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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ammonia as an Alternative Energy Storage Medium for Hydrogen Fuel Cells: Scientific and Technical Review for Near-Term Stationary Power Demonstration Projects, Final Report

  • Author(s): Lipman, Tim;
  • Shah, Nihar
  • et al.

This report documents the research efforts of a task order under a research technical agreement between the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). The focus of this research is to understand the scientific and technical aspects of the potential use of ammonia and other related carbon-free energy carriers for hydrogen fuel cell applications. Caltrans has a range of potential applications for fuel cell technology, including various field operations and for providing emergency backup power, power “demand response” flexibility, and power “peak shaving” for its facilities. Ammonia is also a potential onboard hydrogen storage medium for vehicles, but we do not explicitly investigate that here.

The interest in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies at Caltrans and other California government agencies is being driven by a confluence of policy-related events the emergence of new and improved hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The specific policy drivers for hydrogen and fuel cells include the California Hydrogen Highway Network Initiative (Executive Order S-07-04), a statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction effort (AB 32 and the AB 1493 “Pavley Law”), and the State’s Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Also important are various drivers related to the use of electrical power in the wake of California’s failed electricity sector deregulation effort, and the continued pressures of meeting the demands of growth in California’s electricity needs.

This research effort consisted of three primary tasks: 1) An extensive scientific and technical literature review for the use of ammonia and related compounds as a fuel/energy carrier, especially for stationary hydrogen fuel cell applications; 2) An assessment of the current state of technical performance and economics of existing commercial and pre-commercial technologies for ammonia supply for fuel cell applications; and 3) A suggested demonstration plan for a physical demonstration of an ammonia/hydrogen/fuel cell system in the context of Caltrans operations.

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