Caterpillar Launches Hydrogen-Fueled Heat and Power System Project

June 5, 2022 by Dan McCue
Caterpillar Launches Hydrogen-Fueled Heat and Power System Project

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Caterpillar Inc., one of the world’s most recognizable manufacturers of construction and mining equipment, has begun a three-year project to demonstrate the viability of a hydrogen-fueled combined heat and power system.

Though the project, which is being undertaken with Minnesota-based District Energy St. Paul, is only in its preliminary design stages, the plan is to site a hydrogen-fueled CHP unit supplied by Caterpillar that can fulfill two functions.

The first is it needs to be able to produce 2 MWe of energy; secondly, the unit will recover waste heat, using it as thermal energy to greatly improve the efficiency of the process.
“This hydrogen demonstration project will enable us to evaluate additional hydrogen fuel options for an existing energy-efficient engine, providing even more possibilities for helping our customers meet their climate-related goals and objectives,” said Joe Creed, Caterpillar group president of Energy and Transportation, in a press release.

The Environmental Protection Agency describes “combined heat and power” technology as a system that produces electricity and thermal energy at high efficiencies using a range of technologies and fuels.


With on-site power production, losses are minimized and heat that would otherwise be wasted is applied to facility loads in the form of process heating, steam, hot water, or even chilled water, the agency said.

According to Caterpillar, the unit in his demonstration project will be fueled by various combinations of hydrogen and natural gas with a goal of proving the use of hydrogen as a viable fuel source in such applications.

District Energy has a goal to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050, and hopes to meet it by achieving a7% carbon reduction each year until then.

Currently, the company provides up to 50% renewable heating through biomass-fired combined heat and power and carbon-neutral cooling to all cooling customers. District Energy is also working with Xcel Energy on an electrification project to further decarbonize its heating services.


“Hydrogen will play an important role in the efforts to decarbonize the broader energy system. Pilot projects such as this provide a great opportunity to test, learn, and demonstrate its potential as a low-carbon fuel in applications like district energy,” said Ken Smith, the utility’s president and CEO.

“District Energy St. Paul is committed to achieving its carbon reduction goals while continuing to deliver reliable and cost-effective service to its customers. We know that our path forward will include a range of solutions including hydrogen and electrification,” he said in a written statement.

The Minnesota project is only one of Caterpillar’s projects involving hydrogen fuel. In its 2021 investor presentation, the company announced it was starting a three-year collaboration with Microsoft and Ballard Power Systems to produce backup power for Microsoft data centers through a system using large-format, low-carbon-intensity hydrogen fuel cells.

In addition, Caterpillar recently entered a collaboration agreement with Chevron to develop hydrogen demonstration projects in transportation and stationary power applications.

The goal of the collaboration is to confirm the feasibility and performance of hydrogen for use as a commercially viable alternative to traditional fuels for line-haul rail and marine vessels in addition to demonstrating hydrogen’s use as the main source of power on a given site.

The installation of the Minnesota project is expected to occur in late 2023. The project is supported and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and backed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.


District Energy St. Paul distributes chilled water and hot water to heat and cool buildings and single-family homes in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, and adjacent areas.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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