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Independent Peer Reviews

DOE's Systems Integrator convenes independent technical reviews to gauge progress toward meeting specific technical targets and to provide technical information necessary for key decisions.

These independent reviews are important to the program:

  • They provide an unbiased understanding of the status of the program's technical targets based on the input of independent technical experts. This understanding is critical to program decision-making, budget planning, and prioritization of research, development, and demonstration activities.
  • They are of interest to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which assesses the program's needs and budgets based on progress towards the technical targets.
  • They help ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated to the public. As such, they improve confidence in the results and conclusions that DOE and other stakeholders reference in technical and program publications, announcements, Congressional testimony, and other arenas.

Independent analyses have been conducted on the following topics:


Hydrogen Station Compression, Storage, and Dispensing Technical Status and Costs

At the request of the U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory commissioned an independent review of hydrogen compression, storage, and dispensing (CSD) for pipeline delivery of hydrogen and forecourt hydrogen production. The panel was asked to address the (1) cost calculation methodology, (2) current cost/technical status, (3) feasibility of achieving the FCTO's 2020 CSD levelized cost targets, and to (4) suggest research areas that will help the FCTO reach its targets. As the panel neared the completion of these tasks, it was also asked to evaluate CSD costs for the delivery of hydrogen by high-pressure tube trailer. This report details these findings.


Hydrogen Production Cost Estimate Using Biomass Gasification

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office, in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, commissioned a qualified Independent Review Panel to review and assess the 2009 state-of-the-art and 2020 projected capital cost, energy efficiency, and levelized cost for hydrogen production from biomass via gasification. The purpose of the review is to gauge progress that industry and the DOE-funded projects have made and to provide guidance regarding direction of future R&D funding. The panel estimated the hydrogen levelized cost from a 1st plant using today's state-of-the-art technology and producing 32,400 kg H2/day to be $5.40/kg hydrogen (2009$). The panel estimated the hydrogen levelized cost from a 135,000 kg H2/day Nth plant to be $2.80/kg (2009$). That estimate includes technology advancements based on learning the panel believes possible by 2020. The panel also found the DOE analysis methodology for hydrogen production costs to be generally sound.


1–10 kW Stationary Combined Heat and Power Systems Status and Technical Potential

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office, in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, commissioned a qualified Independent Review Panel to examine the status and technical potential of 1-10 kW stationary combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell systems and analyze the achievability of preliminary DOE cost, efficiency, and durability targets. Three fuel cell technologies were reviewed: (1) low-temperature proton exchange membrane (LT-PEM) systems operating, for the most part, at 60°–80°C; (2) high temperature PEM (HT-PEM) systems operating at 130°–180°C; and (3) solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems operating at 550°–1,000°C. The panel concluded that each technology has its own advantages and disadvantages relative to DOE cost and technical targets.


Current (2009) State-of-the-Art Hydrogen Production Cost Estimate Using Water Electrolysis

A qualified Independent Review Panel, commissioned by DOE's Fuel Cell Technologies Office, estimated the 2009 cost of using water electrolysis to produce hydrogen. The panel examined alkaline and polymer electrolyte membrane water electrolyzers and distributed and central hydrogen production scenarios. The panel's review revealed that technology advancements have led to capital cost reductions and improved efficiencies, resulting in reduced electrolysis production costs. The panel estimated the 2009 levelized cost range for state-of-the-art forecourt electrolysis to be $4.90-$5.70/kilograms-hydrogen, including compression, storage, and dispensing at 1,500 kilograms/day. The panel also estimated the 2009 levelized cost range for state-of-the-art central electrolysis to be $2.70-$3.50/kilograms-hydrogen at 50,000 kilograms/day. All estimates are based on nth plant assumptions and a 10% after-tax internal rate of return.

Fuel Cell System Cost for Transportation—2008 Cost Estimate

DOE's Fuel Cell Technologies (FCT) Office commissioned a qualified Independent Review Panel to conduct an independent review of the two proton exchange membrane (PEM) automotive system cost analyses contracted by the FCT Office. The Panel believes that a range of $60/kWnet to $80/kWnet is a valid estimation of the potential manufactured cost for an 80 kWnet fuel cell system, based on 2008 technology, extrapolated to a volume of 500,000 systems per year, and the constraints and conditions provided to DTI and TIAX by the FCT Office and the Freedom Car and Fuel Partnership Fuel Cell Technical Team (FCTT). The Panel concluded that the DTI calculated cost of $76/kWnet and the TIAX mean cost from their Monte Carlo analysis of $73/kWnet are credible representations of the cost within the provided constraints and conditions.


