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Green hydrogen fuel supply goes mainstream

Hydrogen is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative fuel as breakthrough, cost-effective technologies are introduced.

According to the Brussels-based Hydrogen Council, in 2020 more than 15 countries launched major hydrogen plans and policies, and industry players announced new projects of more than 35GW until 2030. This is good news for Canadian firm PowerTap Hydrogen Capital Corp, which changed its name from Clean Power Capital Corp this June to reflect its transition to a single purpose, hydrogen-fueling technology company.

PowerTap’s US-based subsidiary, PowerTap Hydrogen Fuelling Corp, is focused on installing hydrogen production and dispensing fueling infrastructure in the United States. According to the company, its patented solution has been developed over 20 years. It is currently commercializing its third-generation blue hydrogen product that will focus on the refueling needs of the automotive and long-haul trucking markets.

There are currently under 100 operational publicly available hydrogen stations in the United States with most of the existing stations purchasing industrial hydrogen from industrial manufacturers and shipping hydrogen to individual stations via tanker trucks. Some 41 of the 100 stations are in California.

In January 2021, PowerTap entered into an agreement with the Andretti Group to install its modular hydrogen fueling stations in California. PowerTap says that a lack of hydrogen fueling station locations in the United States is the primary impediment to rapid adoption of hydrogen and presents an enormous opportunity in the clean energy industry for vehicles including long haul Class 8 trucks and cars.

Hydrogen currently supplies less than five percent of the world’s energy, but according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, this could reach nearly 25% of global energy consumption by 2050 and generate more than US$ 2.5 trillion in direct revenue annually in that time, says PowerTap.

“We are delighted to partner with the incredible team at the Andretti Group to bring our innovative and cost-effective hydrogen fuel technology to their gas stations locations, starting in California. We are also confident that the Andretti Group will be a strong exclusive distribution partner as we build out our 500-plus station network across the USA. We are honored to partner with the legendary auto racing father and son duo of Mario and Michael Andretti along with their talented team,” said Raghu Kilambi, CEO of PowerTap in a January 2021 media release.

In July 2021, PowerTap acquired 49% of AES-100 Inc, which owns the rights to the Advanced Electrolyzer System (AES). AES is a new electrochemical technology that selectively recovers high purity hydrogen from dilute syngas streams.

According to a July 2021 media statement, the technology was invented by T2M Global, a world leader in clean energy technology, to address the problem of hydrogen trapped in dilute syngas streams that is wasted on low-value applications. The ability to economically extract high purity, clean hydrogen from gas streams commonly produced by carbon-intensive processes and containing contaminates such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or methane, presents great potential to drive lower emissions footprints for many industrial processes, while unlocking more hydrogen to fuel a cleaner global energy system.

According to PowerTap, the AES technology enables lower cost production of hydrogen with no incremental greenhouse gas emissions. AES is the only technology capable of economically recovering high purity hydrogen at highly competitive costs. AES targets less than USD5/kg H2, a significant and material improvement from the USD10-15/kg H2 levels currently in the marketplace. Significant cost savings through AES should accelerate the adoption of hydrogen technology and promote growth of fuel cell vehicle and renewable energy sectors.

Additionally, the parties expect considerable synergy between the AES and PowerTap Hydrogen Fuelling’s steam methane reformer (SMR) technology with the AES complementing it via provision of syngas to PowerTap’s SMR. This will essentially broaden the pool of feedstock required to produce hydrogen to include biomass in addition to natural gas/renewable natural gas.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Salim Rahemtulla, President, PowerTap Hydrogen Fuelling, what the impact of the combination of the two technologies will be.

Rahemtulla: PowerTap’s hydrogen production technology and the advanced electrolyzer technology have great synergy. Their integration offers a highly competitive modular system for on-site hydrogen production for the emerging multi-billion-dollar fuel cell industry.

The world is marching steadily towards more rapid decarbonization, with governments around the world setting new climate aspirations that are even more ambitious than those expressed in the Paris Agreement. To achieve these goals, hydrogen is anticipated to play a central role in energy, industrial and transportations sectors. Technologies such as AES hold the key to unlocking the volumes required to catalyze mass adoption of fuel cells and clean energy alternatives to the current carbon-heavy energy sources.

AI: Tell us a little about PowerTap’s SMR technology.

Rahemtulla: Our onsite hydrogen production and dispensing unit uses steam methane reforming (SMR) technology coupled with an advanced CO2 capture system (CCS) to produce blue hydrogen. The PowerTap Gen3’s feedstock in this process is renewable natural gas (RNG), also referred to as biomethane or upgraded biogas. Common sources of RNG include landfills, animal manure, food scraps and wastewater sludge.

PowerTap Gen3’s advanced CCS uses a unique process incorporating a chemical reaction that consumes the CO2 and produces excess hydrogen. This excess hydrogen is converted into clean renewable electricity via a universal fuel cell and the produced electricity can be fed back into the local electric grid or used to create a renewable microgrid for local power distribution via a universal fuel cell to power the gas/truck stop facility at which the PowerTap unit is located.

AI: How effective is the resultant hydrogen fuel to run vehicles?

Rahemtulla: PowerTap’s fueling technology can be used to fuel hydrogen cars, trucks, buses, boats, material handling and other hydrogen vehicles that need modular onsite hydrogen production and fueling technology. PowerTap’s initial fueling units are being designed to be located at current retail gas stations to dispense hydrogen fuel to automobiles.

PowerTap is part of a rapidly developing fuel cell technology industry, which in turn expedites the development and deployment of hydrogen fuel cell products. Larger growth in the deployment of hydrogen fuel cells will mean more hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen fueling demands and greater opportunities for PowerTap’s onsite hydrogen production and fueling infrastructure

AI: How can carbon credits be earned using hydrogen as fuel?

Rahemtulla: PowerTap plans to participate in the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Carbon Credit program. California’s LCFS market may be one of most unique carbon emission credit trading program, reflecting the state’s commitment to greenhouse gas reductions.

The LCFS Carbon Credit program provides PowerTap with an opportunity to generate revenue even before dispensing any hydrogen from its fueling stations by allowing PowerTap to sell its earned LCFS credits on the emission trading markets. Purchasers of these credits are oil companies and other gross polluters, who are required to offset their CO2 emissions in California.

PowerTap will be eligible to earn LCFS Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure (HRI) credits as soon as its’ fueling stations are installed in California. PowerTap plans to roll out fueling stations during the second half of 2022.

AI: How will your partnership with the Andretti Group help achieve this goal?

Rahemtulla:  PowerTap Hydrogen Fuelling stations to be installed at any of the Andretti Group locations (the group has over a 100 locations) will be governed by location-specific agreements between PowerTap and the applicable Andretti Group participants who operate such locations. These location operation agreements will set out specific details of each such arrangement, including a revenue share as it relates to the installed fueling stations.

Additionally, the Andretti Group will receive the exclusive US rights to distribute PowerTap’s proprietary onsite hydrogen fueling technology, on behalf of PowerTap, to third party gas stations and truck stops in the United States. The Andretti Group and the third-party operators will receive revenue share consideration related to third party participant fueling stations in terms of the respective location operation agreements.

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