Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Exxon Mobil partners with Ben Gurion U. to develop hydrogen fuel system

ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), QuestAir Technologies Inc., Plug Power Inc. (Nasdaq:PLUG) and Ben Gurion University of the Negev are collaborating to commercialize an on-vehicle hydrogen production system for use in a fuel cell-powered lift truck application.

According to Cleantech.com and Globes, Plug Power will seek to commercialize unique technologies developed by ExxonMobil, QuestAir Technologies, and Ben Gurion University that take liquid fuels - gasoline, diesel, ethanol or biodiesel - and convert them into hydrogen onboard the vehicle where it will be used in a fuel cell power train.

"By developing a system that converts liquid hydrocarbons into hydrogen directly on a vehicle without the need for storage, we hope to demonstrate significant infrastructure, logistics and cost advantages compared to other hydrogen vehicle systems, all while reducing the impact on the environment," said Emil Jacobs, VP of research and development at Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering.

BG Negev Technologies and Applications Ltd., Ben Gurion University's technology transfer company is responsible for the university's share in the program. The university is represented by the Blechner Center and Prof. Moti Hershkowitz. The university and its partners have been developing the individual components that make up the on-vehicle hydrogen fuel system. Sulfur is controlled by an ExxonMobil proprietary S-Trap developed in conjunction with the university. Plug Power will be responsible for integrating the fuel system with its GenDrive fuel cell power system for lift truck applications.

Globes notes that a competitor to this project is Israeli start-up Enginuity Ltd., which is developing technology to produce hydrogen on-board the vehicle as needed, utilizing a modified internal combustion engine with a zero emission solution. Investors in Enginuity include the Ormat Group and the ATI - Ashkelon Technological Industries incubator.