BMW Manufacturing launches study to convert landfill gas to hydrogen to power material handling equipment fleet
BMW Manufacturing has launched the first phase of an integrated program of work with the intent to validate the economic and technical feasibility of converting landfill gas (LFG) into hydrogen. If successful, the follow-up phases of the project will provide infrastructure for using this hydrogen to fuel the company’s entire fleet of material handling equipment.
The first phase of this multi-phase project will be funded by SCRA (South Carolina Research Authority). A collaboration of partners from various government energy agencies and other public and private sponsors will work together on future phases. The project team will include BMW, Advanced Technology International (a subsidiary of SCRA), the Gas Technology Institute, Ameresco, Inc., and the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance.
Since 2003, BMW has collected, cleaned and compressed methane gas from a local landfill and used it to power more than 50% of the BMW plant’s total energy requirements. In 2009, the company invested $12 million in its landfill gas program to further improve overall efficiency. Implementation of the program has reduced CO2 emissions by about 92,000 tons per year and saves about $5 million annually in energy costs.
One of the challenges to be addressed in the project is determining if variations in composition of the incoming BMW LFG stream—i.e., methane, CO2 and trace contaminants—can be accommodated by the conversion equipment such that peak input variations do not cause damage to reformation equipment and/or result in unacceptable variations in output hydrogen purity.
In September 2010, BMW completed installation of a hydrogen storage and distribution area within the existing Energy Center at its North American manufacturing plant in South Carolina. The company is using hydrogen fuel cells to power nearly 100 material handling vehicles in the plant’s new 1.2 million square foot assembly facility that produces the new BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle.
Success of this new project will allow BMW to transition from the pilot-scale system into a full-scale system capable of supporting the largest single-site deployment of fuel cell material handling equipment in the world.
In addition to using hydrogen to power material handling equipment, BMW is participating in two projects with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop efficient storage of hydrogen for use in future motor vehicles. Collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on a project to produce and store cryo-compressed hydrogen (CcH2) is ongoing (earlier post), as well as a DOE project to store hydrogen efficiently via a liquid organic carrier.
Landfill Gas-to-Hydrogen: Proving the Technology; Making the Business Case (Russ Keller, SCRA, May 2011
Renewable Natural Gas Clean-up: Challenges and Applications (Brian Weeks, Gas Technology Institute, January 2011)