In an effort to make U.S. Army installations less vulnerable to risks and hazards, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) will test new hydrogen technology in support of energy resilience.
As part of a cooperative agreement, Nel Hydrogen will build electrolyzers to produce hydrogen to use as clean fuel in emergency situations. Once the technology is complete, the electrolyzer will be shipped to CERL for testing.
“This electrolyzer project provides an exciting and unique opportunity to advance the research in efficient and low-cost hydrogen production which could improve the Nation’s competitiveness in the global energy market,” said Nick Josefik, an industrial engineer at CERL.
The main purpose of the project is to reduce the cost of the membrane and catalyst electrode assemblies, or MEAs, which are a main component of the electrolyzer. This in turn will decrease the cost of hydrogen and electrolyzer technology, making it more competitive and economically feasible in the U.S.
“Currently, electrolyzer technology can be two times higher in capital cost than the targets for large-scale energy applications,” said Josefik. “For it to be economically feasible, costs need to be reduced significantly.”
One goal of this research for the Army is to help implement electrolyzer technology into everyday use. Testing and demonstrating the performance of the electrolyzer will be one step in integrating the technology into the Army mission.
“This electrolyzer may be a viable option that can meet the deployment requirements at scale within the needed timeframe and be able to mesh with wind and solar technology that is currently used,” said Josefik.
This hydrogen technology directly supports energy resilience during emergency events. Currently, the Army has a requirement to plan and support a minimum of 14 days of mission critical operations during an emergency. At times when electricity might be down, or where natural gas might not keep up, hydrogen can be used as fuel for emergency backup power for that 14-day requirement, while producing energy without contributing to greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
“Evaluating hydrogen as a Department of Defense fuel option could provide a clean, efficient fuel, which could increase our energy security and resilience,” said Josefik.
The building of the electrolyzers will take place over the next 12 months at the Nel facility. The technology is expected to be at CERL in a matter of months and testing will begin shortly thereafter.