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GM and Hawaii Gas Company to Collaborate on Hydrogen Infrastructure Pilot; Different Approach to Provisioning Fueling Stations

TGC infrastructure follows the populated core on Oahu. Click to enlarge.

General Motors and Hawaii’s The Gas Company (TGC), the state’s major gas energy provider, are collaborating on a hydrogen infrastructure project.

TGC produces hydrogen along with synthetic natural gas and delivers it in its utility gas stream, with more than 5% hydrogen content today; it has the capability of producing more H2 through its renewable biogas initiative. TGC plans to tap into its 1,000-mile utility pipeline system at key locations to separate the hydrogen from the stream through Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology for use by local fueling stations for fuel cell vehicles.

The cost of deploying a PSA system and associated refueling pump at a fueling stations will be on the order of $300,000 to $500,000, said Jeff Kissel, president and CEO of TGC during a briefing on the announcement—about one-quarter of the cost of currently installing a more conventional hydrogen fueling station in the US.

This is the type of enabler that a hydrogen transportation infrastructure needs because it addresses both the source of the hydrogen and a feasible way to deliver it for fuel cell vehicle use. The Hawaii infrastructure could eventually support tens of thousands of fuel cell vehicles. Hawaii is uniquely positioned and motivated to make hydrogen-powered fuel cell transportation a reality because it depends on imported petroleum for 90 percent of its energy.

—Charles Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities

Hawaii Energy Challenges
  • Hawaii imports most of its energy
  • Fuel prices are among the highest in the US
  • Electricity costs are the highest in the US
  • Fuel surcharges impact 80%+ of goods sold
  • High percentage of renewable energy resources, with accompanying challenges for grid stability
  • TGC will file a tariff with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to establish the cost of hydrogen for the retail dispenser. “Based on what we know today,” said Kissel, “we believe that the cost of the fuel will be comparable to gasoline on a per mile driven basis. A lot will depend upon the retail markup.

    TGC H2 Production. The Gas Company currently produces synthetic natural gas from naptha and hydrogen, will plans to include plant oils and animal fats as feedstocks in the future. It has the ability to make excess hydrogen from the process and add to the gas stream. Currently, TGC has the capacity to produce 7,000 gasoline gallons equivalent of hydrogen per day, an amount it expects it can approximately double.

    PSA technology. Click to enlarge.

    PSA technology is based on the different properties of two the gases (methane and hydrogen) under pressure. The methane will stick to a catalyst bed, while the hydrogen will pass through and can be taken off at the station. Release the pressure, and the methane is returned to the system and returned to consumers.

    PSA technology is well-established, and TGC is evaluating systems from several potential suppliers, Kissel said.

    The state, via the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, is committed to reducing petroleum use by 70% within a generation through a combination of renewable energy resources, conservation and efficiency. The use of hydrogen as a transportation fuel could be a key contributor.

    We have been delivering as much as 12 percent hydrogen made from renewable sources to our gas customers over the last two to three years and expect we can deliver even greater quantities of hydrogen as demand increases.

    —Jeff Kissel

    Fuel cell vehicles. GM, which has invested more than $1.5 billion in fuel cell transportation in the last 15 years, is developing a production-intent fuel cell system that could be ready for commercialization in 2015. (Earlier post.) Current Chevrolet Fuel Cell vehicles are part of Project Driveway, the world's largest demonstration of fuel cell vehicles, which has amassed nearly 1.4 million miles of real-world driving by thousands of people since 2007.

    Freese said that GM was looking at initially bringing over a few of the Project Driveway vehicles to work with the new infrastructure, followed by further vehicles as the infrastructure develops.

    The GM-TGC collaboration is a component of a broad consortium of federal and state, non-profit and education organizations that is forming to develop a Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative as part of an integrated energy solution.

    We want to gain Federal and State attention. More importantly, Hawaii is the canary in the coal mine. What’s happening here [in terms of energy prices] is happening elsewhere in the world. The US is enjoying a reprieve from high oil prices in form of abundant natural gas. That’s a reprieve, not a pardon.

    —Jeff Kissel

    The Gas Company LLC has been in business since 1904 and has a workforce of 300. It provides clean, reliable and energy-efficient gas to residential, business and government customers throughout the state of Hawaii: Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai. TGC manufactures synthetic natural gas (SNG) and hydrogen at its high-capacity plant located on Oahu for delivery through a pipeline network, and supplies propane gas (LPG) statewide.



    This is SO stupid. They should just use synthetic methane along with PHEVs for a place like Hawaii. They could even use wind farms to charge the PHEVs.

    If they really want an "integrated energy solution", then they should realize hydrogen is a crummy fuel that is 3.2X bulkier than methane. Since it is synthetic on Hawaii, either the hydrogen or the methane will be expensive. So use the denser fuel to provide range and an electric charge to lower overall fueling costs.



    Hawaii seems like a good place to do renewable energy, with all of their sun, wind and geothermal. There should be lots of CO2 available to use the hydrogen for methanol in FFV plug hybrids.


