

Subject: UFTO Note – Ballard and GPU Joint Venture
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 10:44:23 -0800
From: Ed Beardsworth

| ** UFTO ** Edward Beardsworth ** Consultant
| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670
| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675

Below is a recent press release on a joint venture between Ballard and GPU. Ballard also announced receiving $30 Million from the Canadian government to support commercialization of stationary fuel cell power plants. —


Dec. 17, 1996

Ballard Power Systems and GPU International, Inc. (GPUI), a subsidiary of GPU Inc., a major international electric company based in New Jersey, announced today that they have formed a venture for the commercialization of Fuel Cell Stationary Power Plants using the Ballard Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cell.

Under the terms of the agreement, which is subject to final regulatory approval, Ballard Power Systems has created a new subsidiary, Ballard Generation Systems Inc., to commercialize Fuel Cell Stationary Power Plants. Ballard Generation Systems will develop, market and manufacture Fuel Cell Stationary Power Plants worldwide and will be based in Burnaby, B.C. Ballard Power Systems, the parent company, will supply the fuel cells for these power plants. GPU International will invest US$23.25 million (Can$31.2 million) over the next two years in the subsidiary, Ballard Generation Systems, for up to a 19.3% share of Ballard Generation Systems, two 250 kW fuel cell power plants for field trials, and non-transferrable warrants to purchase 100,000 Common shares in Ballard Power Systems at a price of $27.45 per share.

In addition to GPUI’s investment in Ballard Generation Systems, it will bring to the company its considerable expertise in world energy markets and an understanding of user requirements which will contribute to the development of Ballard Fuel Cell Stationary Power Plants.

GPU International is the non-regulated arm of GPU, Inc. GPU serves a worldwide population of over 13 million people with 4.4 million customers located in 12 countries. It had 1995 revenues of over US$3.8 billion and assets of about US$10 billion. GPU, Inc. shares are on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Under growing deregulation, Ballard Fuel Cell Stationary Power Plants will become an important part of the energy market. These power plants will provide power for a broad range of market applications including Premium Power,” said Bruce L. Levy, President and CEO of GPU International. “We see that by combining Ballard’s clear lead in proton exchange membrane fuel cells and power plants with GPU’s expertise in the world energy business, we can together build a growing, successful and profitable business.”

“We are pleased to welcome GPU as a strategic partner and investor in our stationary power business,” said Firoz Rasul, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ballard. “GPU has distinguished itself as a leader in the deregulated electric power industry worldwide and has participated in the commercialization of innovative energy products and applications. Ballard Fuel Cell Power Plants will address the needs of the substantial markets that are emerging for environmentally clean, high quality power generated at the customer’s site.”

“GPU International has made investments in power-related projects throughout the world,” said GPUI’s Levy. “We feel that fuel cell power plants will open up considerable new markets in the power business within the next 5 years.”

“To marshal the resources needed to bring each of our products to market effectively, our plan is to join forces with a carefully chosen team of marketing and manufacturing partners,” said Mossadiq Umedaly, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Ballard Power Systems. “GPUI brings deep insight in the international electric power markets, which will contribute to the commercial success of Ballard Fuel Cell power plants. The equity participation by GPUI also enables Ballard to capitalize on the value of its stationary power plant technology beyond the fuel cell, and establishes the value for this subsidiary, before GPUI’s investment of $31.2 million at more than $130 million.”

Ballard Power Systems is the world leader in the development of proton exchange membrane fuel cell power systems. The heart of its products is the Ballard Fuel Cell, a proprietary zero-emission engine that converts natural gas, methanol, or hydrogen fuel into electricity without combustion. Ballard Fuel Cells are currently being used by leading international companies including Daimler-Benz, General Motors, Hitachi, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo to develop zero-emission vehicles and clean stationary power plants.

Ballard’s Common shares are listed on The Toronto Stock Exchange under the trading symbol “BLD” and on the Nasdaq National Market System under the symbol “BLDPF”.

/For further information: Paul Lancaster, Ballard Power Systems Inc. (604) 454-0900, fax (604) 412-4700; Michael A. Lundy, Lundy Associates, Inc. (201) 660-1100, fax (201) 660-1104 or Patrick M. Dool, GPU International, Inc. (201) 263-6951, fax (201) 263-6977/ (BLD. BLDPF)

1996 Fuel Cell Seminar & Russian Amer. Consortium

Subject: UFTO Note — 1996 Fuel Cell Seminar & Russian Amer. Consortium
Date: Fri, 01 Nov 1996 13:21:39 -0800
From: Ed Beardsworth <>

| * UFTO * Edward Beardsworth * Consultant
| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670
| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675

The 1996 Fuel Cell Seminar is coming up next month, Nov 17-20.


