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DOE Awards $100 Million in Fuel Cell R&D

The Department of Energy (DOE) will award $100 million to fund 25 hydrogen research and development projects. DOE will negotiate these 25 cost-shared projects for an approximate total of $127 million ($100 million DOE cost; $27 million applicant cost) over four years (Fiscal Years 2007 – 2010).

These projects seek to overcome cost and durability barriers associated with hydrogen fuel-cell research and will specifically focus on fuel-cell membranes, water transport within the stack, advanced cathode catalysts and supports, cell hardware, innovative fuel-cell concepts, and effects of impurities on fuel-cell performance and durability.

Awards also include stationary fuel cell demonstration projects to help foster international and intergovernmental partnerships.

The President’s 2007 budget requests $289 million for the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (HFI)—an increase of $53 million over FY 2006—to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel cells and affordable hydrogen-powered cars. DOE claims that as a result of investment in the HFI over the last four years, the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell has been cut by more than 50%.

The goal of the HFI is to make fuel-cell vehicles practical and cost-effective for large numbers of consumers by 2020. HFI primarily involves increasing research and development of hydrogen technologies including hydrogen production from diverse domestic sources; hydrogen storage; and polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.

Selected organizations are as follows, ranked by the amount of the DOE award in descending order:

3M St. Paul, MN membranes $8.9M
3M St. Paul, MN catalysts $8.4M
Los Alamos National Laboratory Los Alamos, NM catalysts $6.8M
UTC Power South Windsor, CT catalysts $6.4M
Arkema King of Prussia, PA membranes $6.3M
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley, CA membranes $6.0M
Los Alamos National Laboratory Los Alamos, NM water transport $5.5M
Argonne National Laboratory Argonne, IL catalysts $5.4M
Nuvera Fuel Cells Cambridge, MA water transport $5.0M
CFD Research Corporation Huntsville, AL water transport $4.7M
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Richland, WA catalysts $4.6M
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Oak Ridge, TN bipolar plates $4.5M
Plug Power Latham, NY demonstration $4.0M
Los Alamos National Laboratory Los Alamos, NM impurities $3.6M
Plug Power Latham, NY demonstration $3.6M
Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY water transport $2.7M
GrafTech International Ltd. Parma, OH bipolar plates $2.3M
Intelligent Energy Inc. Long Beach, CA demonstration $2.2M
UTC Power South Windsor, CT seals $2.0M
Clemson University Clemson, SC impurities $2.0M
University of Connecticut - Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center Storrs, CT impurities $1.9M
Plug Power Latham, NY innovative stack design $1.0M
Argonne National Laboratory Argonne, IL innovative stack design $1.0M
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Richland, WA innovative balance of plant $1.0M
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH innovative stack design $0.8M


Rafael Seidl

That's a lot of money for a technology with what currently appear to be dubious market prospects. Even if we had economically viable fuel cell stacks, there are still the huge unsolved problems of hydrogen production, distribution and on-board storage.

I wish DOE would spend this $100m on ways to reduce vehicle weight, especially wrt cost of materials and flexible mass-production processes. Alternatively, we could do with research on the feasibility and safety of pressure tanks for alternative fuels (LPG, DME, CNG, CH2G) that double as load-bearing components of a suitably adapted vehicle chassis. Biofuels (e.g. fuel algae) would be another useful area to invest in. National energy security and climate change are fast becoming as - if not more - important than tailpipe emissions.

To be fair, the DOE is or may already be sponsoring some research in those areas, too. Unfortunately, much like the EU's web site, the DOE's is an impenetrable jungle of individual initiatives and details. A concise graphic representation of spending priorities and timeframes is not available, nor insight into how these tie in with efforts by other government agencies (DOT, EPA, states, int'l). I'm not sure if technocrats on both sides of the Atlantic are really incapable of proper marketing communications or, if they are obfuscating their strategy on purpose. This makes it hard to put any given announcement on DOE R&D grants into context.


Rafael -- How right you are. Hydrogen has become the poster child of energy independence -- yet -- alternatives (wind, solar, biofuel/algae)will be our short term solution and $100M could/would go a long way in helping that win that war. The sad part -- I just paid $1.89 to fuel up my vehicle -- with prices that low hydrogen will fall of the radar screen in a heart beat and we will have limited short term success with alternatives. We need a Robinhood strategy/apporach to break the oil habit - take from the oil industry (OPEC) and give to the alternatives -- thars gotta be a way!!

Rafael Seidl

Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that everything is framed as a "war" these days? Sure, it would make sense to gradually, predicatably and irreversably raise taxes on fossil fuels and disburse the proceeds by way of flat credits on each income tax return filed (x 2 for those filing jointly).

