Role of the NHA in Strategic Planning for the Hydrogen Economy

by Robert L. Mauro, Executive Vice President, and Karen Miller, Coordinator, National Hydrogen Association

[The following is based on a paper presented at the HYPOTHESIS II Conference held in August 1997 in Grimstad, Norway.]

The NHA, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, is defining the path to a hydrogen energy industry. The NHA has produced a draft document titled Strategic Planning for the Hydrogen Economy: The Hydrogen Commercialization Plan, which was officially adopted by the membership at the 8th Annual U.S. Hydrogen Meeting in March of 1997. Much of this paper is based on the objectives of the plan, and describes existing activities which support these objectives.


The NHA believes that the journey along the path to a sustainable hydrogen energy future will only be successful by working together in partnerships. These partnerships include industry, government, and other organizations, and must span national borders. The plan states that:

“Industry has the expertise and financial resources to bring new products to the marketplace. But industry must respect the bottom line and the demands of its stockholders to provide short-term return on investment. Industry cannot finance long-term societal goals such as clean air and reduced dependence on foreign oil.

“On the other hand, governments are responsible to protect their citizens and the environment from the excesses of individuals or corporations pursuing their own economic self-interest. Government alone has the long-term staying power and the mission, acting on behalf of all citizens collectively, to develop and promote new technology and new policies that will achieve societal objectives. Working together, government can provide the marketplace savvy and the large capital investment, once the hydrogen technology development comes within industrial planning horizon time scales.

“The primary objective of the plan is to obtain commitments from both industry and government to begin implementing the hydrogen energy industry. Such joint commitment will require an economically and technically feasible roadmap on how to get from here to there. Industry must be convinced that it can eventually make a return on investments in hydrogen technology. Government must be convinced that its investments will leverage larger societal benefits in the form of reduced health costs, reduced oil imports, and improved international competitiveness over time. In short, the hydrogen commercialization plan must point to a credible benefit/cost ratio for all participants.”

Both the NHA and Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel (HTAP) are partners with DOE. The NHA represents domestic companies with business or market interests in the U.S. and supports International Energy Agency (IEA) objectives.

HTAP and the NHA currently have efforts underway to implement the commercialization plan for hydrogen. HTAP and the NHA complement each other in the common purpose of helping DOE reach its objectives of advancing technologies critical to the development of sustainable hydrogen energy systems which will be environmentally benign and economically viable. The NHA is also actively establishing technical and policy alliances with other organizations, particularly in the area of codes and standards, leading toward national and international acceptance of hydrogen standards. In fact, two draft standards, for hydrogen containers and refueling stations, developed by working groups in the NHA were accepted as ISO TC/197 work items in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 27 May 1997.

Cooperation between industries is also critical to success. Industry partnerships are the key elements required to implement the Commercialization Plan. Committees composed of NHA and HTAP members must advance technologies and lower barriers to create a hydrogen future. DOE is interested in cost-sharing projects with industry, with industry paying an increasing share of the cost as each technology approaches market viability. To this end, industry members of the NHA are forming business councils to plan and implement near-term projects in support of continued growth in hydrogen-based technology and business. This type of coalition provides local synergy for focused action to realize common DOE-NHA-HTAP goals. Business councils can provide a synergism that is required to take the hydrogen industry to the next level: enabling consumers to use hydrogen in a market which is safe, economical, and sustainable. These councils would work with DOE and the NHA with implementation and commercialization by organizing business teams to conduct demonstrations of equipment in their geographical regions.


The DOE supports a Clean Corridors Program which promotes the concept of industry partnership and cooperation to identify and solve niche-market opportunities to develop clusters around sites that already need or use hydrogen, which will lead to hydrogen corridors. In this way, the hydrogen infrastructure will evolve in response to the end-use needs of hydrogen and the hydrogen activities and infrastructure are less likely to disappear when government funding is reduced or eliminated. The following is a step-by-step development of infrastructure for the development of these hydrogen corridors.

Existing industries using hydrogen applications in their embryonic stages grow, attracting other industries with hydrogen activities. These industries develop into clusters because of their geographical proximity. As more and more hydrogen applications grow at geographically separate sites, there will evolve a natural need for commercial interaction in the form of corridors. Need will trigger placing additional hydrogen-related businesses and hydrogen dispensing stations along the route to serve both markets. There is a desire on the part of industry and government to jump start this process with demonstrations focused around existing hydrogen users and systems easily modified to accommodate hydrogen.

