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DOE issues $35M funding opportunity for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $35 million in available funding to advance hydrogen and fuel cell technologies (earlier post) to support research and development, early market deployments, and domestic manufacturing. The Department also aims to develop collaborative consortia for fuel cell performance and durability and advanced hydrogen storage materials research to leverage the capabilities of national lab core teams.

The available funding (DE-FOA-0001412) includes hydrogen production, delivery, and storage research and development (R&D); demonstration of infrastructure component manufacturing, and support for Climate Action Champions deploying hydrogen and fuel cell technologies; consortia topics for fuel cell performance and durability and advanced hydrogen storage materials research; and cost and performance analysis for hydrogen production, storage, and fuel cells.

The FOA covers a broad spectrum of the DOE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office’s (FCTO’s) portfolio with four Areas of Interest (AOI), each with subtopics:

  1. AOI 1:Research and Development (R&D), including Hydrogen Production R&D: High-Temperature Water Splitting compatible with renewable and sustainable energy sources; Advanced Compression; and Advanced Vacuum Insulation for automotive applications.

  2. AOI 2: Demonstration and Deployments, including component manufacturing and standardization for hydrogen infrastructure (e.g., hose/piping, dispenser/station technologies); and “Crosscutting: America’s Climate Action Champions”.

  3. AOI 3: Consortia Topics, including Fuel Cell - Performance and Durability (FC-PAD); and Hydrogen Storage Materials – Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC).

  4. AOI 4: Cost and Performance Analysis for Fuel Cells; for Hydrogen Storage; and for Hydrogen Production and Delivery.

AOI 1 Topic 1: Hydrogen Production R&D: Advanced High‐Temperature Water Splitting. The long‐term goal of production and delivery R&D is a high‐volume hydrogen cost of <$4/kg (delivered and dispensed, but untaxed) to allow fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) to be competitive on a dollar per mile basis compared with gasoline powered vehicles. The portion of the cost goal apportioned to production is <$2/kg hydrogen.

One hydrogen production pathway that has not been included in recent funding opportunities is advanced high‐temperature water splitting (HTWS), including operation on renewable, low‐carbon electricity sources. HTWS used in conjunction with high‐temperature process heat offers the potential for highly efficient, cost‐effective large‐scale hydrogen production.

Compared with low‐temperature electrolysis, the high operating temperatures of HTWS technologies offer the advantage of operating at enhanced electrical efficiencies while maintaining high hydrogen production rates (reflected in high operating current densities). In terms of feedstock costs, HTWS offers the opportunity to trade off more expensive electrical energy with generally less expensive thermal energy.

For renewable, low‐carbon hydrogen production by HTWS, the energy source needs to be renewable with low‐carbon emissions.

FCTO seeks applications for this sub-topic that demonstrate the potential of the pathway to meet the <$2/kg production target, as well as the ability to operate on intermittent renewable energy sources for energy storage and grid ancillary services applications.

Innovative materials development and system integration work is needed to simultaneously achieve cost, performance and durability targets at both the stack and system level. This Topic is divided into two Subtopics:

  • A materials development effort with the final deliverable being a stack. The maximum DOE funding for this subtopic is $1.5M.

    HTWS operating temperatures of ≥500 °C are of greatest interest. To be cost effective, HTWS will need to meet these specific technical performance targets: per‐cell area‐specific resistance of ≤0.30 Ω•cm2 in a stack configuration; stack electrical efficiency >95% LHV H2 with current density >1 A/cm2; and a projected stack lifetime of ~7 years. The final deliverable will be demonstration of an HTWS stack capable of meeting the above targets while producing at least 1 kg H2/day.

  • Subtopic 1B is a combined materials and systems development effort. The final deliverable is a thermally self‐sustaining subsystem containing the HTWS stack and other high‐temperature peripheral components. The maximum DOE funding for this subtopic is $3M.

    The starting point for the materials system should be more advanced than in Subtopic 1A, needing primarily work on improving stack durability and scaling up to a stack of at least the size required in Subtopic 1A. The final demonstration deliverable of an operational, thermally self‐sustaining subsystem will need to consist of the HTWS stack, heat exchangers, and all other balance of plant components necessary to take steam to operating temperature and remove hydrogen, oxygen, and residual water while maintaining the stack at temperature without external heating (i.e. the stack cannot be in a furnace).

