SPARTANBURG, SC – BMW Manufacturing said it has launched the first phase of a program exploring 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. In addition, BMW is participating in two projects with the U.S. 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 store hydrogen via a liquid organic carrier. These projects are part of a broader effort to promote the use of long-range zero-emissions vehicles on the roads across America.
South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) will fund the first phase of the landfill gas-to-hydrogen project. 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, methane gas has been collected, cleaned and compressed from a local landfill and used to power more than 50 percent 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. The program has reduced CO2 emissions by about 92,000 tons per year and saves about $5 million annually in energy costs, BMW said.
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, BMW said.
“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.
“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,” added SCRA CEO Bill Mahoney.