Las Vegas factory to convert gas from landfills into hydrogen to power vehicles

The $250m unit will have daily capacity to produce up to 30 tonnes of liquid hydrogen

A hydrogen filling station in Herten, Germany.  France's Air Liquide is opening a factory near Las Vegas that will convert methane from landfills into hydrogen to power emission-free cars and lorries.  AFP
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The French industrial gas company Air Liquide is opening a factory near Las Vegas this month that will convert methane from landfills into hydrogen to power emission-free cars and lorries.

The $250 million plant will have the capacity to produce up to 30 tonnes of liquid hydrogen a day, enough for about 40,000 fuel-cell vehicles, Mike Graff, an Air Liquide executive vice president, said in an interview.

Air Liquide plans to ship all of the plant’s output to California, although there are only about 12,000 hydrogen vehicles registered in the state. Yet the company expects demand for hydrogen as a transport fuel to surge, particularly in long-haul vehicles, as California pushes to decarbonise its economy by 2045.

Battery packs big enough for electric lorries add enormous weight, and fuel cells running on hydrogen are far faster than batteries to refuel — a key consideration for long-haul drivers.

“Five minutes later, you’ve taken on a full load of hydrogen and you’re back on the road again,” Mr Graff said.

The plant will use landfill gas as its raw material, preventing the methane in the gas from escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

The landfill gas will be purified into renewable natural gas, then hydrogen will be stripped from it using steam reformation. Although steam reformation releases carbon dioxide — another greenhouse gas — Mr Graff said those emissions will be offset by the benefits of keeping the original methane out of the air.

Air Liquide will supply the hydrogen to FirstElement Fuel, a California company that operates hydrogen fuelling stations. Air Liquide invested $12m in FirstElement in 2019.

Updated: April 03, 2022, 4:00 AM
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