AOI 1 Topic 2: Advanced Compression. DOE is seeking projects for the development of innovative pumping/compression systems that can output hydrogen at >875 bar. In order to dispense hydrogen to FCEV tanks quickly (i.e. to the SAE J2601 protocol,) the hydrogen must be compressed to a minimum of 875 bar at the fueling station.

Conventional compressors can account for over half of the station’s cost, have poor reliability, and have insufficient flow rates for a mature FCEV market. Cost drivers of conventional compression systems include volatility in the price of steel, limitations in the number of steels known to resist hydrogen embrittlement, power consumption, and footprint (in urban environments).

FCTO is seeking novel pumping/compression technologies that are compatible with stations supplied by 120 bar pipelines, liquid tankers, and/or novel forms of hydrogen delivery (e.g. materials‐based storage or cryo‐compressed tankers).

Applicable technologies include, but are not limited to, centrifugal compressors; advanced liquid pumps; screw compressors; ionic liquid compressors; electrochemical compression; and metal hydride compression.

Applications for novel compression must identify pathways for the system to meet the ultimate capital and operating and maintenance (O&M) targets in the Hydrogen Delivery MYRD&D ($170,000 per compressor with an O&M cost of less than $3,400 per year in high volume production). Applications for systems not clearly specified in the MYRD&D (e.g. advanced liquid pumps, or systems that integrate multiple station components) must characterize the total cost of the delivery pathway utilizing the proposed system (i.e. hydrogen supply mode, compression system, and ancillary components) to demonstrate cost reduction.

Applications must also demonstrate that the current technology readiness level (TRL) is at least a 2‐4 and include a detailed technical description of a pathway for the technology to achieve a throughput of 100 kg H2/hr, an energy consumption of 1.4 kWh/kg or less, and a reliability of 80% or greater with a leak rate of < 0.5%.

AOI 1 Topic 3: Advanced Thermal Insulation for Automotive Storage Applications. While the 700 bar compressed hydrogen storage used in current production light-duty FCEVs provides a near‐term commercialization pathway, the performance of this storage technology falls short of the DOE onboard FCEV Hydrogen Storage Program targets, particularly for volumetric hydrogen energy density and system cost.

One potential pathway to increase the volumetric hydrogen energy density and reduce system cost is to lower the system operating temperature through use of cold/cryo‐compressed or cryo‐adsorbent hydrogen storage technologies.

These storage methods also have potential synergies in advanced natural gas storage, such as liquid natural gas (LNG) storage, and these methods may be applicable for hydrogen delivery and early market applications (e.g., fleets, buses, etc.) as well, and not solely for light‐duty vehicles.

The success of these types of next generation technologies operating at sub‐ambient temperatures, and some at extremely low temperatures (<<200 K), is critically dependent on the performance of thermal insulation. An example of advanced thermal insulation is a vacuum space separating the inner pressure vessel and outer jacket walls that includes multi‐layer‐insulation, which is commonly referred to as multi‐layer vacuum insulation (MLVI).

Vacuum stability within MLVI is particularly challenging since many of these high‐pressure storage systems rely on carbon fiber reinforced composites that tend to be comprised of volatile materials such as hydrocarbon‐based resins which off‐gas under vacuum conditions. In addition, off‐gassing from the insulating material, air leakage through welds, and hydrogen permeation through the liner and seals into the vacuum space can also degrade the vacuum over time.

FCTO is seeking applications for R&D of advanced thermal insulation for automotive storage applications including, but not limited to, improved insulation material, resins, getters, and seals necessary to improve vacuum stability. In addition, this topics seeks novel storage system architectures and insulation concepts that would minimize or eliminate issues with vacuum stability all together.

Applications are sought to identify novel materials that offer the potential for improved vacuum stability such as:

  • Carbon fiber resin composites with reduced volatility and/or those able to withstand high curing temperatures to enable the volatile components to be evaporated during the curing process;

  • Improved multi‐layer vacuum insulation materials with low volatility and improved dormancy;

  • Improved getter materials that can be regenerated and able to capture a wide range of volatiles; and

  • Robust sealing materials able to withstand temperature and pressure cycling experienced by these systems that can span from ~20 K up to ambient and from 5 bar to 700 bar internal H2 pressures.

