BMW's new way to source hydrogen: Your trash

BMW is working on a project to turn the methane gas generated by landfills into hydrogen.

Methane gas captured from a nearby landfill powering BMW's Spartanburg assembly plant.
Methane gas captured from a nearby landfill powering BMW's Spartanburg assembly plant. BMW

One of the biggest hurdles for fuel cell technology to overcome is finding an energy-efficient and cost-effective way to create hydrogen fuel. But what if we could convert landfill gas to hydrogen?

BMW is working on a project to turn the methane gas generated by landfills into hydrogen. For the past eight years, the auto manufacturer has been collecting, cleaning, and compressing methane gas from a landfill near its Spartanburg, S.C., assembly plant, and using the clean fuel to power more than 50 percent of the facility's total energy needs.

That move has reduced the plant's carbon footprint by about 92,000 tons per year, and also saved BMW approximately $5 million annually in energy costs, according to the manufacturer. Now the carmaker is ready to further improve its energy efficiency by piloting a program that will explore the feasibility of turning methane gas into hydrogen.

To preserve its trade secrets, BMW won't reveal the method it is using to convert methane into hydrogen. But if it is successful, the company will move on to the second phase of the project and use the renewably generated hydrogen to power its fleet of approximately 100 material handling fuel cell vehicles at its assembly plant. The ultimate goal for BMW is for this pilot program to serve as a model that other private sector companies can use.

 

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