Hearings and Business Meetings

Jul 17 2006

02:30 PM

Full Committee Hearing- Hydrogen

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

The Honorable David Garman

Undersecretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy






JULY 17, 2006


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify on the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. My focus today will be on the provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005) which are related to hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, the Department of Energy’s activities to support both EPACT 2005 and the President’s Initiative, the progress we have made, the challenges we face, and how we intend to overcome those challenges to enable a hydrogen economy.


Hydrogen is an important part of our Nation’s strategy for long-term energy and environmental security because it can be made from a variety of domestic resources and, as a transportation fuel, it can result in zero criteria pollutant or carbon emissions from vehicle tailpipes.


Launched in 2003, the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative commits $1.2 billion over five years to accelerate the research, development, and demonstration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.[1] These technologies may ultimately shift our primary transportation fuel from petroleum, which is increasingly imported, to hydrogen, which can be produced using a wide variety of domestic feedstocks. The development and widespread use of hydrogen can contribute to an abundant, reliable, and affordable supply of clean energy to maintain our Nation’s prosperity through the 21st century and beyond.


More than three years after he announced the Initiative, the President’s commitment to hydrogen continues to be strong; the $289 million request before Congress reflects a tripling of the budget compared to pre-Initiative levels, and it directly supports the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative goal to help break our Nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources and our addiction to oil.[2]


The Department of Energy Hydrogen Program supports the President’s vision. Our research focuses on pathways to produce and deliver hydrogen from diverse and domestic, fossil, nuclear, and renewable resources while also developing fuel cell technologies that can significantly decrease vehicle greenhouse gas emissions compared to today’s vehicles. At the highest level, our program goals and targets are set to ensure that hydrogen fuel cell technologies will be competitive with the projected performance and cost of vehicles and fuels in the United States. For example, our hydrogen cost target of $2.00-3.00 per gallon gasoline equivalent, untaxed, ties directly to Energy Information Administration gasoline price projections. This would enable the cost of hydrogen at the pump to be equivalent on a cost-per-mile basis to the estimated cost of operating vehicles on gasoline. Similarly, the cost of an automotive fuel cell system must be competitive with the cost of an internal combustion engine drivetrain - $30/kW.


We commend this Committee and the Congress for its strong support of the Hydrogen Program, as demonstrated in Title VIII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Title VIII includes requirements that very clearly align with our plans to research, develop, validate, and demonstrate hydrogen technologies. It also includes important provisions, which we have implemented, for coordinating across the Federal Government and for obtaining independent advice on our hydrogen efforts from outside the Department. I am pleased to report that the Interagency Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Task Force meets monthly, and, as you may already know, Secretary Bodman announced the selected members of the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Committee just a few weeks ago, on June 20.


The Department has already received critical independent advice in two reviews of the National Academies. In a report of the latest review released last summer, they recognized our effort as being well-planned3, and the review committee chair stated that the program “is making significant headway” and “it could have an enormous beneficial impact on energy security and the U.S. economy.” Our next review by the National Academies is planned for early (calendar year) 2007.


EPACT 2005 requires a number of studies and reports to determine the impact of hydrogen and fuel cell technology deployment. A report mandated under section 1812 of EPACT 2005, the Solar and Wind Technologies for Hydrogen Production Report to Congress, published in December 2005, provides information on solar and wind hydrogen projects and recommendations for promoting the availability of solar and wind technologies for production of hydrogen. Section 804 of EPACT 2005 mandates submission of a coordinated five-year plan for the programs authorized under Title VIII. This report is currently under review and will be submitted to Congress shortly.


