A Device to Facilitate Impurity Analysis in Hydrogen Fuel for Fuel Cell Vehicles

Abstract

Hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicles are slated for commercial deployment in the US and around the world. A number of demonstration hydrogen refueling centers have been set up around the US to support these vehicles. There are already more than 23 hydrogen refueling centers being operated in California alone. A combination of public and private enterprise (e.g., Stuart Energy, Air Products, SunHydro, etc.) is setting up an infrastructure of fueling stations in other states and along the East Coast. These hydrogen refueling centers dispense hydrogen at high pressure (5,000-10,000 psig) into the vehicle’s fuel tanks.

Description

Hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicles are slated for commercial deployment in the US and around the world. A number of demonstration hydrogen refueling centers have been set up around the US to support these vehicles. There are already more than 23 hydrogen refueling centers being operated in California alone. A combination of public and private enterprise (e.g., Stuart Energy, Air Products, SunHydro, etc.) is setting up an infrastructure of fueling stations in other states and along the East Coast. These hydrogen refueling centers dispense hydrogen at high pressure (5,000-10,000 psig) into the vehicle’s fuel tanks.

The upcoming fuel quality standard (e.g., SAE J2719) for the hydrogen fuel is very stringent with respect to some impurities, such as sulfur (4 ppb), ammonia (0.1 ppm), and CO (0.2 ppm). These limits are very close to the detection limits of commercial and standardized analytical methods, where some of the analytical equipment can cost $100,000 or more, and require skilled analytical chemists to operate it. The current practice is to collect samples from the fueling stations, which are then analyzed in specialty laboratories (e.g., Smart Chemistry, Inc.) at a cost of $1500-3000 per analysis. With a large-scale deployment of fuel cell vehicles and refueling centers, continuing to use this practice will add up to 10 cents per kg of hydrogen, a cost that is considered unacceptably high.

Further, the production processes at distributed centers also monitors key species in the product stream for process control and quality assurance. Frequent and cost-effective analysis is a key need which can only be met if the analysis can be done on-site.

The principal factors defining the need for new technology are,

o       Hydrogen quality standards limit some species to extremely low levels. Consequently their analysis requires expensive analytical equipments and skilled operators.

o       The hydrogen fuel is dispensed at very high pressure and requires dedicated sampling instruments and skilled personnel.

o       Production quality assurance demands on-site analysis with fast turnaround times of 1 hour or less.

o       Current analytical solutions are expensive with the cost per analysis, extrapolated for large volume production, to approach 10 cents per kg of hydrogen with turnaround times of 1 day or longer.

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Marketing Information

Market Summary

The hydrogen refueling infrastructure is envisioned to be available at the refueling stations (>120,000 in US). These stations may choose to monitor their own product or contract a service provider to provide an analysis on a regular (daily or per supply) basis. State regulators will need to certify the fuel dispensed at each location. Analytical service providers need to conduct these analyses for larger production facilities or for contracted suppliers. The potential market for this analytical solution includes a large number of end-users.

Benefits

- Reduction in cost of analyzing trace species
- Simpler, portable, automated equipment can be operated by unskilled operators
- Simpler analytical equipment will enable on-site analysis
- Simpler analytical methodology will enable process control feedback
- Facilitate analysis by vendors and state regulators
- Fast, frequent analysis

Industries

-       Smart Chemistry Inc (SCI) has been working with the refueling centers providing the analysis and certification of the hydrogen fuels for several years. They have expressed a strong interest in working with us on the field validation, and have also expressed interest in licensing the Argonne technology.

-       Our DOE-sponsors, members of the focus group, and members of DOE/USCAR Technical Teams have expressed the importance of commercializing this technology. 

Advantages

Resolving the commercialization barriers will provide the needed field validation. It will demonstrate to the end users that the technology can be easily translated to a product and its use will reduce the cost, complexity, and time needed for quality assurance. Their experience and endorsement will create the incentive for a product manufacturer or an end-user to license and commercialize the technology.

Time To Maturity

Some commercialization barriers to be addressed before full adoption of the technology:

o       Reduce the enrichment time to less than 30 minutes

·      Calculations indicate that this is possible with smaller, reconfigured hardware.

o       Fabricate a pre-prototype unit that is compact and portable

·      The redesigned hardware will be sized and fabricated for portability.

o       Demonstrate enrichment of gas with trace impurities (sub-ppm)

·      Testing at trace levels will be conducted at Smart Chemistry, Inc. (SCI), a commercial specialty analytical laboratory. They have the ability to prepare and analyze gas mixtures containing components at sub-ppm concentrations.

o       Demonstrate the reproducible enrichment of H2S

·      Tests with sulfur will be conducted at Smart Chemistry, Inc.

o       Demonstrate enrichment factors of 100X using high pressure hydrogen available at refueling centers

·      Tests will be conducted in our laboratory with a small high pressure source, before being tested in the field at a high pressure hydrogen dispenser.

Tech Transfer Details

  • 01/4/2012
  • Jeff Chamberlain   jchamberlain@anl.gov   (630) 252-6055
  • 06/28/2011

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