While you applaud the drop in the cost of oil, consider the viewpoint of Don Fraser, director of sales at Dynetek, who wants oil prices to increase and is hopeful that in the future oil will take up where it left off, at $4 – or higher – per gallon of gasoline.
Surely he’s not serious? Well, yes he is. Because cheap oil, he maintains, will drive down research and innovation into alternative fuels. “The hydrogen economy will never come if we don’t have high oil,” he says.
And therein lies the scope of Dynetek’s business, as a leading supplier of lightweight compressed natural gas (CNG) cylinders and compressed hydrogen cylinders, for buses, cars, forklifts and back-up power.
Dynetek was founded in 1991 by Heinz Portman and spent its first four years developing products before delivering its first compressed natural gas (CNG) vessels, which remains the company’s core business. “In 2000 we went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, promoting the hydrogen economy, and we’ve been public ever since,” Fraser says.
Dynetek’s pressure vessel cylinders range from 3000 psi/200 bar in Europe to 3600 psi/ 250 bar in North America. Hydrogen cylinders can go up to 5000 psi and currently, most new hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are at 10,000 psi.
The company’s core base of vehicle manufacturers in North America includes Freightliner, and ThomasBuilt, and heavy-duty manufacturers such as AutoCar. In Europe it’s a leading supplier of CNG bus composite cylinders to MAN, Daimler, Van Hool and Ibeco on its Iris bus division. “Our key partners and one of our major shareholders is Mitsubishi’s Rayon division, which is our fiber supplier,” Fraser says. “They’ve been a long term partner.” Additionally, Dynetek supplies canisters to all major OEMs, including Ford in Europe, Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW; to Nissan in Japan and Hyundai in Korea. The company has Transport Canada and U.S. DOT approval, and supplies throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and Indonesia. Dynetek also develops bulk modules and 20-foot ISO containers.
At Dynetek’s founding, CNG was an emerging market; in the decade or so since, projected growth in the market has grown immensely, Fraser says, “and currently is changing fast. Up to eight million vehicles are riding globally now on CNG; it’s projected to grow to 60 million by 2020 which will require in excess of 150 million cylinders.” OEMs such as Ford and GM had offered natural gas products in the past but discontinued these. Internationally, General Motors offers more than 50 models that run on CNG.
In bulk transportation of natural gas Dynetek partners with Eurotainer to develop 20-foot ISO containers to ship natural gas all over the world. In addition, Dynetek also offers composite cylinders. “In the 1990s containers were all steel and composites were unheard of,” Fraser says. “Now our cylinders are comprised of aluminum and carbon fiber (the aluminum from Alcoa and carbon fiber from Mitsubishi).” The lighter cylinders mean that more can be transported at one time.
A BIG LEAP FORWARD
All this activity has enabled Dynetek to post sales of $35 million last year. “There was a lull in the adoption of CNG because of oil, but high oil has driven up interest again,” Fraser says. “We’ve had 30-50 percent growth and the forecast is for continued 30-50 percent growth. Our prediction is that we’ll see selective growth in high volume markets.”
Here are some of the activities that spell huge increases in fuel cell potential:
- Partnering with Plug Power (to whom Dynetek supplies cylinders) Wal Mart is converting warehouses in Atlanta to 100 percent hydrogen power. “A fork lift on a fuel cell gives an operator 100 percent up time. When the hydrogen gets low in one minute it’s filled again,” versus a battery-powered vehicle, which loses its effectiveness as the battery loses power, Fraser says. In addition, a huge battery room is also needed to switch and recharge batteries.
- Fuel cells can offer sufficient back-up power to cell towers – up to 48 hours and more – and with 300,000 cell towers in the United States, the potential is huge, Fraser says.