    There is no sense to reforming Natgas to H2 when your state can be covered by a BEV from one end to the other and you have all the sun, wind and waves you need to generate the electricity for charging. In fact Nissan has already announce the roll out of the Leaf on the islands in 2011 and Better Place has indicated it is a place of interest for their business. The Governor is all for getting rid of fossil fuels, including LNG, on the islands. This is attempt to maintain the status quot for fossil fuels and to slow down the momentum of electric drive

    Nat Pearre

    Lad: Spot on. The whole island is only about 60 miles across. You would be hard pressed to need more than the Leaf's 100 mile range.

    With the H2 made from SynGas, which is in turn made from petroleum (I assume), this effort is really just spinning in circles. I'll be dead in the water once the EVs show up there (even more than in other places).


    I see none of you bothered to actualy READ the farking article.

    They create the syn nat gas via naptha and hydrogen. They already are running with alot of hydrogen mixed into thier gas 5% at present 12% sometimes.

    So this is just taking advanatage of the fact they already use hydrogen and already distribute alot of all over the island mized in with the methane.


    I think GM is shopping around its fuel cell tech so they don't feel like they poured money down a rat hole for an irrelevant technology. If they can find someone somewhere that will invest in it, they can also justify further research and development to make it better.


    Doesn't make any difference how much H2 they mix with the methane; they still manufacture the gas from either oil or tar; the process of reforming H2 includes steam, in this case steam made by burning hydrocarbons.

    A few red herrings have been tossed into the article, i.e., bio, etc. to make you think they are doing the green thing; however, anytime you burn hydrocarbons in the air you produce pollution. No difference if it's bio or non-bio(fossil).


    I still cannot understand the advantages of hydrogen – but, maybe batteries are not destined to reach the performance we need.

    Hydrogen may be 3.2X bulkier than methane, but it can be condensed/compressed - and batteries definitely make VERY HEAVY "fuel tanks".

    Maintain what status quo?
    GM wants to keep fossil fuels alive? Come on, why?
    Slow down the momentum of electric drive?

    When you don't like a technology, and ascribe weird, evil intentions to those who pursue it, it’s time to watch a little less Spiderman.

    A big bureaucracy like GM is very unlikely to worry about its own hurt feelings and then pour even more money down an irrelevant technology rat hole.

    If they can find someone somewhere that will invest in it, and justify further research and development, and make it better – great.

    It continues to be unlikely that so much world wide effort is put into H2 if there is not something there (but I do still wonder).


    batteries definitely make VERY HEAVY "fuel tanks".

    Yes they do but it's not just about the fuel tank vs batteries. The motive power of an ICEv comes from the fuel tank, engine, drivetrain, brakes and exhaust system: Each adds weight. A BEV has heavier batteries but a lighter motor and drivetrain. An electric car operates in a different paradigm - if you think about them differently you can find ways to save weight that you can't in a ICEv.


    I see you didnt get it lad.. because of the way they make natural gas they have extra h2 available and just like in india they put it into the gas stream to boost it. This is why india and now hawaii are interested in h2 tech.


    they still manufacture the gas from either oil or tar...

    If you look at the diagram, there is a landfill on the map. Landfill gas is very difficult to clean up to pipeline standards so they gasify it.


    If they have extra H2, they should react it with CO2 and make more methane; then they can apply the whole methane stream to the mature technology that is NG vehicles. These vehicles could also be PHEVs, so electric power could provide much of the energy needed for short drives (It's an ISLAND fercrissakes). Methane is also usable for cooking and heating, BTW.

    Hydrogen makes no sense because it's not as efficient as batteries and it's not as dense as methane or other fuels. And both of these alternatives have existing infrastructures to support them, even on Hawaii.


    There's another reason to use methane in a PHEV. In a PHEV with a properly sized battery you may go weeks between using the engine and months between fill-ups. Ever try starting a gas mower after a long winter with gasoline that's been left in the tank? The truth is gasoline goes bad over time, it actually has a half life of only a couple of months and if you leave it sitting for as much as a year it becomes totally un-usable. A better choice of fuel for an extended range engine might be natural gas. Methane doesn't break down with out help.

    Henry Gibson

    The ZEBRA battery has been available with energy storage sufficient to run an automobile 100 miles for about 15 years and with better efficiency than hydrogen fuel cells. They also have the energy density of most commercial lithium batteries.

    With undersea cables and an active volcano, it seems that the island chain could have infinite geothermal power with the price of a few hundred deep wells. Under sea geothermal generators can be used along with seawater cooling. Hydrogen can be combined with CO2 to make methanol that can be stored as a liquid and used in many engines as many race cars demonstrated in the past. No doubt hydrogen combined with CO2 can be used as food for some genetically engineered organism to use as food for living and making n-butanol, a direct replacement for gasoline or ethanol even. ..HG..

    Account Deleted

    This site provide more information about Hawaii gas companies.TGC and PSA technology is well-established and TGC is evaluating systems from several potential suppliers.

    Free Wedding Hawaii


    Ignore the effects of fire.
    Ignore the effects of overpressure due to thermal heating.
    Ignore the cause of the explosion.

    Just look at the damage that a simple MECHANICAL failure of a 10,000PSI carbon fiber tank can do.

    The first time this happens in Honolulu (and it will with 100% certainty), high pressure laminate cylinders are done.

    Liquid Hydrogen...ok, no problem, but 10000 PSI gas in a plastic bottle...I'm not standing anywhere near it.

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