AOI 2: Demonstration & Deployment. Under this Area of Interest, applicants should propose projects that will ultimately enable the widespread adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies through development, demonstration, and deployment of hydrogen infrastructure‐related component and manufacturing technologies.

To further encourage early adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, through this FOA, FCTO will provide an opportunity for financial and technical assistance to Climate Action Champions that are implementing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

AOI 2, Topic 1: Component Manufacturing for H2 Infrastructure (e.g., hose/piping, dispenser/station technologies). A significant cost driver of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure today is the lack of a mature supply chain for components. Most components used at the forecourt (e.g., hoses, valves, couplings, and fittings) have fewer than five suppliers worldwide.

Components produced by different suppliers are often custom made, and therefore not interchangeable. Moreover, many components, such as fittings, are not certified, which ultimately limits or delays their use. The deployment of FCEVs in the commercial market is also making the reliability of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure essential.

Accordingly, DOE is seeking proposals for the development of innovative, low‐cost manufacturing processes/technologies and components for hydrogen fueling stations, and demonstration of the components in hydrogen service.

AOI 2, Topic 2: FCTO Crosscutting: America’s Climate Action Champions. In recognition of the importance of the dual policy goals of reducing GHG emissions and enhancing climate resilience, FCTO seeks proposals under this Topic that meet both of these goals while enabling hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

FCTO seeks proposals for projects from designated Climate Action Champions that exhibit outstanding leadership in the areas of emissions reductions and climate resilience actions while needing technical and financial assistance to further implement hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

AOI 3: Consortium Topics. FCTO has established two collaborative research consortia: Fuel Cell – Performance and Durability (FC‐PAD) and Hydrogen Materials – Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC). Each consortium consists of a core team of DOE national laboratories and competitively selected individual projects. Applications submitted in response to topics under this area of interest are for participation in either of these two collaborative consortia efforts.

The national laboratory core teams have the responsibility to carry out foundational research and capabilities development, and provide support for the individual projects’ research efforts. As a collaborative effort, it is expected that the national laboratory core team will have substantial involvement with each individual project’s research effort.

AOI 3, Topic 1: Fuel Cell ‐ Performance and Durability (FC‐PAD). To meet all customer expectations across the full range of light‐duty hydrogen fuel cell vehicle platforms, DOE has established an ultimate cost target for direct‐hydrogen fuel cell power systems to be mass‐produced at $30/kW.

The existing FC‐PAD consortium consists of a consortium Lead (Los Alamos National Laboratory), a Deputy Lead (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and several Technical Partners (Argonne National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory) that will conduct the foundational technical scope of work of the consortium. This topic will incorporate innovations from the broader R&D community into the FC‐PAD consortium, aiding in the understanding of—and leading to significant improvements in—fuel cell performance and durability.

FC‐PAD’s activities are coordinated across six different thrust areas: three component‐specific areas and three cross‐cutting efforts between subject areas. The component thrusts are shown as 1 through 3: (1) electrocatalysts and supports, (2) electrode layers, and (3) ionomer, gas diffusion layers, and bipolar plates. The cross‐cutting ‘technique’ thrusts are shown as 4 through 6: (4) modeling and validation, (5) operando evaluation and benchmarking, including accelerated stress tests and contaminant testing/tolerance, and (6) component characterization and diagnostics. Click to enlarge.

DOE is seeking applications in the areas of fuel cell performance and durability, with focus on low platinum group metal (PGM) containing PEMFCs, by expanding the existing national laboratory consortium FC‐PAD. Applications should be at Technology Readiness Levels of 2‐4.

AOI 3, Topic 2: Hydrogen Storage Materials Discovery (HyMARC). Full commercialization of hydrogen‐fueled FCEVs will require development of lightweight, compact, and cost‐competitive hydrogen storage technologies that enable longer driving ranges while meeting other performance requirements, including not restricting passenger and cargo space.

