Solid oxide fuel cell technology can change virtually any form of waste treatment gas into electricity and hydrogen. This is a really nice economic benefit to help supplement the cost of these public waste services it is perhaps the least amount of benefit to society or obviously a company’s bottom line as seen by FuelCell Energy’s investors.
At a time when all multi-national companies are looking to re-arrange their industrial manufacturing footprints fuel cells that can produce hydrogen for transportation, and electricity for manufacturing and heat for manufacturing processes is a twenty first century industrialist’s dream. So, what does FuelCell Energy have to do with a large fleet of yet to be delivered hydrogen powered fuel cell trucks by a large mid-western brewery?
As much as A-B InBev, Amazon, Walmart, etc. want you to believe they are motivated by helping the environment/planet they are especially so when it secures them a cost advantage. That is why they have existing orders for Nikolai Motors hydrogen fuel cell semi-trucks. That is why shipping giants Amazon, Walmart and FedEx are switching to hydrogen powered forklifts and delivery trucks powered by Plug Power’s hydrogen consuming fuel cells.
If you produce electricity separately from your brewing and distribution operations how long will you have the cost advantage? The world’s largest brewing operation in St. Louis, MO has its very own natural gas fired electric power plant. It will have to purchase hydrogen from Nikolai Motor company’s network of un-built hydrogen fueling stations or purchase and install its own.
The FuelCell Energy fuel cell can replace the current flame burning gas power plant, keep the brewery boiling beer with the heat created making the hydrogen to ship those kegs, cans and bottles of beer to your local convenience store. The electricity generated will keep the lights on and power the rest of the manufacturing facilities operations.
A fueling station powered by solar panels makes sense in a non-industrial setting. It cannot come close to powering an entire manufacturing operation. The cost of maintaining and running separate systems to perform the functions of a single fuel cell will simply be too expensive over time.
So how much Bud, Bud Light, Busch, etc. will AB InBev be selling when their beer costs more because the CEO chose the wrong fueling system for their trucks? Or for that matter will Walmart or Amazon have the price advantage in the future? When it comes to vertical integration the energy source that best matches a facilities operation will bring a competitive advantage to a company’s bottom line.
The integration of the same technology that FuelCell Energy utilizes in its fuel cells is being capitalized upon by the likes of Germany’s Salzgitter Group with Sunfire for steel production. Not only is hydrogen used in steel production but heat and electricity come in handy also. Since there has been life breathed into the US steel industry it would be smart if their CEO’s made the right energy decisions when considering how they power their now long-term operations.
Even new industries and manufacturing processes will also benefit from fuel cells like advanced composite materials. Every advanced material needs to be baked in an oven. If you want to bake large energy saving transportation like airplanes, boats, barges and shipping containers you need really large ovens. FuelCell Energy has a track record of supplying heat to baking operations.
Not only can this technology power the plants to manufacture autos of the past during a transition to an electric car future it will help build and power those new cars, trucks, boats and planes. The real value of FuelCell Energy’s technology has yet to be realized or utilized and that is the carbon capture application of the fuel cell. However, like a newly mined diamond in the hands of the ignorant it is being sold for pennies on the dollar.