The first step in corridor development is to identify existing hydrogen applications. Hydrogen sites exist throughout the U.S. Many are at NASA facilities, Department of Defense sites, and national labs.

Along the Gulf Coast are a series of industries linked by four different hydrogen pipelines, owned by hydrogen gas producers, connecting various plants that produce and consume hydrogen. Some pipelines are over 100 miles long and connect dozens of industrial facilities that range from chlor-alkali plants to petrochemical plants. Such a cluster of facilities which uses hydrogen for industrial purposes is well on its way to becoming a corridor of industrial users in a crescent from Houston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida. These pipelines carry hydrogen primarily for use as a chemical feedstock. There is widespread use of hydrogen as a chemical feedstock or for industrial processing in chemicals, fertilizer, and methanol, as well as steel, electronics and food processing. Hydrogen use in these industrial sectors is increasing at between 8% and 10% a year. In addition, NASA makes extensive use of liquid hydrogen for rocket propulsion and engine testing.

Additional hydrogen clusters exist in Southern California, where environmental concerns make clean energy use a high priority. The aerospace industry in Southern California has on-site hydrogen in order to conduct fuel-based tests for engines and fuel cells and to create hydrogen environments for processing. Their familiarity with hydrogen and environmental concerns make them logical candidates for various types of hydrogen demonstrations.

There are several applications that industry believes might offer cluster opportunities. These applications can be located near existing industrial hydrogen users or producers. The following applications were identified at a recent business council meeting.

Corridors develop out of the need to connect clusters either to provide chemical feedstocks or a desire for hydrogen transportation between clusters. DOE has tasked Sandia National Laboratories to develop the corridor concept in partnership with industry and DOE.

Based on current and predicted clusters of hydrogen activity, early corridors will most likely develop in two corners of the U.S. Hydrogen buses ultimately will link each cluster in the corridor. In that respect, there will be a need to install refueling stations at selected sites.

The first corridor opportunity would likely develop in the Southwest, extending west from Los Angeles, California, to Phoenix, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and north to Sacramento, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada. This region could take advantage of PV testing and existing hydrogen production facilities in the area. This corridor could expand even further east to Salt Lake City, Utah, and Denver, Colorado.

Another corridor may arise from hydrogen activity in the Southeast. NASA, defense, and industrial activity in this region rely extensively on hydrogen. These sites create a natural corridor and could easily accommodate hydrogen-powered transit buses and vehicles.

Extensive planning is required for the successful expansion of existing applications into clusters and from clusters into corridors. It is easy to envision refueling stations up to 400 miles apart which operate on different hydrogen production technologies. These hydrogen production technologies might include partial oxidation, small size methane steam reforming, electrolysis from the grid and with various renewables, and plasma production of hydrogen.

A multiphase effort might include:

This approach provides for the infrastructure to grow with and tailor itself to the application. For success, industry involvement is essential. The NHA anticipates working with DOE, the California Hydrogen Business Council, the national laboratories, and industries to support cluster development.

The establishment of a network of refueling stations and buses leads naturally to consideration of fleets of hydrogen vehicles. This could then be followed by both public refueling at selected fleet centers and the addition of hydrogen dispensing at existing service stations.

[Note: The rest of this article, below, did not appear in the printed NHA Advocate due to space limitations.]

International Partnerships

In addition to all of these activities, there are international partnerships which play an important role in communication about hydrogen systems. The United States, with the participation of other ISO member countries, is in a position to develop mutually acceptable terms for the performance standards for these systems for purposes of international trade. The expertise and experience from corridor demonstrations will help us better define the requirements of the dispensing facility and for an automobile on-board fuel system. Many of these same questions will be faced by industrialized nations throughout the world.

The Canadian government recently announced it will support Ballard to develop a fuel cell engine for Ford Motor Company. Ballard fuel cells are also being developed for Daimler-Benz, General Motors, Hitachi, Honda, Volkswagen, Volvo, and GPU International. These industries from all over the world should be congratulated for integrating the best hydrogen technologies from all over the world to create effective, pertinent demonstrations of hydrogen energy systems and their infrastructure.


The Hydrogen Commercialization Plan includes both long-term goals and short-term action items that will start us down the road toward the hydrogen energy industry. The most important short-term activity is the development and demonstration of a viable, cost-effective hydrogen fueling infrastructure. This goal can only be achieved by the hydrogen community working together to form a safe, economical, and sustainable hydrogen future.

©1997. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
This material may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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