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First Element, Equilon And Iwatani


With 45 hydrogen stations in operation, California continues to lead the way in hydrogen infrastructure development in the United States and this gap will only widen with 36 more stations to be built shortly with the help from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Funds. The latter is contributing $5 million. This is the first large California investment in the hydrogen infrastructure since the previous solicitation in 2015.

In its announcement on September 4, the CEC identified three big hydrogen race winners. The top winner, First Element Fuel, Inc., will build 21 station in the first batch with the $15.5 million contribution from the CEC Clean Transportation

Program and $5 million mentioned above. It has an option of completing the second and third batch of 28 more stations. First Element Fuel, Inc. plans to contribute $98.5 million of matching funds to the construction of all 49 stations. This would roughly estimate to $3.1 million per station.

The second winner is Equilon Enterprises LLC (dba Shell Oil Products US), which will construct eight stations with an option for 43 more. The state funds provide $7.6 million and Equilon Enterprises LLC plans to contribute $40.5 million for all 51 station. These stations are approximately proposed at $1.6 million each.

Iwatani Corporation of America is the third winner, awarded $11 million, to build seven stations in its first batch with an option of 16 more. Iwatani committed $62 million of matching funds for 23 stations. This would average to $3.7 million per station.

There were also six more applicants that did not make the cut.

Specifics of the station designs are unknown, but the expectations are that most of the stations would be in the class of 1,000-plus kilograms of hydrogen per day dispensed. This is a 3 to 5 times jump from previous designs and quite possiblly will be served with liquid hydrogen deliveries requiring liquid hydrogen storage. Compressed hydrogen deliveries are typically limited to 400-500 kg per tanker, while liquid hydrogen tanker can transport up to 4,500 kg. The Equilon Enterprises pricing is aggressive being half the cost of its competitors. It will be interesting to see how the three designs would fair in construction costs and subsequent performance.

Currently, the dispensing capacity of stations in California might be roughly estimated at 12 tons of hydrogen per day adequately serving 8,000 fuel cell vehicles on the road. It remains to be seen whether, when the first batch of these new stations enters service, they’ll be matched with more fuel cell vehicles to provide them and the old stations with appropriate demand and revenue. The stations are specifically dedicated to serving passenger vehicles. They will not be able to take advantage of the developing medium- and heavy-duty fuel cell vehicle market. Hydrogen supply will also need to be adequately addressed. Nevertheless, this is excellent news for those interested in the hydrogen infrastructure and technologies.

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