Go/No-Go Recommendation for Sodium Borohydride for On-Board Vehicular Hydrogen Storage

The DOE Hydrogen Program commissioned a qualified Independent Review Panel whose charter was to conduct a technical evaluation of the status and progress of research and development (R&D) in the area of hydrolysis of sodium borohydride for on-board vehicular hydrogen storage and its potential to meet DOE's time-phased technical targets. The hydrogen storage technology considered for the hydrolysis of sodium borohydride did not meet all the 2007 targets. The Panel concluded there was no promising path forward for this technology to reach all of the 2010 targets. Based on its charter, the Panel unanimously recommended a No-Go decision.

Measurement of Hydrogen Production Rate Based on Dew Point Temperatures

Over the last several years, the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) has contracted with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to demonstrate the production of hydrogen from high-temperature electrolysis. Because the INL experimental team has implemented a novel approach for measuring the rate of hydrogen production, NE sought an independent verification of the approach. In turn, the DOE Hydrogen Program's Technology Analyst requested the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to commission an independent verification of the approach being implemented by INL to measure the rate of hydrogen production in the laboratory's High-Temperature Electrolysis (HTE) Project.

The independent review team found the direct measurement of the change in dew point temperature approach, being used as a surrogate for directly measuring the hydrogen production rate during high-temperature electrolysis, to be both reasonable and credible.


Cryo-Compressed Hydrogen Storage for Vehicular Applications

The DOE Hydrogen Program conducted a technical assessment of cryo-compressed hydrogen storage for vehicular applications during 2006-2008, consistent with the Program's Multiyear Research, Development and Demonstration Plan. The term "cryo-compressed" refers to Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) concept of storing hydrogen at cryogenic temperatures but within a pressure-capable vessel, in contrast to current liquid (or cryogenic) vessels, which store hydrogen at low pressures.

Cryo-compressed hydrogen storage can include liquid hydrogen or cold compressed hydrogen. This assessment was based primarily on LLNL's design and fabrication of a cryogenic-capable, insulated pressure vessel for on-board hydrogen storage applications. The assessment included an independent review of the technical performance by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), an independent cost analysis by TIAX LLC, comments received from BMW and the FreedomCAR & Fuel Partnership Hydrogen Storage Technical Team, as well as input from LLNL.

Distributed Hydrogen Production from Natural Gas

An independent review panel assessed progress towards DOE's 2005 technical target—$3/gallon of gasoline equivalent (gge)—for the cost of distributed hydrogen production from natural gas. Using DOE's hydrogen analysis model (H2A), the panel estimated the total cost of delivered hydrogen in 2005 assuming an installation rate of 500 new forecourt units per year and a capacity of 1,500 kilogram/day. The panel's resulting total cost, including a 10% internal rate of return, is $2.75-$3.50 per kilogram (1-kg hydrogen has approximately the same amount of energy as 1-gal of gasoline on a lower heating value basis). The projected cost of distributed hydrogen production from natural gas at high volumes indicates that the upper range of DOE's $2 to $3/gge cost target can be met.

Fuel Cell System for Transportation—2005 Cost Estimate

An independent review team recently assessed progress towards DOE's 2005 technical target—$125/kW—for the cost of producing proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems for transportation. Over the last several years, the DOE Hydrogen Program has contracted with TIAX LLC to determine a cost estimate relative to this target. The independent review team found the methodology used by TIAX to estimate the cost of producing PEM fuel cells to be reasonable and, using 2005 cell stack technology and assuming production of 500,000 units per year, to have calculated a credible cost of $108/kW.


On-Board Fuel Processing Go/No-Go Decision

For the past decade, DOE has funded R&D of on-board fuel processing. The R&D focused on fuel-flexible fuel processing of gasoline, ethanol, methanol and natural gas as possible fueling options for fuel cell vehicles. Since it was uncertain whether on-board fuel processing activities would meet FreedomCAR technical criteria in time to support the 2015 commercialization decision for fuel cell vehicles, DOE set an On-Board Fuel Processing Go/No-Go decision milestone for June 2004.

This report delivers the recommendations and rationale of the DOE Decision Team on the On-Board Fuel Processing Go/No-Go Milestone. The report also summarizes the activities that supported the recommendations, including the participation of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) Systems Integrator and the findings of their independent review panel.