Founded in 1977, PDC Machines is regarded as a trusted partner by leading gas and chemical producers worldwide. From its base in Warminster, Pennsylvania, the company designs and manufacturers diaphragm compressors engineered for ultra-high purity compression of all rare, hazardous, toxic, pyrophoric, explosive and industrial gases and mixtures.
This has traditionally been for the industrial gas, research, and chemical processing sectors, globally, but in more recent years PDC Machines has found its technologies and expertise not only at the heart of the growing renewable energies, but in strong demand too.
The company’s diaphragm gas compressors are integral to hydrogen refuelling stations, for example, while it took this offering one step further in the past few years with the introduction of the SimpleFuel™ on-site hydrogen fuelling station.
SimpleFuel™, an on-site hydrogen generation, storage and dispensing appliance, uses water and electricity to produce high purity fuel cell-grade hydrogen.
The technology was developed in response to the H2 Refuel H-Prize competition launched by the US Department of Energy (DOE) back in 2014, which challenged American innovators to create solutions that could provide a path for greater adoption of FCEVs by improving the performance and affordability of small-scale hydrogen fuelling infrastructure.
The SimpleFuel™ team consisting of IVYS Energy Solutions, PDC Machines and McPhy North America were awarded the H-prize in early 2017 and have been working on commercialisation of the technology ever since, with various installations around the world.
The station converts 3.8 gallons of filtered water into enough hydrogen to fill one hydrogen-powered vehicle to travel over 360 miles, and has the ability to dispense fast ‘opportunity’ fills or full fills up to 700bar. It is, therefore, a key solution in addressing specific needs of the hydrogen infrastructure in the automotive and industrial mobility applications, something that PDC Machines Vice-President Kareem Afzal says the company is ‘laser focused’ on serving, in an exclusive interview with H2 View.
Thanks for giving H2 View your time. What role are you and PDC Machines playing in the hydrogen economy?
PDC Machines is the world’s premiere compression technology provider to the world’s hydrogen economy. Everything from small demonstration projects for hydrogen production to large fleet vehicle mobility projects and everything in-between. In addition PDC, along with our partner IVYS Energy Solutions, offers a compact all-in-one hydrogen refuelling appliance called SimplefuelTM. This product is an output of the Department of Energy’s H2 Refuel H-Prize competition, which challenged American innovators to create small onsite fleet refuelling systems. We make this in a 10kg and 20kg/day, 70 MPA and 35 MPa variety, and are in the early stages of commercialisation.
We work worldwide and across the world’s code and standard requirements. Finally, PDC has 430+ installations worldwide. Times are truly exciting, and PDC is honoured to have such a dedicated customer-partner base to grow with.
What is the particular focus on at PDC Machines?
Compression technology for refuelling systems and the SimplefuelTM product. As the world focus widens to medium and heavy-duty fleets, PDC is putting a laser focus on serving that up and coming mobility need.
When did you first become excited or enthusiastic about the role of hydrogen in the energy transition? Was there a eureka moment?
For over 20 years, PDC has supported the hydrogen economy from the demo days of the Sunbug at Sunline Transit through the material handling commercialisation, and now with the early adoption of FCEVs around the globe. I would say our ‘aha’ moment was when indoor material handling became ubiquitous with commercial efficiency – and fuel cells found a space in regular commercial markets.
“Another aha moment is the light speed development of the Asian markets, and specifically what is happening in China, Korea and Japan…”
Another aha moment is the light speed development of the Asian markets, and specifically what is happening in China, Korea and Japan. These countries are dedicated to the development of a hydrogen society. PDC is leading the way in deployments in China, where the government is focused on deploying fleets of local logistic vehicles and public transportation. We have an enormous backlog for China, and a great partner base.
What hydrogen innovation or application makes you most excited for the future?
It is our belief that the scale of medium and heavy-duty applications, captured fleet delivery vehicles, drayage trucks and fleet vehicle use cases will bring scale to the overall hydrogen ecosystem that will enable rapid technology development, lower costs and broad adoption.
It is here that hydrogen with scale bring opportunities for wide spread diverse business and operations models.
At the same time, I would have to say our SimpleFuelTM refuelling appliance also makes us most excited for the future.
Where do you feel the challenges currently are in the hydrogen space?
The hydrogen ecosystem is still a village. There is still a limited supply chain throughout the hydrogen economy, which makes some things challenging. Scale will encourage newcomers with new thinking and new ideas to advance our industry forward.
And what can PDC Machines and its partners in the SimpleFuel TM project do to overcome this?
The SimplefuelTM product line has the opportunity to bring resiliency into existing and new hydrogen fuelling networks. With SimplefuelTM being an extremely small appliance, easy to permit and only requiring two days to start-up, it can bring a paradigm shift to consumer hydrogen fuelling.
Let’s consider, for instance, a hub and spoke model. Taking a large capacity hub station, one could populate an area around the hub station with 10-12 SimplefuelTM units in comparison to the equivalent onsite large station cost at equal that capacity. Then, with ease of permitting, these units would be placed at locations where people spend their time to ensure optimal convenience; think shopping centres, home depots, grocery stores and big box retailers.
Then that network is 10-12 connected-units to achieve capacity needs, as opposed to one large station – it brings inherent resiliency against single point failures that [can] bring down the fuelling capacity today.
We believe this model has the opportunity to change the ecosystem and make customer confidence in range anxiety stronger.
Hydrogen Summit 2020
Kareem Afzal is already confirmed to be a speaker at H2 View’s Hydrogen Summit 2020 in Munich, Germany next year.
Under the theme Realising Hydrogen’s Future Role – and Scaling Up, the Hydrogen Summit 2020 is dedicated to addressing the many-splintered topics within the hydrogen economy.
Powered by gasworld and introducing H2 View to the events stage, the Summit’s progressive agenda will deliver the experts and insights to drive debate and provide key ‘takeaways’ to help companies strategise their future role in the clean energy sector.
With many considering material handling and vehicle fleets as a whole as key to ultimately unlocking the future potential of hydrogen passenger vehicles in the long-term, technology such as SimpleFuelTM will be a significant addition to the hydrogen energy supply chain and Afzal will discuss this technology and its importance further at the Summit.
Held from 7th-8th April 2020 at Sofitel Munich Bayerpost, the event will provide invaluable networking opportunities between hydrogen suppliers, end-users and equipment innovators alike.
For more information on the Summit, visit www.gasworldconferences.com