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Hydrogen - fuel of the future on Iceland

April 26, 2003, 01:00 CEST

Iceland took its first steps towards the future when the worlds first publicly available hydrogen fuelling station was unveiled there at the end of April. Hydro supplied the technology; the raw material is water, the energy electricity from renewable sources, and the fuel hydrogen. And the emissions? Pure water vapour!

Icelandic politicians agreed several years ago that the country should liberate itself from fossil fuel dependency and aim at becoming a totally ”green” energy user. All the country’s electrical energy comes from renewable sources – hydroelectric and geo-thermal power. The hydrogen fuelling station is a milestone on the road towards a society totally based on these sources.

Iceland’s minister for industry and trade Valgerdur Sverresdóttir opened the station at  Vesturlandsvegur in Reykjavik at the end of April.

“We intend to be the first country in the world to demonstrate a totally environmentally clean lifestyle. This will benefit society here on Iceland, create international interest in the country and boost tourism. We can become a global showpiece. This is all in the future, but the hydrogen station is the very visible indication that a new era has dawned,” said Sverresdóttir at the opening.

The station, to be operated by Shell, has been set up at one of the company’s service centres in the Icelandic capital.

Fuel cell buses

From the summer of 2003 three hydrogen powered buses will be put into operation in Reykjavik. DaimlerChrysler, now building 30 hydrogen fuel cell buses, is part of the ECTOS (Ecological City Transport System) project on Iceland.

In addition to the three in Reykjavik, such buses will be put into operation in ten other European cities, starting with Madrid in May 2003. DaimlerChrysler is also developing for hydrogen driven trucks and smaller vehicles. The first smaller vehicles are expected to take to the roads of California in the near future.

Hydro is the supplier

Norsk Hydro Electrolysers supplied the fuelling station, which consists of four  elements – an electrolyser, which produces hydrogen from water and electricity, a compressor that provides the desired pressure, storage tanks and the fuelling system itself.

There is no need to transport fuel to the station – all that is required is a connection to the water mains and the power grid.

“In supplying technology to the Icelandic station, Hydro is demonstrating its commitment to the use of hydrogen in the future. We shall continue to develop our expertise, making a contribution to safe operation and reducing costs so that hydrogen can be competitive in a sustainable future,” said executive vice president Tore Torvund of Hydro Oil and Energy at the opening ceremony.

“In the long term we shall be able to produce hydrogen from renewable sources. Iceland is a country with natural resources where a future based on water renewable energy is possible, if we succeed in developing reliable fuel systems for the transport sector. The experiment here on Iceland will depend on further technological development,” Torvund pointed out.

The hydrogen station in Reykjavik is owned by Skeljungur Ltd, Shell’s distributor on Iceland, and the its partner Icelandic New Energy Ltd, in which Hydro holds a 16.5 percent interest. The remaining partners are the Icelandic VistOrka, DaimlerChrysler and Shell Hydrogen.