Chena Hydrogen Fuel Project
Chena Hot Springs Resort
Project Lead: Gwen Holdmann
Chena Hot Springs Resort is an off-grid, semi-remote facility located 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. Power is supplied primarily by a 400kW geothermal power plant. The average load for the site is 280-420kW. Because Chena operates as a stand-alone grid, excess power cannot be transferred to an external grid and is in effect wasted. For this reason, the owners of Chena have proposed to generate hydrogen via electrolysis from the excess power generated during non-peak hours. The hydrogen can be used for several possible applications, including transportation; however the initial goal is to use the hydrogen directly at low pressures to supplement propane usage on site.
A significant portion of the costs associated with using hydrogen as a fuel result from the fact that hydrogen, while energy dense on a per mass basis, is not dense when considered on a volumetric basis. For this reason, hydrogen must be compressed to high pressures or cryogenically cooled and liquefied to be used as a transportation fuel. This is expensive in terms of both the equipment needed and the energy input, and is the reason why hydrogen is not more commonly used. Chena has adopted a unique approach to attempt to use hydrogen economically, by eliminating the need for high pressure compressors and tanks. Instead, Chena is opting to use the hydrogen in a low pressure application, by mixing it into the existing propane stream in a 15/85% per weight ratio. This also reduces safety concerns since the mixed gas is heavier than air and acts similar to straight propane.
It is very important to the owners of Chena Hot Springs to construct projects which not only increase overall sustainability of the site, but are also are economically viable. For this reason, the owners have requested that the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) and the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) conduct a technical and economic analysis of this project, including potential applications at similar sites throughout Alaska.
Chena Hot Springs Hydrogen Production Facility.