Over the next year, the Department will focus on completing other hydrogen-related reports required under EPACT 2005. In section 1819, the Department is required to submit a report evaluating the methodologies used to establish goals and milestones for the Hydrogen Program. By February 2007, the Department will report on a study, required in section 1820 of EPACT 2005, of the likely effects of a transition to a hydrogen economy on overall employment in the U.S. The Department issued a competitive solicitation and recently made an award for the completion of this study. The Department will utilize the expertise of the National Academies to complete a study required by section 1825 to provide a budget roadmap for the development of fuel cell technologies and a transition from petroleum to hydrogen in a significant percentage of the vehicle fleet.


We have made notable progress in the three years since the start of the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. Our research has reduced the high-volume cost of automotive fuel cells from $275 per kilowatt in 2002 to $110 per kilowatt in 2005.4 DOE-funded research has also doubled the lifetime of the automotive fuel cell stack. We’re not at the



3 National Academies of Science. “‘Clean’ Vehicle Research Initiative on Track, But Many Challenges

Ahead.” 2 Aug. 2005. Available on the Web at


4 Cost Analysis of PEM Fuel Cell Systems for Transportation, September 30, 2005, Carlson, E.J., et.al.,

Tiax, LLC



end-point yet, however. Further research is required to meet our ultimate cost target of $30 per kilowatt and our durability target of 5,000 hours, which is equivalent to the vehicle lifetime that drivers expect today. In FY 2007, the Department will initiate new projects in several areas, including improved fuel cell membranes, cold-weather start-up and operation, advanced cathode catalysts and supports, innovative concepts, and the effects of impurities on fuel cells. Through our investment in these competitively awarded projects, we expect to make even greater progress in improving fuel cell performance and durability and lowering cost, moving closer toward achieving those ultimate technical targets.


Developing storage technology to carry hydrogen on-board, while still meeting vehicle performance and cost requirements, is one of the most technically-challenging barriers we face. To address the critical need for improved on-board hydrogen storage, the Department has developed a diverse portfolio through three Centers of Excellence and independent projects in both applied and basic science. Together, these efforts tap into vast technical expertise at about 40 universities, 15 companies, and 10 Federal laboratories.


These projects are beginning to produce promising results, with innovative materials being developed in different areas such as metal hydrides, chemical hydrides, and carbonbased materials. Some of these materials can store 6- to even 9-percent by weight of hydrogen, our 2010 and 2015 targets, respectively. This is significant progress, up from a maximum of 5.5 weight percent a year ago. The next step is to tailor these materials to store and release hydrogen under practical temperature and pressure conditions.


Further research on materials and systems engineering is required to meet our hydrogen storage system target to provide consumers with a 300-mile driving range. To help ensure we can meet this aggressive goal, the Department’s basic research is carefully coordinated with our applied research in materials development for hydrogen storage.


We are also analyzing transition scenarios on how the Nation might initiate early hydrogen production and delivery infrastructure development as vehicle market penetration ramps up, and we plan to submit a transition analysis report to the National Academies in March of 2007. We are pursuing “distributed” options for reforming renewable fuels, such as ethanol, as well as natural gas, to produce hydrogen on-site at the fueling station. This distributed scenario can also be used for on-site electrolyzers that use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. These methods provide an alternative to large infrastructure investments in a hydrogen delivery system before there are large numbers of hydrogen vehicles on the road.


In terms of hydrogen production, we have already been successful in reducing the cost of producing hydrogen from natural gas – from $5.00/gallon gasoline equivalent (gge) to approximately $3.00/gge today. This status for cost is currently being verified by an independent panel that will release its results later this summer.


We fully recognize that producing hydrogen from natural gas is not a strategy for the long term. All four Department offices that comprise the Hydrogen Program – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, and Science –are working together to pursue revolutionary approaches to hydrogen production. For example, heat from nuclear reactors or solar energy can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with no carbon or criteria emissions. In our nuclear-based hydrogen program, we plan to complete the assembly and preliminary testing of a laboratory system using nuclear heat to drive thermochemical cycles that split water to produce hydrogen. In another approach using nuclear energy, we will demonstrate hydrogen production from a high temperature electrolysis system that is more efficient than the electrolyzers used today.


