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BMW helps lift Linde to hydrogen fuel milestone

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bmw hydrogenBMW Manufacturing employee fills a hydrogen-fueled material handler.

Staff Report
colanews@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 3, 2013

Linde North America credits BMW’s facility in Spartanburg County as a major contributor to the company’s recent achievement of more than a half million fills at its hydrogen fueling stations.

Earlier this year, BMW Manufacturing more than doubled its fleet of material handling equipment, fueled by hydrogen fueling systems provided by Linde.

The 4-million-square-foot Upstate facility now powers its entire hydrogen-fuel cell fleet of more than 230 units to service the plant's production and logistics functions, making it one of the largest fuel cell forklift sites in the world, Linde said.

"BMW's partnership with Linde North America has greatly supported our company's total commitment to sustainability,” said Duncan Seaman, BMW Group's head of market operations in the Americas. “It has helped BMW to maintain its clear vision to reach our goal of using renewable energy as much as possible throughout the plant site.”

The hydrogen fuel cell technology has led to “dramatic reductions in fueling time” and “positioned our hydrogen fuel cell material handling program to be an industry benchmark," Seaman said.

The lead acid batteries that formerly powered BMW's lifts and trucks were replaced with hydrogen fuel cells from Latham, N.Y.-based Plug Power Inc., Linde's partner in the BMW installation and the leading provider of hydrogen-based fuel cells in the material handling market.

"We are proud that our customers have displayed the confidence in Linde to supply the hydrogen fueling systems to reach this important milestone,” said Mike Beckman, vice president of Linde's U.S. hydrogen fueling team. “This proves that our technology can help advance sustainability and lower emissions while also helping to improve the bottom line. Hydrogen already is one of the most promising alternative fuels because it is safe, economic and efficient."

While Linde hydrogen fueling systems involve very sophisticated technology, the filling operation is designed to be relatively quick and simple — much like putting gasoline into your car, Beckman added.

"The speed and simplicity is a critical aspect to the success of hydrogen as a fuel," Beckman said.

To expand its hydrogen fleet, BMW added two higher-capacity compressors, new storage tubes and distribution piping, and eight hydrogen dispensers. The expanded system will deliver at least 400 kilograms of hydrogen per day. BMW estimates that the expanded system will avoid 4.1 million kilowatt-hours per year, up from 1.8 million kwh per year for the initial hydrogen fuel cell system.

In 2011, BMW announced a pilot program to convert landfill gas into hydrogen, expanding on a landfill gas-to-energy program it has operated since 2003.

The final phase of this project is scheduled to begin in late 2013. At that time, BMW will conduct side-by-side trials of material handling equipment fueled by landfill gas-derived hydrogen versus commercially sourced hydrogen.

Linde North America is a member of The Linde Group, one of the world's largest hydrogen energy producers and a leader in developing alternative fuel technologies.

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