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Air Liquide launches green liquid hydrogen production facility in Nevada

24 May 2022 Amena Saiyid

French gas firm Air Liquide formally commissioned a $250-million liquid hydrogen facility in North Las Vegas, Nevada, on 24 May it said will supply California and nearby states.

The facility, which began operations and deliveries to customers in April and pilot runs a year ago, is designed to produce about 30 metric tons (mt)/day of liquid hydrogen from landfill methane.

Air Liquide said the output of its largest liquid hydrogen plant can keep more than 40,000 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the road in California.

The facility's launch took place a month after California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed raising the state's mandate for zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales including those powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Having surpassed the 1 million sales mark this February, California remains the single largest market for electric vehicles in the US. The state has at least 54 retail stations for hydrogen, and about 121 in various stages of development, according to the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

"By providing a reliable supply of hydrogen to California's mobility market and the region's industrial customers, we are making a significant investment in the transition towards a more sustainable future, one with hydrogen at its core," Michael Graff, CEO of American Air Liquide Holdings, said in a statement following the 24 May launch.

Air Liquide, which has been developing technologies across the hydrogen supply chain for several decades now, began construction of the Las Vegas facility in 2020.

Targeting California

Powered by renewable electricity, the facility will utilize technologies to make and liquefy hydrogen in line with California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that Air Liquide has developed and patented at its Delaware campus, one of the company's five hubs dedicated to research and development.

These technologies include membrane technology to upgrade biogas, or landfill gas, to sequester methane for use as a feedstock in producing hydrogen. The campus also was involved in developing technologies that enabled the University of Delaware to operate its first hydrogen fuel cell bus some 15 years ago, according to Graff.

California's LCFS is designed to encourage the use of cleaner low-carbon transportation fuels, such as hydrogen, as well as the production of those fuels. Its goal is to reduce GHG emissions and decrease petroleum dependence in the transportation sector.

Air Liquide already operates a hydrogen production facility on the Gulf Coast in La Porte, Texas, that produces 34.8 mt/day of the gas, and is connected to Air Liquide's hydrogen pipeline network, which totals more than 200 miles (322 km) and includes 4.5 billion cubic feet of storage in a cavern.

Increasing hydrogen's footprint

The Biden administration has identified hydrogen as the low-carbon fuel to power the nation's transportation sector, which the US Environmental Protection Agency has been identifying as the largest source of GHG emissions for several years now.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s Global Hydrogen Review 2021, hydrogen has seen limited use in the global transportation sector, representing less than 0.01% of energy consumed.

In its Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2022, which was released 23 May, the IEA said South Korea maintained the lead in 2021 in deploying hydrogen FCEVs, with more than 19,000 vehicles (almost double the stock at the end of 2020). The US has the second-largest stock of FCEVs, increasing from about 9,200 units at the end of 2020 to 12,400 units at the end of 2021, the IEA reported.

Air Liquide is not alone in producing liquid hydrogen for a growing industrial market, according to Alex Klaessig, senior director at S&P Global Commodity Insights.

"This is part of a larger trend towards liquefaction since you're able to deliver larger quantities cheaper in the liquid format," Klaessig told Net-Zero Business Daily by S&P Commodity Insights.

Liquid hydrogen a "hot" commodity

Noting recent announcements by Air Products and Plug Power, Klaessig said, "this is a hot space."

New York-based Plug Power signed a joint venture in late April with Olin Corporation to accelerate the supply of green liquid hydrogen to meet mobility needs in the US. The two companies plan to bring a green hydrogen facility online in 2023 in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, that will produce up to 15 mt/day.

Plug Power specializes in developing hydrogen fuel cells for various mobile applications as well as producing and supplying hydrogen sourced from renewable energy and natural gas equipped with carbon capture technology.

Last October, Pennsylvania-based Air Products began operations at a 30 mt/day, liquid hydrogen production facility in La Porte, Texas, by tapping into its 700-mile long Gulf Coast Pipeline that stretches from the Houston Ship Channel in Texas to New Orleans. The pipeline is capable of supplying customers with over 1.9 billion cubic feet of hydrogen per day from 25 production facilities.

These facilities include Air Products' Port Arthur, Texas, facility, which not only supplies hydrogen to the network, but also has been capturing approximately 1 million mt of CO2 each year since 2013 and using it for enhanced oil recovery operations.

Posted 24 May 2022 by Amena Saiyid, Senior Climate and Energy Research Analyst

This article was published by S&P Global Commodity Insights and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.


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