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Fuel Cells

Expanding Transportation Fuel Options through a Seal for Rotary Wheel Magnetic Liquefiers

Company Name: Emerald Energy NW, LLC.
Program Office:  Fuel Cells
Location: Bothell, WA
Email: Dr. John Barclay;  
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


When considering cleaner, cheaper, domestic fuels for the transportation sector, liquefied natural gas and liquid hydrogen are promising options. But building the infrastructure is a challenge. In particular, current liquefaction technologies, which turn gases into liquids are inefficient.

One promising potential solution is the active magnetic regenerative liquefier (AMRL).  Demonstrating complete engineering-scale AMRLs for liquid natural gas or liquid hydrogen, with a breakthrough factor of merit of approximately 0.6 to 0.7, is essential for attracting the kind of investment from equity investors or industrial gas companies that would allow commercialization of cryogenic AMRL technology.

Rotary-magnetic-wheel AMRLs are very promising. But to date, no effective seals exist to control the flow of helium heat transfer gas required in such designs. The seals are a critically important component for successful operation. They must control helium flow without creating high frictional loads between rotating wheels and stationary seals.

If successful, this SBV Pilot will allow Emerald Energy NW to demonstrate a complete rotary wheel seal for a cryogenic AMRL at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. That will help the company grow from a small, specialized engineering firm into a company producing and selling highly efficient small-scale cryogenic liquefiers, while also licensing Emerald Energy NW's patented rotary seal technology to companies capable of large-scale production of liquefied natural gas and liquid hydrogen.  


At this time, there are no existing competing seals available for rotary wheel AMRLs. Emerald Energy NW's design is the result of several years of work on low-friction, rotary labyrinth seals. It promises to be a major breakthrough for this type of AMRL designs, and has a patent pending on it. This is one of the most promising potential avenues for developing commercially viable small-scale liquefiers.


The seal system developed in this SBV Pilot could enable a design breakthrough for rotary wheel, 1 to 2 hertz, highly efficient and scalable small-scale liquid natural gas and liquid hydrogen liquefiers. That would allow the development of critical refueling infrastructure to enable more rapid transition to cleaner, domestic, and less expensive gaseous fuels for the annual multi-billon dollar transportation sector. 

Expanding cleaner, domestic, affordable fuels will cut costs for businesses, notably the trucking and marine-vessel industries. It will also contribute to energy independence and national security, while curbing pollution.

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