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Fuel cell collaboration

June 28, 1999, 17:00 CEST

Methanol-based fuel cells are to be tested as a power source for homes and industry under a new partnership deal in North America.

Linking Statoil with US-based Northwest Power Systems and Methanex of Canada, this venture embraces two pilot projects and aims primarily to establish the suitability of such fuel cell solutions for households.

A number of homes in the town of Bend, Oregon, will be disconnected from the electricity grid during 1999 and fitted with methanol-based fuel cells capable of generating both heat and electricity.

The second pilot project will employ methanol reformer technology developed by Northwest Power Systems to supply pure hydrogen to a local metals fabricator in Albany, Oregon.

Statoil is participating in these schemes because they involve new technology which generates electricity and heat in an environment-friendly way, reports business development manager Sjur Haugen in Industry & Trading's methanol unit.

It also pays the group to keep tabs on technical progress with fuel cell and developments in the methanol market, he notes.

"This chemical is produced from natural gas, and fuel cells could represent a completely new market which could be particularly interesting for gas available to Statoil in areas far from conventional buyers of this commodity."

"We look forward to demonstrating...methanol's ability to meet the fuel requirements of the next century," say president Alan Guggenheim in Northwest Power Systems, chief executive Pierre Choquette at Methanex and vice president Finn Kulås at Statoil in a joint statement.

"While many of the recent developments involving methanol and fuel cells have been focused on...vehicles, there are also exciting opportunities for stationary heat and power generation. The two pilot projects...are representative of real-world scenarios."

The reformer and fuel cell system developed by the US partner can be used in homes, portable power applications and emergency generators.

While Northwest Power Systems produces fuel cell systems, Methanex is a world leader in methanol production and sale. Statoil ranks as Europe's leading methanol distributor and seller.