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LG Fuel Cell Systems quitting Ohio after receiving $18 million in state and federal grants

John Funk, The Plain DealerDecember 11, 2018

LG Fuel Cell Systems quitting Ohio after receiving $18 million in state and federal grants

NORTH CANTON, Ohio -- LG Fuel Cell Systems is shutting the doors on its Fuel Cell Prototyping Center, laying off about 100 employees and unilaterally ending a 12-year relationship with the state of Ohio and Stark State College.

The state spent $4.7 million to build the fuel cell prototyping lab on the Stark State campus in 2006 for Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems.

Korean industrial and electronic conglomerate LG Corp. bought a 51 percent share of Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems in 2012 and now owns about 67 percent. As part of that acquisition, LG took control of the facility at Stark State.

John Taylor, a spokesman for LG North America, confirmed in an email Tuesday that the lab will cease operations this month. “This decision was made, when in the course of their annual business portfolio review, the LGFCS shareholders, both LG and Rolls-Royce, determined that they want to focus their resources more on their own core business areas,” he wrote.

Ohio and several federal agencies have poured more than $18 million into the company’s effort to develop and build utility-scale fuel cells that run on hydrogen atoms pulled from pipeline natural gas.

“LG appreciates the support,” said Taylor.

Other sources close to the project have said LG and Rolls-Royce before it have poured as much as $350 million into the project in an effort to perfect the technology in preparation for mass production, but now has no plans for further development despite accomplishing the construction of the working prototype.

The company will continue to own the intellectual property rights to the technology, said Taylor but is interested in selling the fuel cell itself.

A fuel cell combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air in an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity and water. Fuel-cell power plants are competitive with other sources of electricity, such as coal, nuclear and gas-turbine.

The closure comes mere months after LG completed and started operating a 250,000 watt prototype fuel cell on the site. That fuel cell has operated for about 2,000 hours, sending power directly into the local grid owned by AEP Ohio.

This is a developing story.

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