Renewables

Retired NASA hydrogen expert Addison Bain, Ph.D. to test hydrogen – compressed natural gas (HCNG) blends in Ford Crown Victoria

Proton Energy Systems provides HOGEN FC on-site hydrogen generator

Florida’s Space Coast, May 19, 2003 — Dr. Addison Bain, whose groundbreaking research proved that hydrogen did not initiate the Hindenburg fire in 1937, has begun a new project to demonstrate use of hydrogen -compressed natural gas blends for fueling today’s automobile engines.

The use of hydrogen in internal combustion engines offers one potential bridge towards the development of hydrogen fuel cell-powered automobiles.

A retired NASA hydrogen program manager who has developed and tested hydrogen systems for more than 40 years, Bain has designed a simple hydrogen/natural gas fueling system that allows him to fuel a modified passenger car with an easy-to-operate fuel gas production and blending system. The system allows him to safely blend hydrogen (H2) and compressed natural gas (CNG) inside the tank of his internal-combustion engine Crown Victoria.

During the next eight months, Bain will incrementally boost the percentage of hydrogen-to-compressed natural gas in the tank. He will document how increasing H2 in the mix not only affects vehicle performance, but also the ease and cost of H2-CNG fueling.

Bain’s test project has brought together a variety of companies and organizations that have contributed products and engineering support. Wallingford, Conn.-based Proton Energy Systems, Inc. (www.protonenergy.com) provided Bain with a prototype HOGEN FC (fuel cell) 600 cc/minute compact hydrogen generator, which connects to six K-type hydrogen storage tanks. Jasper, Ga.-based AQUA SOLUTIONS (www.aqua-sol.com) worked with Proton to provide Bain with a small Type II water purification system for the HOGEN FC generator’s water input.

Cocoa, Fl.-based Precision Fabrication and Cleaning (PFC) (www.precgroup.com) installed and tested stainless steel manifolding between all the system’s components, provided the six hydrogen storage tanks and the control/isolation panel through which the CNG and H2 flow. Bain installed the hydrogen storage tanks and venting systems, and the 3000 psig Vehicle Refueling Appliance from Clearwater, Fl.-based Motor Fuelers, Inc. (www.motorfuelers.com). Thermodyne Systems (www.hydrogenappliances.com) provided Bain an H2 sensor for the project.

Background
Bain’s H2-CNG-fueled Ford Crown Vic began its life as a General Services Administration (GSA) vehicle that was used in Bain’s tests at NASA. The vehicle was originally configured to operate as a bifuel system to run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas.

In parallel to Bain’s work at NASA, colleagues Neal Mulligan and Dr. Kirk Collier, formerly with the Florida Solar Energy Center and now principals of Collier Technologies (www.bestemissions.com) obtained a duplicate engine from Ford Research that was configured to accommodate hydrogen-compressed natural gas mixes. Using a fuel mixing station from Praxair, Collier and Mulligan tested the H2-CNG configured engine, sharing data with Bain on optimal blends and performance results.

Bain retired from NASA in 1996. In December 2000, GSA put the Crown Vic up for bid, and Bain purchased it. Aided by Collier and Mulligan’s findings, Bain has made adjustments to the Crown Vic engine’s computer to enable the switch from gasoline-compressed natural gas (bifuel) to hydrogen-compressed natural gas blends.

Said Bain, “I originally planned to contract with a company that would provide me with a delivered hydrogen supply. But on-site generation seemed to be a better alternative. I met Proton Energy Systems Program Manager Dr. Tom Maloney at last year’s National Hydrogen Association (NHA) conference, saw the generator they offered, and began conversations that led to my acquiring a Proton FC generator for my project.”

How it works
Bain’s system is unique because the fuel mixing process happens inside the vehicle tank. Bain runs Proton’s hydrogen generator for 48 hours, which generates over 60 cubic feet of 99.99999% pure hydrogen at 200 psig, enough to fill the Crown Vic tank to 5-10% of capacity. The generator feeds into six H2 storage bottles. A natural gas line connects with the 3,000 psig natural gas compressor. Both hydrogen and compressed natural gas sources feed into a control/isolation panel. The process is simple and quiet. Bain first opens the hydrogen connection on the isolation panel, and fills the tank to between 5 and 10%. During the H2 fill, pressure levels from 200 to 150psig. Bain then closes the hydrogen connection, opens the compressed natural gas connection, and completes the fill to any desired final pressure up to 3,000 psig. The fill process takes seven to eight hours.

“Fuel cells hold promise for many applications in the future,” said Bain. “I believe that there’s opportunity for hydrogen here and now with our current technology. We need to look at how our current internal combustion engines can efficiently use hydrogen and compressed natural gas mixes. By adjusting the blend, you can get varying degrees of fuel efficiency, while dramatically reducing harmful emissions. And the hydrogen that’s required is only a fraction of what’s needed to run a fuel cell.”

“Dr. Bain’s research draws on both his vast experience at NASA and his enthusiastic vision for hydrogen in our economy,” said Proton Energy Systems President and CEO Walter “Chip” Schroeder. “We are proud to have the opportunity to provide Dr. Bain with a compact on-site hydrogen generator, and to work with the other companies that are dedicated to this project’s success.”