For 2020, DOE’s storage targets are 1.8 kWh/kg (5.5 wt.% H2); 1.3 kWh/L (40 g H2/L); and $10/kWh ($333/kg H2 stored). The Ultimate Full Fleet targets are 2.5 kWh/kg (7.5 wt.% H2); 2.3 kWh/L (70 g H2/L); and $8/kWh ($267/kg H2 stored).

As an example of the challenges these system targets represent, hydrogen gas alone (not including the tank) at 700 bar pressure and ambient temperature has a density of approximately 40 g/L, and thus is theoretically not able to meet the 2020 system level volumetric target when the volume of the tank and rest of the system is included.

The HyMARC national laboratory core team, composed of Sandia, Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, is tasked with carrying out foundational research to understand the interaction of hydrogen with materials in relation to the formation and release of hydrogen from hydrogen storage materials. This effort includes the development of computational material design tools, synthetic and characterization methodologies, and online databases of hydrogen storage materials properties and computational data.

FCTO is soliciting applications for the discovery of novel, advanced onboard‐rechargeable hydrogen storage materials so that complete systems have the potential to meet the DOE 2020 and Ultimate Full Fleet onboard vehicle storage targets. Project teams will collaborate with the HyMARC national laboratory core team.

AOI 4: Cost and Performance Analysis for Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Storage and Hydrogen Production and Delivery. This AOI focuses on cost and performance analyses for fuel cells, hydrogen storage, and hydrogen production and delivery using state‐of‐the‐art technology developments.

For fuel cell performance (Topic 1), a ground‐up cost projection will be based on conceptual designs and related costs of fuel cell system and component manufacturing equipment and processes. The applicant’s work scope should include a detailed annual reference report on the cost of transportation fuel cell systems including fuel cell systems for light‐duty vehicles, and medium and heavy‐duty trucks and buses. The report must document the cost of transportation technologies, reflecting technological advances made to date, and provide a calculated cost per kilowatt of the baseline fuel cell system that could be built with present technology at several application‐relevant production rates; for example, at 1,000; 10,000; 30,000; 50,000; 100,000; and 500,000 units/year for light‐duty vehicle applications.

For hydrogen storage (Topic 2), the techno‐economic analyses should include a bottom‐up assessment of the projected future costs (2020 and beyond), at low through high‐volume manufacturing of hydrogen storage systems with comparisons to DOE cost targets and identification of primary contributors in need of further development for cost reduction.

Hydrogen storage systems to be considered include onboard transportation (e.g. light-duty vehicles, medium-duty vehicles and buses) and early market fuel cell applications such as portable, and material handling (e.g., forklifts).

The analyses may need to include developing manufacturing costs for innovative system components, such as alternative fibers, advanced fiber composites, and novel hydrogen storage materials and systems. The hydrogen storage systems will be based primarily on system process designs and specifications from a third‐party. The system specifications and designs will be based on referenceable system models. The cost analysis will also consider and include material disposal requirements, as well as validation of spent fuel regeneration and first fill fuel costs.

For hydrogen production and delivery (Topic 3), analysis efforts related to hydrogen production pathways will primarily use the most recent version of the Hydrogen Analysis (H2A) model to evaluate technology‐specific hydrogen production cost status as a function of production volume, including uncertainty analyses illustrated with error bars; and to identify potential cost reductions based on sensitivity analyses, specifically to quantify the improvements possible through technology advancements.

Analysis efforts related to hydrogen delivery will primarily use the most recent version of H2A Current Delivery Scenario Analysis Model (HDSAM) to evaluate different delivery scenarios using an engineering economics approach to cost estimation. Delivery scenarios of interest include but are not limited to pipe line delivery and pathways that utilize tube trailer terminals.

FCTO. FCTO’s focus is primarily transportation and light-duty passenger vehicles utilizing hydrogen as an energy carrier. These areas will have the greatest impact in terms of GHG and petroleum reduction and they are aligned with the President’s goals and Climate Action Plan. However, FCTO also supports a range of other applications, including near-term markets such as distributed primary and backup power, lift trucks, and portable power; mid-term markets such as residential combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems, and auxiliary power units; and longer-term markets such as fleet vehicles.



They make a natural gas to hydrogen reformer that can reside at the fueling station.

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