CA prop 87 would tax oil & gas exploitation in the state and spend the estimate $4 billion in incremental revenue over the lifetime of the prop on alternative energy projects. The trick there is to avoid creating a culture of patronage based on political loyalty (read: campaign contributions) rather than results. Doable, but only if the funding is based on projects with transparent results and accountability.


As much as I'd like to see this money spent on battery research (particularly in reducing their costs). I think that some of this research (membranes and catalysts) will have benefits beyond fuel cells and as such is not wasted money.


Hydrogen seems to be a way to get the future projected out several decades, instead of finding solutions for today and tomorrow.


Rafael - CA Prop 87 is an excellent example of the Robinhood aproach, however, I'm not so sure it will succeed. In a "Global Economy" I think a CA tax only CA wells will shut down many of the marginal wells and we will end up importing more oil from OPEC (specail note: I'm almost always the "glass is half full person"). I hope it passes and I hope I don't have to say "see I told you so".

As far as the reference to the word "war" it is an unfortunate use of the word in this context and yes it is disturbing (I could not think of another or better word) --- but --- if we do not "attack" this addiction to oil problem now and forever I'm afraid war over oil will be the reality -- it's what humans do -- war with each other over resouces -- always have -- always will. If we can think of a way to advance renewable alternatives (solar, wind, wave, biobuel etc) at the expense of the limited carbon based fuels (oil, gas, coal, etc) then maybe we can avoid all that war. Remember, I just paid $1.89 to fill up and at the pump and at that price the wind will be taken out of the renewalable sails - no pun intended.

Harvey D.

I'm with you JJ:. BP predicts an Oil surplus and a price as low as $40/barrel within the next 2 years. With gas going below $2/gal. and posibly much less down the road, the time is ideal to introduce a variable progressive (but significant) fossil fuel tax; now or immediately after the mid-term election.

A $1+/gal fossil fuel tax is the minimum required to keep the price close to $3/gal at the pump and give alternative fuels, Hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs a chance to succeed.

Part of (50%) the revenues from this tax could be returned to drivers via an income tax credit. The other 50% could finance alternative fuel, batteries, PHEVs, BEVs, etc R & D.

Fuel taxes to build and maintain roads should come from ALL fuels and users.


JJ, no CA oil wells will shut down in a world of $60 oil. The Prop87 tax works on a sliding scale, so if oil drops to $20/bbl the tax is only 15 or 30 cents (the poorly worded Proposition can be interpreted in two ways). There will be practically zero effect on currently producing wells, but perhaps a slight reduction in spending on new wells.

The problem with Prop87 is on the spending side. More bureaucracy, patronage, corruption, etc.


Perhaps fuel cells technology will eventually use biomass derived fuels (SVO, syngas brom biomass, etc), instead of pure H2. Diverse fuel sources makes for a hedge against shortages of supply. There is also the advantage of not having to refine H2.
_SOFC, and MCFC are two.


Doggydogworld -- If we could apply CA Prop 87 to the Globe as a whole then Prop 87 is a good thing -- but not so sure it will work on a piece meal basis -- hope it does but.... The House of Saud has already indicated that $50 - $60 a barrel for oil will stave off competition and keep the alternative markets at bay.


But not tar sand bitumen ($20-$40/bbl depending on natl gas and other factors), or GTL/CTL from gas/coal rich nations (~$40/bbl), or ultra heavy crude ($30-$40 depending on royalties and other costs/taxes).
_There is the possibility of using CO2 as supercritical fluid to produce kerogen (to be upgraded into syncrude) from oil shale, as well as a bitumen+catalyst method. Both methods may work economically with under $35/bbl light sweet crude.


An oil import fee after the 70s, with the money going to renewables, might have been a good idea too. But it never happened.


I believe Big Policy is at play here. US/Canada/Mexico NAFTA economic field could achieve oil independence in a hart beat. And it will be very tempting for US after achieving oil independence to pull out of global policy. Historically, it means World War. With terrible results to US economy.


Andrey: Can you expand a little on your last statement. If it's too far off topic you can email me ... thx.


If North America and the EU got serious about gasified biomass fuels, we could reduce the amount of oil imported from OPEC. That would have quite and effect on the market, I would suspect.

Cheryl Ho

DME developments in China today:
Since DME has an advantage of decomposition at lower temperature than methane and LPG, R&D for hydrogen source for fuel cell has been carried out. DME has a potential of feedstock for chemicals. DME to olefins is under development in Japan.

If you would like to know more on the latest DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information:


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