A chain of hydrogen refuelling stations from Sheffield to Bochum could be the first stage in joining up the dots of hydrogen road transport across Europe. The first commercially operating hydrogen refuelling station in this chain is already in place at the Advanced Manufacturing Park near to Junction 33 of the M1 in South Yorkshire, England. It provides hydrogen fuel for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), which do not emit CO2 or any other greenhouse gases. The only emission from a hydrogen powered vehicle is water.
How would the construction of a chain of hydrogen refuelling stations from Sheffield to Bochum be funded? By oil companies moving away from fossil fuels, and the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH2JU). The FCH2JU is a private public partnership, which funds research, development and demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell technology in Europe.(1) This organisation – which is in part funded by the European Commission – has already funded three projects that are building the refuelling infrastructure to support FCEVs. These are: The Hydrogen Mobility Europe Project (H2ME); the European Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles project (HyFIVE); and the Don Quichote hydrogen out of wind project.
The hydrogen refuelling station at the Advanced Manufacturing Park is described on ITM Power’s website as follows:
“The site consists of a 225kW wind turbine coupled directly to an electrolyser, 200kg of hydrogen storage, a hydrogen dispensing unit and a 30kW fuel cell system capable of providing backup power generation for nearby buildings. The facility is a showcase for ITM Power’s world-class hydrogen generation equipment and is used to provide retail hydrogen fuel services. The M1 motorway was highlighted as a key route for the early deployment of hydrogen refuelling in the UK in the published UK H2Mobility Phase 1 Report.”(2)
This hydrogen refuelling station would be the first point of refuelling a FCEV for anyone beginning their journey from Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, or Doncaster. After refuelling, the FCEV would continue its journey on the M1 in the direction of London, passing near to the towns and cities of Chesterfield, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Coventry, Northampton, Milton Keynes, and Luton before reaching the M25, which circles London.
At the time of writing a solar hydrogen refuelling station is being built at The Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (CEME) in Rainham, which is located on the A13 between London City Airport and the M25. The hydrogen refuelling station is being built as part of the HyFIVE project and is due to be opened this year. The electrolyser at this station is being supplied by ITM Power. ITM Power has also supplied the electrolyser for a hydrogen refuelling station under the HyFIVE project at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington.(3)
After leaving the M25 the FCEV motorist would continue the journey along the M20 passing the town of Maidstone in Kent, as he or she heads towards the Eurotunnel entrance near Folkestone. On the other side of the Channel in France, the FCEV motorist would travel along the A16 from Calais to Dunkirk before entering Belgium. In Belgium the FCEV would be driven along the E40 passing near to the towns and cities of Ostende, Brugge, Gent, Brussels, Leuven, and Liege.
In Belgium the Don Quichote project demonstrates how electricity generated from wind turbines is stored as hydrogen. According to the “Don Quichote published summary pdf”:
“The Don Quichote project (Grant Agreement N°: 303411; starting date: 1 October 2012; project duration: 5 years; partners: Hydrogenics, HyET, WaterstofNet, Colruyt, TUV Rheinland, Joint Research Centre, Thinkstep (PE International, Icelandic New Energy and FAST/European Hydrogen Association) aims to contribute to the Commission efforts to create large scale energy storage projects by demonstrating the market readiness of these components, integrating them into a comprehensive industrial system connected to a hydrogen refuelling facility to supply hydrogen to a fleet of material handling vehicles in a large logistics centre. As such, the Don Quichote project contributes to intensively demonstrate and validate the system level technology readiness and generate further facts based data for the exploitation of renewable electricity to hydrogen fuelled sustainable mobility.”(4)
The hydrogen refuelling facility – which is part of the Don Quichote project – is located at the logistics centre of the Colruypt Group at Halle just south of Brussels. In order for the European Hydrogen Road to become a reality, similar hydrogen refuelling stations would need to be built along the route of the E40 in Belgium.
After passing Liege on the E40 the FCEV motorist would head in the direction of Aachen in Germany. After passing Aachen the FCEV would travel on the A4 in the direction of Cologne. Just before Cologne the FCEV would turn on to the A1 crossing over the Rhine on a motorway bridge and then passing near to the towns of Leverkusen, Remschied, and Wuppertal before reaching Bochum.
In October 2015 the oil company Shell announced on its website, that it would “install a nationwide network of hydrogen fuelling pumps at retail sites in Germany from 2016.”
While Shell’s involvement with hydrogen refuelling is to be welcomed there does appear to be a problem, because Shell is not entirely committed to producing all of its hydrogen by electrolysis from renewable sources. The press release from Shell said: “When hydrogen is produced from natural gas – the cleanest burning fossil fuel – it can greatly reduce well-to-wheel CO2 emissions compared to gasoline or diesel, due to the higher efficiency of the fuel cell drive train.”(5)
However, it should be remembered that natural gas is a fossil fuel extracted from the earth, which still produces CO2 emissions. All oil companies – not just Shell – now need to be changing their business models to move away from the unsustainable exploitation of oil and gas in the ground, towards embracing technologies that make use of renewable sources of energy such as the sun, wind, and tidal power. The model Shell needs to follow for the production of hydrogen for its refuelling stations is already in place at the Advanced Manufacturing Park near to Junction 33 of the M1 in South Yorkshire, England, and the other hydrogen refuelling facilities mentioned in this article. Likewise hydrogen produced at a plant which stores renewable energy, such as Uniper Energy’s windgas plant at Falkenhagen in Germany could also produce fuel for FCEVs. It costs millions of Euros to build one of these facilities, but that should be offset against the cost to our environment of continuing to extract dwindling fossil fuel energy from the earth.
Why would Bochum be chosen as the final destination of the European Hydrogen Road? Bochum would not be the final destination, once Europe has a complete network of hydrogen refuelling stations. The European Hydrogen Road from Sheffield to Bochum would be the first section in a much longer chain of hydrogen refuelling stations running from Dublin to Warsaw and beyond. Likewise it would be part of a much wider network of European hydrogen refuelling stations connecting Belfast to Athens and Scotland to Andalucia.
Bochum as an industrial city has much to offer in the development of hydrogen transport across Europe. After the closure of the Opel car factory in December 2014, Bochum is now looking for a new opportunity to create future employment in the town.(6) Helping to build the infrastructure of the hydrogen refuelling stations could create jobs for some of the workers who lost their jobs at Opel. Likewise once the refuelling infrastructure is in place there would be a greater demand for FCEVs. The European Hydrogen Road would create economic opportunities for Sheffield, Bochum, and all of the other towns cities and regions mentioned in this article, as a way of fighting climate change and uniting Europe.
4. van der Laak, W; Seykens, J. (2015) Don Quiochote Publishable summary September 2015.pdf
6. Reisener, Thomas (28.11.2015) ’2500 Opelaner noch ohne Job’, Rheinische Post.
©Jolyon Gumbrell 2016