Pioneering a renewable way to fuel industrial fleets

  • In BMW's "Landfill Gas to Hydrogen" pilot project, BMW has installed a clean-up system that takes landfill gas and converts it to hydrogen. SCRA

  • The waste to energy process starts when waste is deposited at a landfill. Here, waste is dumped at the Palmetto landfill in Wellford, SC, less than 10 miles from the BMW manufacturing facility in Spartanburg. SCRA

  • As waste decomposes, methane gas is collected at the landfill site. The contaminants are removed from the gas before it becomes hydrogen. SCRA

  • At the 500 kg/day level, with the existing landfill gas (LFG) supply and equipment at the host facility, onsite production of hydrogen using LFG as the hydrocarbon feedstock appears to be cost competitive, if not advantageous, over hydrogen sourced from vendors, produced offsite and transported to the facility. SCRA

South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) is an applied research corporation with over 31 years of experience delivering technology solutions to federal and corporate clients. In 2011, blue moon partnered with SCRA—as well as the BMW Manufacturing Co., the Gas Technology Institute, Ameresco, Inc., and the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance—to develop a “first-in-the-nation” renewable hydrogen fueling system for an industrial fleet.

The project was executed in three successive phases, each dependent upon successful accomplishment of the preceding phase.

In the first phase, SCRA’s project team explored the business parameters that would permit recovering hydrogen from an existing landfill gas (LFG) source, then converting it at scale through an optimized capital equipment investment, and finally providing that hydrogen via a long-term fee-for-services contract to the host site.  The analysis compared the “traditional” cost per kilogram of delivered hydrogen versus the cost per kilogram of hydrogen produced on site using the LFG source.

Next, the project demonstrated the technical feasibility of taking the existing LFG stream—one that has been filtered, dried and pre-treated sufficiently for use in gas turbine electrical generator sets—and further cleaning and purifying it to remove any trace contaminants.  The hydrogen was recovered using commercially-available steam methane reformation technology. This purified hydrogen was analyzed and compared with hydrogen being delivered by a commercial industrial gas vendor for a period (nominally two months) to ensure results were consistent across the normal daily or weekly variations in LFG composition at the source landfill.

Finally, the hydrogen produced from the LFG source was compressed, stored, and distributed to a single manufacturing facility site for performance evaluation using actual fuel cell-powered MHE.

The result was “green” hydrogen that, when fully scaled, could be used to fuel BMW’s entire fleet of material handling equipment.

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