The last localized Hydrogen shortage was in 2019 after an explosion at an Air Products plant.

Northern California Hydrogen Car owners and lessees are going increasingly frustrated as the holiday season kicks into high-gear since they have no place to fill up. Hydrogen supplier to most of Northern California, Air Products, announced in a press release earlier this week (Nov. 11, 2020) that, because of an interruption in the national hydrogen supply chain, Northern California H2 customers can expect up to a 3 week shortage.

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The full statement can be found on the California Fuel Cell Partnership’s website.

Air Products’ Statement
Air Products is aware that there has been an increase in station runouts over the past few days. This is due to an interruption in the national hydrogen supply chain. We anticipate the temporary impacts of this will potentially be seen for the next 2-3 weeks and may be more noticeable in Northern CA. Our team will do our best to spread the available hydrogen to stations in a way that is least impactful.

A snapshot of the total hydrogen supply in California as of this writing. As you can see, there’s a visible dip starting on Saturday that may run well into December.

True Zero, H2 distributor and owner of most of Northern California’s stations, was more frank about the situation, providing a clearer explanation on station updates via H2-CA.com. Here’s what they said on their Fremont, Calif. station.

Although large strides to produce hydrogen from renewable energy sources has been made in recent years, steam methane reforming is still the primary source of hydrogen production. Air Products, the supplier to True Zero, and their reliance on a steady stream of natural gas still links the California Hydrogen supply chain to the larger nation-wide natural gas production.

The last localized shortage of Hydrogen in Northern California was a little over a year ago following an explosion at a Santa Clara Air Products plant. This further magnified just how fragile the local hydrogen supply chain is and, without multiple suppliers, how a break in the chain could trigger a shortage. The shortage in 2019 lasted over three months.

This latest shortage comes off the heels of promising hydrogen industry-wide news.

Just three weeks ago, California’s Energy commission confirmed $70M in grants to build more fueling stations.

Earlier this week, Iwatani, a gas conglomerate that also owns stations like True Zero, announced a partnership with Toyota to build seven more station in Southern California.

And Linde, a UK-based natural gas producer with factories in Southern California, also announced last week they will be producing green hydrogen, hydrogen made from renewable energies, to better support the Southern California market.

While station production is always good news, these shortages highlight how a reliable source of, if economically feasible, hydrogen made from renewable energies, is more important to supply chain stability.

While H2 customers in Northern California are understandably peeved, this is nothing new and has unfortunately been part of the ownership experience during their leases.

Thankfully, H2 lessees typically own another car, and Honda and Toyota have been generous with their vehicle rental policy and penalty-free early returns, despite these supply problems being no fault of their own.

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