Fuel Cells — The Dawn of Commercialization
DATE: November 17-20, 1996
Kissimmee, Florida

For information, please contact:
Ms. Annmarie Pittman
655 15th Street, NW
Suite #300
Washingtion, D.C. 20005
Phone: (202) 639-4994
Fax: (202) 347-6109

On Tuesday Nov 19, there will be a special briefing about the RUSSIAN AMERICAN FUEL CELL CONSORTIUM (RAFCO). See earlier press release below.

*** UFTO members received copies of the proceedings of the US Russian workshop held in Sept. 1995 (SAND96-0945) Our contact at Sandia, Al Sylwester, is directly involved in RAFCO, and tells me he’d welcome utility involvement. ***
DOE PRESS RELEASE September 17, 1996

United States and Russia To Co-Develop Clean, Efficient Fuel Cell Technologies

The United States and Russia today announced they will pool their resources on the research and development of fuel cells, a move that is expected to help speed this highly efficient, clean energy source to commercial markets. The Russian-American Fuel Cell Consortium (RAFCO) will draw on the scientific and engineering expertise of both nations to advance the development of commercially viable fuel cell technologies and promote defense conversion goals. American industry is expected to play a pivotal role in the consortium’s projects.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O’Leary and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Mikhailov signed the agreement while attending meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. “This is another milestone in Russian-American cooperation and a concrete step in the Clinton administration’s commitment to diversify the world’s energy supply with clean, efficient alternative technologies,” Secretary O’Leary said.

Fuel cells are a highly energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective power source. Originally developed by both countries for their space programs, they convert the energy released by oxidation of a fuel directly into electricity. By producing energy without combustion, they release much less carbon dioxide than conventional technologies.

Fuel cell technology is a national priority in Russia as a source of remote power for the rapidly developing oil and gas industry. In the United States, the Department of Energy supports research and development in fuel cells for power and transportation applications, including the enhanced use of natural gas, utility and other power grid applications, retail and industrial dispersed power applications, mass transportation and advanced automobile technologies. Pooling the resources of the two governments and American industry is expected to result in significant cost savings.

There is already a small, emerging U.S. and international market for fuel cell applications. International Fuel Cells, a leader in the field, is currently producing the 100th 200-kilowatt power plant using phosphoric acid fuel cell technology, which was developed largely with DOE support.

DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories first proposed a consortium in 1994 as an efficient way of combining the expertise and resources of Russian nuclear institutes, DOE national laboratories and U.S. industry. RAFCO will combine Russian and American scientists and engineers on specific projects and serve as an information clearing house. The consortium will further nonproliferation goals by helping to redirect the expertise in Russian and U.S. nuclear labs to peaceful applications.

The initial collaborations will include work on all four types of fuel cell technologies: solid oxide, molten carbonate, phosphoric acid, and polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. -DOE- R-96-137

Mantic Catalyst/Fuel Cells

SUBJECT: Unique opportunity/Fuel Cells

An interesting situation has arisen in connection with the CO to CO2 catalyst I mentioned in an earlier bulletin. (Nov 1, 1995). The company, Mantic Corp, is a startup with a license for NASA technology and also important further developments of its own to make catalysts that convert CO to CO2 at room temperature, and which can be applied to many different substrates (i.e. not a high temp. fabrication process that can only be applied to special ceramics).

They have a number of application areas in mind, not yet including the following:

I noticed a patent awarded to Ballard last month for the use of a catalyst to get rid of CO in a PEM fuel cell, to prevent the poisoning of the electrodes. The patent does not speak to what type of catalyst would be used. Before I made this connection, Mantic had no knowledge of the possible application of such catalysts in Fuel Cells, and wasn’t aware of the degree to which fuel cells have progressed in recent years.

Would you be interested in discussing WITH MANTIC the possibility of working with them to develop an intellectual property position on the use of their catalysts for this type of application? Please handle this information with discretion, and discuss with me before contacting anyone. In particular, please do not mention it to anyone outside your company, especially Ballard or any other FC developers. As noted in the previous note, I’ll be on travel until 3/1. Feel free to leave tel. messages (which I will get) or email (which I won’t get.)

Sincerely yours,


Edward Beardsworth, Consultant
951 Lincoln Ave___________Tel 415-328-5670___Fax 415-328-5675
Palo Alto CA 94301________EMAIL:

Bulletin #7 – PNL Utility Needs “Closure” Terms

UFTO Bulletin #7

May 3, 1995

To: UFTO Subscribers

. . in this issue: . . . . . . . . .

PNL Utility Needs “Closure” Terms

1. We’ve finished all the briefings and needs assessments at your companies. Enclosed please note the draft “Utility Needs” memo to give to our contacts at the National Labs, so they can respond. Please get your comments or changes to me ASAP.

