International Hydrogen Joint Working Group Forming

by Karen Miller, Program Director, National Hydrogen Association
Representatives from Canada, Japan, and the United States attended an informal meeting at the U.S. Annual Hydrogen Meeting in March to continue discussions concerning the formation of an international joint working group on hydrogen, known simply as the Hydrogen Joint Working Group (HJWG).

Martin Hammerli of Natural Resources Canada (NRC) described a three-tiered effort in Canada. NRC has an Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for joint government-funded projects. The Canadian Hydrogen Association receives funding from NRC, dues, and industry. Canada has a significant hydrogen industry, beyond efforts of the government.

Kazukiyo Okano and Kenzo Fukada of WE-NET described activities in Japan. WE-NET has five fully funded research and development (R&D) projects. There is significant funding for both hydrogen and fuel cells: approximately US$20 million and US$50 million, respectively, from the government, with approximately ten times that amount being spent by industry.

A variety of hydrogen projects funded by DOE—including storage R&D, information resources at national laboratories, and demonstration projects that are cost-shared with industry and government at 50 percent each—were described by Bob Mauro of the NHA. He estimated that up to a billion dollars per year is spent by private industry in the U.S. on fuel cells.

Given the significant attention by each country to hydrogen and fuel cells, international interests should be explored as well. This may include information sharing for safety and codes and standards and exploration of potential international projects.

To do this, the participants agreed to reach out to other countries, particularly to those just developing an interest in hydrogen and fuel cells, in order to help these countries form their own national hydrogen associations and cooperate internationally. Countries which are developing an interest in hydrogen and so may have the most to benefit from this outreach in the near-term include: Korea, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Africa, Mexico, and China. The group also agreed to begin a dialogue with the International Gas Union on this type of effort. Mauro will invite a representative from the IGU to speak at a future HJWG meeting.

Toshi Takematsu of Iwatani voiced an interest in sharing information with many countries and noted that increased international opportunities through the NHA or HJWG would be welcome. He stated, and everyone agreed, that the activities in Iceland are impressive.

Fukada stated that, in addition to technology transfer and building interest throughout Asia, WE-NET would like to explore an energy-trading network. Plus, all participants are interested in education and training efforts. These could certainly be explored by the HJWG if participation from additional countries can be included. Okano suggested that the HJWG conduct a survey and exchange hydrogen energy sources produced by unused renewable energy sources in the world.

Mauro added that the U.S. is interested in free trade and, to ensure that processes are open and fair, providing equal access to all, especially in rule setting. To commercialize hydrogen, it is important to avoid excluding hydrogen technologies from certain parts of the world. (This is already becoming an issue for compressed natural gas cylinders, which will require a United Nations stamp of approval in 2002. This U.N. certification process may leave some countries in an unfavorable trade position, as the U.N. certification may supercede International Energy Commission (IEC) or International Standards Organization (ISO) standards.)

A European-wide hydrogen association is working on the same types of issues being explored in the U.S. They are examining gaps in current standards related to hydrogen through the European Integrated Hydrogen Energy Project. This is likely to set the European hydrogen standards agenda for many years.

An interest in pursuing the HJWG exists, but it is important not to duplicate existing efforts but help to collate information. A HJWG website, with links to the national hydrogen associations, would be one way to accomplish this. The site could also include national and international meeting notices and minutes, announcements of upcoming hydrogen reports, tracking of infrastructure development for safety information and codes and standards, and links to IEC and ISO websites. The NHA agreed to seek funding commitments to begin the development of this website and other activities described.

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