WASHINGTON — The Dow Chemical Company and General Motors Corp. (GM) have reached an initial understanding on what is believed to be the world's largest fuel cell transaction to date.

According to the companies, the intent is for GM to commercialize its hydrogen fuel cell technology to generate electricity from hydrogen created as a co-product at Dow's operations in Freeport, Texas. The 30-square-mile complex in Freeport, 65 miles east of Houston, is Dow's largest manufacturing facility.

If tests proceed according to plan, Dow could eventually use up to 35 MW of power generated by 500 GM fuel cell units on an ongoing basis. This is enough electricity to power 25,000 homes for a year and is more than 15 times bigger than any other known fuel cell transaction, say the companies. The test is expected to begin during the fourth quarter of 2003 and to run through 2005, with plans to commercialize starting in 2006. Dow and GM teams are currently working to remove the final hurdles for placing the fuel cells in Dow's chemical manufacturing facility. A final agreement between the two companies is expected to be signed in the next few months.

"This is a significant milestone, not only from a technology and business perspective, but from an environmental one as well," said Bill Jewell, Dow's business vice president of energy. If the tests are successful, Dow could become the largest user of fuel cell generated electricity in the world. "Technology moves forward in steps. This step can prove the feasibility of manufacturing and using fuel cells in significant quantities."

Larry Burns, GM vice president of research and development and planning, and Peter Molinaro, global leader of climate change for Dow, jointly announced the arrangement in the U.S. capital.

"Using hydrogen to generate electricity is no longer reserved for spacecraft," said Molinaro. "This collaboration can place us at the threshold of common use of fuel cells to power significant portions of our economy. We are very excited about this collaboration with General Motors and about what it could mean in the pursuit of greater energy diversity, ultimately leading to a hydrogen economy."

"We applaud this move by Dow to be a fuel cell pioneer and to explore new technologies that lead to a more sustainable energy profile," Burns added. "As we reduce costs and improve durability, new applications will emerge that serve industrial, commercial, and finally consumer power and transportation needs," he said.

Publication date: 05/12/2003