By 2010, the Department anticipates completing integrated laboratory-scale experiments of thermochemical cycles and high-temperature electrolysis technologies for producing hydrogen with nuclear energy to confirm technical feasibility of the closed loop processes. Results of these experiments will inform the selection of the high-temperature hydrogen production technology required by EPACT 2005 by the end of FY 2011. For the process or processes selected for further development, design activities will be initiated by 2011 for pilot-scale experiments at higher power levels to evaluate scalability of the processes for eventual commercial use.


Also, in a separate activity in support of EPACT 2005, the Department has received industry proposals to conduct a feasibility study of how to produce hydrogen using smallscale equipment at existing nuclear reactors. If the Department selects any of the proposals, it will partner with industry for up to three years to examine the economics of producing hydrogen at an existing reactor, the environmental effects, and the regulatory requirements.


Other high-risk, high pay-off production approaches also involve harnessing the huge potential resource of solar energy. Through a collaboration of our basic and applied research programs, we are developing “photobiological” hydrogen production technology that uses micro-organisms to produce hydrogen and “photoelectrochemical” hydrogen production technology, in which solid state devices convert photon energy into hydrogen. These approaches may be up to 25 years away from maturity but offer great promise for fully sustainable hydrogen fuel production without environmental impact.


In our coal-based hydrogen program, we plan to scale up membrane reactors for separating carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas streams for zero emission fuel cell vehicles and pollution-free power production. This research is closely coordinated with our FutureGen effort to create the world’s first coal-based near-zero atmospheric emissions power plant to produce electricity and hydrogen, incorporating clean coal and carbon sequestration technologies.


We are also demonstrating hydrogen technology in vehicles that are on the road today. Through “50-50” cost-shared partnerships with the automotive and energy industries, four teams are installing hydrogen refueling stations and putting fuel cell vehicles on the road to test the technology as integrated systems in real-world conditions. Through this “National Hydrogen Learning Demonstration,” we are collecting data on vehicle performance, durability, and fuel economy and feeding it back into our research program to ensure that we remain focused on the most relevant problems. Consistent with the President’s Management Agenda, the results we plan to report later this year will provide a transparent “risk assessment” that allows Congress and taxpayers to evaluate progress toward meeting our established performance-based goals.


As mentioned, hydrogen is critical to our Nation’s strategy for long-term energy and environmental security. Developing hydrogen technologies that can be manufactured domestically should improve our economic competitiveness as well. Our manufacturing research and development effort is new in FY 2007 and will address the need for highvolume manufacturing processes for components such as those used in fuel cells that are currently hand-built. These processes are important to lowering the costs of fuel cells and developing a domestic supplier base. Establishing an early supply base for fuel cell applications such as portable, stationary, remote, and emergency back-up power also lays critical groundwork for the much larger supply chains needed for automotive applications. In January, Secretary Bodman released for public comment a draft roadmap on manufacturing research for the hydrogen economy. This roadmap is being finalized and will be the foundation for executing this important research.


Finally, since the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative was unveiled in 2003, investments have been made not only at the Federal level but also at the state and local levels. From Aiken, South Carolina, to Golden, Colorado, to Sacramento, California, hydrogen research facilities and infrastructure investments have demonstrated a long-term commitment to hydrogen and the beginnings of the hydrogen economy. These diverse investments increase our probability of success in solving technology barriers and in enabling industry to not only make fuel cell vehicles that consumers will want to buy, but also invest in hydrogen refueling infrastructure that is profitable and addresses the root cause of foreign oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.


This concludes my testimony, and I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.


[1] Office of the President. “Hydrogen Fuel: A Clean and Secure Energy Future.” 30 Jan. 2003. Available on the Web at <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030130-20.html>.

[2] Bush, George W. “2006 State of the Union Address.” Capitol, Washington. 28 Jan. 2003. Available on the Web at <http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2006/>.