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Published on August 17th, 2011 | by Andrew


Hydrogen for 200 Million Vehicles: Air Products/Orange County Open Wastewater-Hydrogen Fuel Plant

August 17th, 2011 by  

Photo Credit: Air Products

Air Products opened its latest hydrogen fueling station in Orange County California, the Lehigh Valley-based company announced yesterday. The new hydrogen fuel plant is a notable achievement when it comes to integrated wastewater treatment-biogas power, fuel and heat production in that hydrogen is produced from methane gas emitted from wastewater in holding tanks at the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) in Fountain Valley.

The Air Products plant is equipped with a FuelCell Energy fuel cell that reforms the methane into hydrogen, which is used to generate 250 kilowatts of electricity that provides clean, renewable power for the wastewater treatment facility. The heat put out by the fuel cell could also be used for other purposes on-site.

Air Products’ technology refines surplus hydrogen further, producing enough vehicle-grade hydrogen for 25-50 fuel cell vehicles each day, according to Air Products’ press release.

The OCSD/Air Products wastewater treatment-hydrogen power, fuel and heat generation system is the first of its kind and may serve as a model for similar integrated waste treatment-biogas facilities in the near future, according to Air Products, which believes this type of installation has the potential to open up “significant opportunities for other biogas feedstock streams.”

“This location will show how well this technology works and can be applied to wastewater and other waste applications to generate hydrogen. It is another first for Air Products in terms of the varied sources of feed from which hydrogen can be produced, stored and dispensed by our proprietary fueling technology,” said Ed Heydorn, business development manager for Hydrogen Energy Systems at Air Products.

“Another plus is that renewable hydrogen is required to be in the mix in fueling stations in California. We look to this type of technology as a platform to meet the renewable requirement and to supply even cleaner hydrogen to the next generation of fuel cell vehicles.”

The OCSD/Air Products facility is also significant in that it demonstrates the results and benefits that can be realized via public-private partnerships, Heydorn added. The OCSD/Air Products plant is the result of a collaboration between the United States Department of Energy, which provided partial funding, OCSD, Air Products, FuelCell Energy, National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, the California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“This is the epitome of sustainability by taking a human waste and transforming it into electricity which we need, and transportation fuel that we need, as well as thermal product heat that could serve the process of transforming the feed waste into productive products,” commented Professor Scott Samuelsen, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine.

“This project is at the nexus of the challenge for the next millennium associating how we handle in concert transportation, energy and water resources.”

The integrated design and technology used in the OCSD/Air Products plant can be applied to other biogas feedstock, Air Products notes, including agricultural, food and brewery waste streams, as well as landfill gas. Converting all these into hydrogen could supply enough fuel for 200 million fuel cell vehicles in the US, the company says.

Commenting on its effects at the OCSD wastewater treatment facility, operations and maintenance director Ed Torres said that “it provides an alternative to us in dealing with air quality in this basin where we are heavily regulated.

“The project also ensures us going into the future that we have a technology that can provide power and heat and produces a transportation fuel with no emissions and comes from a renewable source. I think this provides a promising future for our industry.” 


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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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