BMW Manufacturing announced today the launch of the first phase of an integrated program of work with the intent to validate the economic and technical feasibility of converting landfill gas 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 million dollar, multi-phase project will be funded by SCRA (South Carolina Research Authority). A unique 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.
This project expands upon BMW’s commitment to sustainable energy development. Since 2003, methane gas has been collected, cleaned and compressed from a local landfill and used 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.
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.
“This project allows testing of valuable technology to determine if using locally-sourced hydrogen in our fuel cell equipment can provide the necessary performance needed to expand our hydrogen fuel cell fleet,” said Josef Kerscher, President of BMW Manufacturing. “In the spirit of continuous improvement, we are always pursuing additional, sustainable methods of capturing renewable energy, including our existing source of landfill gas.”
“This landfill gas-to-hydrogen project at BMW will seek to demonstrate a first-of-its-kind solution that will serve as a model for other private sector companies,” said SCRA CEO Bill Mahoney. “Projects like these further the Knowledge Economy of South Carolina, and I am delighted to be working, together with our partners, to launch this important project on the grounds of a major South Carolina manufacturer. I am confident that this solution to combine renewably-generated hydrogen with clean, efficient fuel cell technology will improve productivity, reduce environmental pollutants and relieve electrical power demand from the grid and am optimistic that it will be replicated nationally.”
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 is ongoing, as well as a DOE project to efficiently store hydrogen via a liquid organic carrier. These projects are part of a portfolio of innovative concepts that are intended to enable industry to achieve long range zero-emissions vehicles on the roads across America.