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Fueling the future: a personal perspective of the burgeoning hydrogen industry

hydrogen-fuel-systems

Written by: Lewis Anderson, Alternative Fuel Systems General Manager, Luxfer Gas Cylinders Europe

When Lewis Anderson joined Luxfer Gas Cylinders’ purchasing team in 2015, he could have never foreseen how hydrogen would not only transform his day job, but the alternative fuel sector too. Here, Lewis recalls how his personal career highlights have mirrored Luxfer’s milestone achievements all while giving his unique insight into how the industry is evolving.

Primed and ready 

My main task when I joined Luxfer was focused on helping to establish a new alternative fuel systems capability at our manufacturing campus in Nottingham. 

In 2015, Luxfer was already an established and major global supplier to the compressed natural gas market, and whilst the commercial opportunities in hydrogen were small, the hydrogen market and application had been of interest to Luxfer for many years. From the late 1990s to the early 2000s Luxfer pioneered the hydrogen tank and valve technology and had continued to build on its heritage of being a world leader in lightweight cylinders, producing high-pressure aluminium gas cylinders since the 1930s and carbon composite cylinders since the 1980s.

This legacy and foresight, plus the establishment of the Luxfer Nottingham capability, that could focus on hydrogen fuel system research and development, meant that when the potential of hydrogen was more visible, we already had the infrastructure and skills in place to partner and supply customers, who like us, were early innovators.

Supporting the emerging hydrogen market

By 2016 we were working on a small number of hydrogen projects – partnering with brands like coach and bus manufacturer Van Hool, to deliver hydrogen systems for two buses in London and five in Europe. 

Everything we focused on was very embryonic, and prototype-led, and there was still quite a bit of uncertainty in the market about whether hydrogen was a viable and sustainable alternative – particularly when compared to diesel and electric. 

As we continued to evolve our hydrogen systems offering, my role changed to reflect this evolution too, becoming Bus Systems Business Manager. And, as 2017 hit, our prudence began paying off. People started contacting us about being involved with more projects, hydrogen was gathering momentum in the media, huge brands like Hyundai wanted to collaborate with us and our valuable sector-specific experience made us an essential ‘go-to’ partner. 

There was a real need for zero emissions fuels and now governments were setting targets that they needed to deliver on. This new phase felt like much more than ‘just prototyping’ – there was a significant shift in investment, orders and understanding.

World-first collaborations

Looking back, I’m incredibly proud to have been part of the team involved with several world firsts. These are projects that are really making positive change to the world we live in, and we have only scratched the surface of hydrogen’s potential. 

Luxfer’s milestones include the world’s first commercially produced hydrogen trucks. A multi-million-pound project integrating hydrogen technology into more than 50 trucks was delivered in 2020 in partnership with Hyundai, making it the first such green fleet in history. 

hyundai-h2-truck

Hydrogen powers the 19-tonne vehicles, which is efficiently stored in seven Luxfer G-Stor™ H2 hydrogen cylinders, supplied in a state-of-the-art hydrogen system which holds 35kg of hydrogen.  Each truck features a 190-kilowatt fuel cell.  This storage and drive train combination provides a range of more than 400km before refuelling, which far surpasses the capabilities of battery electric truck technology. 

The UK’s first hydrogen-powered train. Unveiled in June 2019, the HydroFLEX project comprises a former Thameslink electric train retrofitted to run using a hydrogen fuel system. Luxfer’s alternative fuel experts worked in close collaboration with Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research, which won Department for Transport funding to support the concept. The four-cylinder hydrogen solution was developed and assembled at Luxfer’s UK alternative fuel facility, and in September 2020, the train hit the mainline for the first time.

h2-hydro-flex-train

The HydroFLEX also had a starring role at last autumn’s COP26.  It took its very first passenger journey at the Climate Change Summit, with special guests using the ‘on-board boardroom’. The culmination of the best in UK engineering, fitted by Luxfer with an impressive 36-cylinder system, each cylinder is 3.2 metres long and holds 7.8kg of hydrogen. 

The infrastructure challenge

Since 2018, the hydrogen industry has accelerated. This growth is thanks to the significant funding and investments being pledged by governments and corporations to make green fuels more accessible.  This continues to encourage OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to launch an increasing range of hydrogen powered platforms. 

While hydrogen has been recognised as one of the cleanest fuels available for some time now, the current challenge is to deploy and scale up the required infrastructure to support the refueling of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Therefore, another innovation, borne from the company’s legacy in bulk gas transport, is making ‘instant infrastructure’ a reality.

Last year, we announced an important partnership between Octopus Hydrogen – a subsidiary of green energy tech pioneer Octopus Energy - and Luxfer to make heavy goods transportation and the aviation industries cleaner and greener.

Using the expertise and proven track record in developing and supplying bulk gas transport solutions from our alternative fuel teams in Australia and North America, we have designed 40ft long units, called Multiple Element Gas Containers (MEGC), which can transport over 1 tonne of hydrogen from the point of production to the point of use. 

High pressure gas containment demands the utmost standards of safety and quality, and Luxfer’s proven track record is a key reason why the company is leading the charge with alternative fuel solutions that will help achieve Net Zero. 

Nurturing the hydrogen talent of tomorrow

As the hydrogen economy promises to be a critical fuel to reduce our carbon emissions and improve local air quality, I’m proud of the role I am playing along the way.

I became Alternative Fuel Systems General Manager in 2020 and started nurturing and developing our alternative fuel team – bringing in staff at all levels, including several apprentices every year, and equipping them with the skills and understanding to thrive in an industry that is still very new and progressive, is one of my favourite parts of the job. 

Looking ahead to the future, we are focused on continuing to bring innovative products, solutions and service to our customers. With a sustained focus on collaborating with our partners and the local community, our growing team will ensure we help make hydrogen an accessible and sustainable clean fuel of today. 

For more information on Luxfer's Hydrogen Alternative Fuel Systems contact us


Publisher: GasWorld


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