Is Hydrogen the Future of Alternative Fuels?

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Although higher ethanol blends, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are often mentioned as prominent future alternative fuels, Joe Petrowski, managing director of private equity group Mercantor Partners, dubbed hydrogen a “significant fuel of the future.”

Serving as keynote speaker Tuesday during the Convenience Store News 2015 Fuels & Tech Summit, Petrowski said hydrogen has a tremendous future as an alternative fuel for many reasons, including its local abundance, ability to provide the same fueling experience for customers in terms of fill-up times, and mouth-watering profit margins for convenience store retailers, which could reach $5 per fill-up.

The former CEO of The Cumberland Gulf Group also noted during his speech, entitled "The Future of Fuels," that hydrogen produces superior gas mileage compared to traditional gasoline, and the “fire marshal says it’s safer than CNG and LNG.”

Hydrogen was touted by some experts in the early 2000s to be the alternative fuel of the future. However, this never materialized due to the need for infrastructure, as well as a belief by some that hydrogen is highly combustible and hence could cause vehicles to catch fire if a hydrogen vehicle’s engine were to be struck by another vehicle in an accident.

Petrowski told attendees of the Fuels & Tech Summit that the combustible concern has been solved. “Electric vehicles are likely to have bigger concerns if the battery is struck in an accident,” he said.

He did acknowledge, however, that hydrogen fueling may not take off immediately since consumers cannot retrofit a gasoline vehicle to accept hydrogen. They must purchase a specific hydrogen vehicle.

Additionally, on the retailer side, building the infrastructure for a hydrogen fueling station — which can service four vehicles at one time — carries a price tag of approximately $200,000, he said. There are few hydrogen fueling stations thus far in the United States, but the number has begun to grow.

The managing director at Mercantor Partners concluded his presentation by asserting he believes $35 per barrel is the lowest price crude oil will see. “I’d load the wagon at $35,” he said, meaning that it is the price point when he would be bullish about purchasing the commodity.

In addition, Petrowski believes the U.S. Senate will lift the nation’s crude oil export ban in as early as two weeks.

The Convenience Store News 2015 Fuels & Tech Summit took place Dec. 7-8 at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa in Riviera Beach. The event was sponsored by Growth Energy, ZipLine and Warren Rogers.

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