Amazon adopting green hydrogen for logistics operations

Avatar photo
by Emily Atkins

Amazon has signed an agreement with Plug Power to supply 10,950 tons per year of green hydrogen for its transportation and building operations, starting in 2025.

The company will start to use green hydrogen to replace grey hydrogen, diesel, and other fossil fuels as it works to decarbonize its operations, and this green hydrogen supply contract will provide enough annual power for 30,000 forklifts or 800 heavy-duty trucks used in long-haul transportation.

“Amazon is proud to be an early adopter of green hydrogen given its potential to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors like long-haul trucking, steel manufacturing, aviation, and ocean shipping,” said Kara Hurst, vice president of worldwide sustainability at Amazon.

Amazon has committed to being net-zero carbon across its operations by 2040, and Hurst said the company believes that scaling the supply and demand for green hydrogen will help it reach that goal.

As the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, Amazon continues to invest in a range of technologies because no single solution can fully close the emissions gap to net-zero carbon. When it comes to hydrogen, the challenge is that over 95 percent of supply is currently made from fossil fuels.

Amazon wants to help change that. Large purchase agreements like this one help foster the growth of green hydrogen, which is produced through a zero-carbon pathway using water and renewable electricity.

“We already have more than 70 fulfillment centres outfitted with hydrogen storage and dispensing systems, which will allow us to start using green hydrogen to replace fossil fuels. Today, we use that system to power over 15,000 fuel-cell propelled forklifts, with plans to grow that number to 20,000 across 100 fulfillment centers by 2025. That’s just the start,” said Dean Fullerton, vice president of global engineering and security services at Amazon.

“Across Amazon’s operations, we’re exploring and testing the use of other hydrogen applications, such as fuel-cell electric trucks and fuel-cell power generation stations providing electricity to Amazon buildings.”

Forklifts are just one use-case for scaling hydrogen, and many more potential uses are under development. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel similar to natural gas or diesel through a combustion process. It can also be used in “fuel cells,” where hydrogen and oxygen mix in a reaction that creates electricity with no direct emissions of pollutants or greenhouse gases at the point of use.

However, to help power Amazon’s operations and meet the net-zero commitment, more hydrogen-powered equipment needs to be made commercially available.

“Plug is fully committed to a green hydrogen future, and we are building a complete hydrogen ecosystem – from molecule to applications combined with a resilient network of green hydrogen plants around the world – to make hydrogen adoption easy for companies looking to reach net-zero carbon emissions,” said Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug.

“Securing this major green hydrogen supply deal with a customer like Amazon affirms our multi-year investment and strategic expansion into green hydrogen. We are honored to help Amazon meet its ambitious sustainability goals and look forward to possibly expanding our relationship through the use of other hydrogen applications, such as fuel-cell electric trucks and fuel-cell power generation stations that could provide electricity to Amazon buildings and the deployment of electrolyzers in fulfillment centres.”

In addition to the supply contract with Plug Power, Amazon recently announced that it has invested in two companies developing electrolyzer technology to increase green hydrogen production. The investment is part of the Climate Pledge Fund, Amazon’s $2 billion venture investment program that supports the development of sustainable technologies and services.