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IPHE Hydrogen Stakeholder Briefing Highlights Projects, Problems

By Jack Rosebro


Capping the National Hydrogen Association’s five-day conference in Long Beach, California, the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE) briefed stakeholders Thursday on ten collaborative hydrogen and fuel cell research, development and demonstration projects which had been endorsed last year by the partnership.

Launched in 2003, the IHPE consists of seventeen member governments: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, European Commission, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, New Zealand, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States, which chairs the organization.

IHPE does not fund hydrogen research; rather, it endorses collaborative projects that, in the words of its American co-chairs, “accelerate the cost-effective transition to a hydrogen economy.”

The endorsed projects are as follows:

  • Preparing For The Hydrogen Economy By Using The Existing Natural Gas System As A Catalyst. The project seeks to define conditions under which hydrogen can be mixed with natural gas for delivery by existing natural gas systems and later withdrawn selectively from the pipeline system by advanced separation technologies.

  • Solar Hydrogen From Reforming Of Methane. Design, test and demonstration of a low temperature steam reforming reactor using concentrated solar energy.

  • Solar-Driven High Temperature Thermochemical Production Of Hydrogen. In this project, the most promising thermochemical cycles for hydrogen production will be identified, and one or two cycles will be chosen for demonstration.

  • Reversible Solid State Hydrogen Storage For Fuel Cell Power Supply System. Development of reversible solid state hydrogen storage and purification systems and their integration with fuel cell power supplies increase the overall energy efficiency of the power supply systems.

  • Advanced Membranes. Collaboration on lowering cost and enhancing the durability of membranes for hydrogen-air and direct methanol polymer electrolyte fuel-cell systems.

  • Fuel Cell Testing, Safety And Quality Assurance (FCTESQA). Addresses research, benchmarking, and validation that will contribute to the early and market-oriented development of specifications and pre-standards.

  • Application Of Gradient Porous Composite MEAs For Different Types Of Fuel Cells. Development of a new thin monolithic multilayer more efficient and reliable membrane electrode assembly (MEA) for small, portable fuel cell applications.
  • HyWays: The Development And Detailed Evaluation Of A Harmonized European Hydrogen Energy Roadmap. Launched in spring 2004, the EU 6th Framework HyWays project seeks to develop a European hydrogen roadmap that addresses scientific, technical, strategic, and political concerns. The HyWays partnership consists of 32 organizations from ten European countries.

  • HySafe: Safety Of Hydrogen As An Energy Carrier. HySafe focuses on improving the knowledge and understanding of hydrogen safety, including the creation of a European Hydrogen Safety Center (EHSC) by 2009.

  • Clean Urban Transport For Europe – Ecological City Transport System – Sustainable Transport Energy for Perth (CUTE &nadsh; ECTOS – STEP). The CUTE – ECTOS – STEP project is a field trial of 33 DaimlerChrysler Citaro fuel cell buses and hydrogen infrastructure in 10 participating European cities, as well as Perth in Australia. A progress report on this project was presented in December at the 3rd International Fuel Cell Bus Workshop (earlier post).

New Zealand, a country rich in coal reserves, is IHPE’s newest member. A signatory to the Kyoto protocol, the government of New Zealand hopes to develop an energy roadmap that uses domestic coal as the source for its hydrogen.

The IHPE breakfast meeting underscored the formidable hurdles that face the nascent hydrogen economy. With widespread adaptation of the energy carrier dependent on so many technological breakthroughs, IHPE member governments are anxious to leverage their sometimes scant development dollars and avoid duplication of research while still allowing for the rise of a commercial, and thus competitive, industry.

A key IHPE focus is the adoption of international standards; as one speaker remarked at the meeting, “We have enough barriers to a hydrogen economy—we don’t need problems with codes and standards.”

Thursday’s stakeholder meeting was the fourth that IPHE has held since its inception, and the first on the US West Coast. Nominations for hydrogen and fuel cell research projects to be considered for official recognition by the IPHE in 2006 are due by March 24th.


Rafael Seidl

I'm curious why New Zealand joined this outfit. They have a carbon tax, so perhaps it is looking for CO2 sequestration approaches, in spite of the country's propensity for earthquakes.

Coal gasification (to CO and H2, plus purification steps) is a well developed technology, as is synthezing liquid fuels from that synthesis gas (aka CTL). This is an expensive but technically feasible strategy for securing transportation energy supplies (cp. South Africa, China). The economic break-even point is an oil price of ~$60 per barrel.

New Zealand already leverages its unique geology to produce electricity from geothermal sources (cp. Iceland), reducing total CO2 emissions by the country.

Jack Rosebro

Rafael, New Zealand did have a carbon tax plan at one time, but chose not to implement it:

At the time, Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues David Parker released the follwing statement:

"The government has decided not to implement a carbon tax, or any other broad based tax, in the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. Officials now advise that the proposed carbon tax would not cut emissions enough to justify its introduction."

Steve Miller

When elected, I will push as hard as possible for an all out objective to mass market hydrogen powered vehicles. I believe that the only way to achieve this objective is for a mandatory ban on the production of internal combustion vehicles.

There will always be a stalemate caused by no one will buy a hydrogen powered vehicle unless there are fueling stations, and there will never be fueling stations unless there are vehicles to fuel.

The fact is that the government banned leaded gas or there would still be leaded gas for sale. The same condition and parameters apply to hydrogen fuel.

I am not suggesting the confiscation of ICE vehicles. But there can be no more production of them. This is the only energy policy that will work.


Steve. Surely you jest. Hydrogen is an energy policy that will clearly not work, unless you desire a policy that wastes energy.



That's the most nonsensical energy policy I've ever read. Given the differences in technological and infrastructure investments required, you cannot compare moving to unleaded gasoline with moving to hydrogen. And I dare you to walk into an auto factory and tell the workers you want to take away their livelihood.

I'll put it this way. Nobody will buy a hydrogen-powered vehicle until the costs are comparable to gasoline. And we have lots of very large--and expensive--problems to overcome first. If they can be overcome.


Demanding an end to internal combustion while flogging hydrogen to the exclusion of batteries is a great way to have a huge failure.  Kind of like the Ghost Dance; if you think we're misinvesting now, just wait!


Hydrogen economy is heavenly dream for governmental and scientific bureaucracy:

forever unsafe, expensive, and wasteful.

What a pity if it will not work.

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