- In June the company’s Dynetek Europe GmbH received a CNG complete system order from a major bus manufacturer in Europe. These systems, to be delivered from June 2008 until February 2009, represent revenue of approximately $10 million (CDN). Dynetek will provide a complete system solution, which offers lower overall system weight with increased fuel on board the vehicle than competitors. In addition, Dynetek has supplied 10 hydrogen fuel cell cars for a fleet in Vancouver as well as shuttlebuses built by Ford.
- Dynetek also remains in talks with Chinese automakers in the face of that country’s immense growth, which put traditional energy sources in short supply.
- The numbers of national gas vehicles in the Asian market are growing so fast, the region probably won’t be using diesel in two to three years, Fraser predicts. Venezuela, he adds, “is switching to natural gas faster than you can shake a stick at. They want to export oil and keep natural gas to run vehicles. Iran is also converting to natural gas, “but we don’t supply Iran because of the embargo. But we get phone calls from Iran all the time.” And Africa, he adds, is on the frontier as a leading supplier of natural gas. Other developments have boded well for both the industry and Dynetek’s business. Recently the company received approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) of its 450 Bar (6527 PSI) cylinder for use in Dynetek BT450 Tube Trailer Systems.
In October 2007, Dynetek announced delivery of the first BT450 Tube trailer systems for the transport of hydrogen in Canada. These first systems were approved by Transport Canada for operation within Canada.
The traditional method of bulk gas hauling is with steel tube trailers with typical operating pressure of 3000 psi. Dynetek’s new high pressure cylinders and systems, which will operate at 6500 psi, will enable direct refueling of hydrogen vehicles from the company’s specially designed BT450 modules.
Dynetek also received an order from Air Liquide to provide cylinders for the construction of a BT450 Tube Trailer system, which will be used to refuel the hydrogen bus fleet deployed by BC Transit for the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia. Dynetek’s BT450 Tube Trailer systems can be used to support hydrogen powered fuel cell and internal combustion engine vehicles by providing mobile refueling capability. The systems will play a significant role in providing much needed hydrogen infrastructure, which will enable real life every day road testing of vehicles in areas where refueling infrastructure does not exist.
Dynetek’s BT450 Tube Trailer system complements the complete range of BT Systems offered by Dynetek for the bulk transport of compressed gases. According to the company, Dyneteks’ BT Systems are gaining global acceptance as the mode of transport for hydrogen and CNG to refueling stations, to transport gas from remote or abandoned natural gas reserves or provide a temporary supply of natural gas to pipelines undergoing maintenance.
BUT WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
While some hydrogen comes from the ocean, currently Dynetek’s hydrogen comes from a short term waste hydrogen utilization project in Vancouver installed on two sodium chloride plants for pulp and paper, whose byproduct is: hydrogen. “They vent enough hydrogen to power 30,000 cars,” Fraser says.
In addition, in North Rhine Westfalia, Germany, the company has initiated a project to work with the government on the “economy of hydrogen.” According to Dynetek research, “natural gas vehicles have developed over the past few years in Germany to a much-indemand alternative to conventional cars. There are a number of reasons for this. One factor is the potential savings in costs. While fuel prices are rising across the board, natural gas cars currently offer the most inexpensive drive technology in individual motorized transport. Drivers of gas-powered vehicles save when they fill up – around 50 percent compared to super grade petrol and about 30 percent compared to diesel.”
For a long time the problem was the sparse network of filling stations. But now the gas industry has invested large amounts of money in establishing a high-performance filling station infrastructure this has ceased to be a problem. Just under 700 of a planned 1,000 filling stations are already in operation.”
Another deterrent is in price. “The price of a kilo of hydrogen has to be the same as a gallon of gasoline,” Fraser points out. “Right now hydrogen is $22/kilo. But waste hydrogen is in the price range of $2-$3 a kilo. We’re projecting that buses there will run on cleanburning hydrogen. It’s a great partnership.”
And so Dynetek presents another scenario in which innovation is derived from the need to think outside parameters. Perhaps we should listen to Fraser and wish for higher oil prices as a way to grow the future hydrogen economy.