2. Also enclosed — a memo detailing the terms we talked about at our meeting in Golden for official close- out of the 94-95 program. Let me know if you have any concerns about it, and if it looks right to you, please sign and return to me.

3. I visited Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL) in Richland WA, adjacent to but separate from the infamous Hanford Site. PNL is run by Battelle Memorial Institute, and has a unique contractual arrangement with DOE where they can do work either as a national lab or as a private firm.

They’ve got a lot of really exciting work, and they’re committed to working with the utility industry, based on a long history with BPA and others. Some of you may know Merwyn Brown, formerly of PG&E’s R&D Dept., who joined PNL recently as an Assoc. Director of the Energy Programs, who’ll give them the insights and direction they need to make it happen. Merwyn, and with our main contact Carl Imhoff, are really excited about the opportunity that UFTO gives them to make contact with utilities.

Pending my major writeup for PNL (along with LANL, Sandia and Berkeley), some “UFTO Flash” highlights are attached.

4. Any interest in the special situations at Los Alamos and Sandia that I told you about last month? A few of you have made contact about them, but the response hasn’t been overwhelming (e.g., no inquiries about “HyMelt”, which I thought looked really interesting). Either the “Action Gap” is a bigger problem than we thought, or these deals aren’t on target and maybe I need to recalibrate? Comments?

By the way, I now have the Los Alamos discussion paper on their PEM fuel cell. If you didn’t get a copy directly from them and you’d like to have one, let me know.

5. DOE is supposed to announce a major reorganization this week. The Office of Utility Technology (OUT) has been working on it’s own reorg. They had scheduled a Stakeholder’s Meeting for June 6, but it will probably be postponed until September. Previous meetings have been notably short on utility representation, but the problem’s been recognized, and through our contacts at PNL, UFTO members will be the among the first to be invited.

(Those who attended the DOE Industrial meeting in DC this week, I hope you’ll pass along any impressions, news and information. Thanks.)

6. I’ll be gone May 8-23. Please feel free to send mail, email, fax or voice mail messages in my absence, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I return.

Bulletin #6 – NREL Visit, UFTO Meeting, Sandia, Los Alamos

UFTO Bulletin #6

March 21, 1995

To: UFTO Subscribers

. . in this issue: . . . . . . . . .

NREL Visit, UFTO Meeting, Sandia, Los Alamos

1. On Thursday March 9, we had an all day nonstop series of follow-up presentations and discussions with NREL staff, on all aspects of their programs. Everyone found the day to be very valuable, including the NREL folks, who appreciated the chance to present their work and to learn a bit more about what the industry is up to. Our group was the first of its kind that NREL had ever encountered, and the sessions gave them some important new perspectives.

2. On Friday 3/10, we had our own group meeting, to discuss the UFTO program and ways it could be made more effective. Every UFTO member utility was represented except for Wisconsin Electric (Graham Siegel made his own visit to NREL a few weeks ago.) A draft “Proceedings” is attached, subject to any comments that attendees might want to offer. (Please send me comments ASAP, along with copies of your notes or “trip report” if any!).

3. The next week, I went to Sandia and Los Alamos for more “drinks from a fire hose”. Once again, there appears to be some very exciting opportunities for utilities in what these labs are doing, and a strong interest on their part in getting closer to utilities.

A few highlights are outlined in an attachment. There are some very significant ground floor opportunities, some of which are quite new, unannounced, and time-sensitive.

4. One key issue keeps coming up. The labs want to know if we’re serious, and if there’s a real possibility that we (you) are prepared to do business with them in some concrete way, if the right kind of technology opportunity comes along. They’re understandably wary of all the time it takes for them to host visitors, unless there’s a reason to think something will come of it.

I’ve indicated that we (you) are interested, motivated, and serious, and that if the technology is right, “anything is possible,” ranging from substantial funding under a Crada or work for others agreement, to hosting demos, to investments in new ventures.

As you review the various “deals” I report to you, be thinking not only if the technology is interesting, but also what kinds of resources you’d be prepared to bring to the table, and what kind of business arrangement you’d want. Let’s show the labs we mean business.

PS: If any of you are looking for a better way than Dialog to search for technology information, particularly from government sources, give me a call. I’ve got a recommendation for you.

NOTE: The current domestic UFTO membership comprises approximately 1/6 of the total U.S. electric utility industry! And the international participation amounts to about 1/7 of the U.S. industry.

(Thanks to Janie Farrington at PSI/Cinergy for the figures.)



