The 2009 National Hydrogen Conference and Expo


The 2009 National Hydrogen Conference and Expo was held in Columbia, SC from March 31 – April 3. Speakers and presenters from around the world converged in the capital city of a state known for its proactive legislation and support for hydrogen and other alternative energy sources (see “A Warm Welcome,” CGI, February 2009, p. 48). 

For three days, experts from government, private industry, think tanks, universities, and research centers shared,discussed, and tried their hands at the latest information surrounding the hydrogen industry. This year’s Conference saw record-breaking attendance, with 2,000 public visitors in addition to the more than 700 registered attendees — nearly twice as many as previous years. “Despite the challenges of working in a tightening economy, the event is a true testament to the strength and vitality of the hydrogen industry and the public’s extremely high interest in alternative fuels,” noted Jeffrey Serfass, President of the National Hydrogen Association. The Conference this year demonstrated the strengths in the industry, but the “tightening economy” may in fact produce more roadblocks than many anticipated.

Developments in hydrogen home fueling, fuel cell, and transportable tank storage technology took a front seat at this year’s Conference compared with pipeline infrastructure. Biomass and nuclear power’s roles in sourcing hydrogen also became timely topics. And amidst the new Washington administration’s emerging budget and stimulus plans, many at the conference also focused on the cost-benefit aspects of hydrogen and the need for government to support the hydrogen economy. While the Conference offered continuity from past conferences, it offered, as always, all that is new and developing in the world of hydrogen.

Developments in hydrogen home fueling, fuel cell, and transportable tank storage technology took a front seat at this year’s Conference compared with pipeline infrastructure.


Sandy Thomas, President of H2Gen Innovations, Inc., and Joan Ogden, Professor at University of California at Davis and leading expert in alternative vehicular fuels, spoke on the costs and benefits of hydrogen versus other alternative fueling options. In his presentation entitled “Cost-Benefit Analyses of Alternative Transportation Options for the 21st Century,” Thomas concluded that when regarding zero-carbon fuels, hydrogen and electricity will be key fuels in the future. His paper examines the cost benefits of vehicles powered by various methods. Ogden also looked at the cost to move from a gasoline-based transportation infrastructure to those that are hydrogen and/or hybrid electric-based. Both studied the benefits and drawbacks of each system as well as the time it would take to break even in these alternative scenarios.

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