Ashland Oil has demonstrated proof of concept in their labs, and has funding committed for a production installation. What’s missing is the piece in the middle — the intermediate scale demonstration R&D. Sandia Labs has made a proposal to DOE/Fossil to fund the government side of a CRADA with Ashland, but with budget cuts, it’s possible the funds might not be available.

The technology makes it possible to convert low grade hydrocarbon feedstocks (or fossil fuels) directly into Hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide (separate streams!) while sequestering impurities, even producing elemental sulfur. There is no stack, and no emissions.

Ashland wants this technology for its refineries, to deal with the sour crude it often has to deal with, to produce hydrogen, and to handle refinery “bottoms”, which are a costly disposal headache.

As a Hydrogen producer, HYMELT is estimated to be 30% cheaper than steam reforming, when using the same feedstock, i.e. fuel gas. It is much cheaper still, when the cost of the feedstock is removed, and a waste stream is used instead.

In case DOE doesn’t come up with the money, Ashland has asked Sandia to begin looking discretely for a partner interested in other fields of use, and who could put up $800k/year for 3 years, leveraging the many $ millions that Ashland has spent and committed.

We are the first to hear this story. Please handle with discretion, and do not discuss outside your company.

Contact is Al Sylwester, Sandia Tel # 505-844-8151

or call me

Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670


Diamond Like Coatings (DLC) on Large Objects

with Plasma Source Ion Implantation.


Based on an invention at the Univ of Wisc from the early 80’s, Los Alamos has developed the capability to cost-effectively put DLC on large objects of arbitrary shape without preheating, and with a high degree of intrinsic adherence. It is the subject of a $14 million crada with GM for automotive applications.

DLC has been viewed almost entirely as a means to prevent wear . However, Los Alamos recently published a paper showing a many-fold improvement in corrosion resistance (done for a neutrino detection experiment!).

This could fulfill a personal vision of mine of many years that diamond coatings would be a major breakthru for turbine blades, or any component subject to wear or corrosion. The only utility interest to date has been by EPRI, to prevent fouling of nuclear power plant venturis, but funding isn’t available!

Los Alamos hadn’t been thinking in terms of other utility industry applications until we spoke. A joint development effort with utilities, Lawrence Berkeley Lab and possibly a vendor would be a brand new initiative. Los Alamos is already active in setting up “vertical consortia” to apply this technology in other industries, and would be very interested in working with us.

Please call me if you’re interested in pursuing this.

Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670



Both Sandia and Los Alamos seem to have a hand in this program to build a SMES unit that would be about 10x larger than Superconductivity, Inc.’s unit, and smaller than the B&W/Anchorage device. The application is Power Quality for industrial customers, and/or at the substation level — on the order of 10’s of MW for seconds. This is seen as a development project, not a research one, with the goal to learn if such a device is the solution to an industry problem.

CRADA negotiations are underway with one utility already, however there may be (and I feel there ought to be) a way for other utilities to participate, if only by providing modest funding for a seat at the table.

Please call me if you’re interested in pursuing this.

Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670


PEM Fuel Cell


Los Alamos has the oldest ongoing program in PEM, and some key breakthroughs in lowering the cost (by reducing the Pt catalyst requirement, and new designs and fabrication methods), and overcoming sensitivity to impurities. They also are working with an unidentified major company who’s supplying a new membrane, different from Dupont or Dow’s, and less expensive.

They believe PEM can “leapfrog” the high temperature fuel cell technologies (MC, SO) in stationary applications, which will be much easier than mobile ones (the conventional view of where PEMs belong). At least 10-15 companies large and small are working on PEM in one form or another (not just Ballard!). Los Alamos has lab units at 100 sq. cm. reliably demonstrating their technology.

There is no utility “user group” for PEM, and one is needed. We can be instrumental in forming one with Los Alamos, the other labs, and their other industrial partners. There’s also the obvious opportunity to stake out a piece of this very interesting nontraditional approach to fuel cell technology.

This group was initially wary of spending time on visitors unless it could lead to something. After I described the strategic interest utilities have in fuel cells and the new kinds of business initiatives utilities are taking, the PI offered to prepare a brief discussion paper, outlining their ideas and how utilities could participate.

Please call me if you’re interested in pursuing this, and want a copy of the paper when I receive it. Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670


Catalytic Reduction of NOx

by microwave assisted chemistry


Los Alamos has demonstrated at lab scale a means to remove NOx from a simulated gas stream, and need to implement it at a utility or factory/process that generates NOx.

Carbonaceous material first adsorbs the NOx, and then the bed is purged by heating it with microwaves with O2 (an adsorb/desorb cycle).

One interesting implication– with this capability to remove NOx, it may be possible to operate boilers at higher temperature, for better overall optimal performance.

This was internally funded at the lab, and DOE/Fossil is interested.

Contact is Ed Joyce, 505-665-2964