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"The transition to new forms of energy is a long process"

September 27, 2007, 21:06 CEST

"I feel good when I see this hydrogen fuelling station in place. It was about 30 years ago that I said we would witness a breakthrough in the use of hydrogen as fuel. Thats how long it takes."

The words belong to Professor Bragi Arnasson as he visits the new fuelling station at Vesturlandsvegur in Reykjavik, in the company of fellow professor Dr. Thorsteinn I. Sigfusson.

“It takes 50 years to change people’s attitudes - and energy consumption,” says Arnasson, who found support in academic circles only when he launched his "green" ideas in the 1960s. But the ideas grew, and Iceland’s green policies – involving a more or less total transition to the use of renewable energy sources for heating, hot water and lighting – have generated a swing in public opinion. There is now agreement that Iceland shall eliminate its use of fossil fuels in 30 to 50 years.

Professor Bragi Arnasson was present at the major international hydrogen conference that was held in connection with the opening of the hydrogen fuelling station. 250 participants from all over the world showed great interest in hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

Environmental reasons

“The energy technology of the future, that our grandchildren will be very familiar with, has arrived with us,” says Arnasson.  “ The world has to have alternatives – for environmental reasons, and also because of the rapidly growing demand for energy.”

At the conference, Iceland’s tremendous opportunities for producing more energy by utilizing geothermal and hydroelectric power were highlighted. The country can become a large-scale   energy producer and technology exporter without as much as one gram’s worth of CO2 emissions. The challenge is to sell energy, either as electricity or as in the form of hydrogen.

Valuable experiences

Arnasson and Sigfusson take a look around the fuelling station, where the electrolyser from Hydro, pressure tanks and safety equipment are placed.

“Are you still involved in research into this technology?”

“Yes, my most important concern now is how we can improve hydrogen production using  less electricity. We are looking into high-pressure electrolysers and what we can achieve by using geothermal vapour. When the vapour temperature reaches 800 to 900 degrees we can liberate hydrogen from water. I am convinced that we shall be able to produce hydrogen more and more economically using less energy.”

Before leaving, Professor Sigfusson adds that the hydrogen station would not have been possible without Hydro’s contribution.

“Hydro’s commitment and technology, through Norsk Hydro Electrolysers, has been  fundamental for this breakthrough. We now have a trial project that will be a valuable reference for the international auto industry and for energy companies when the three hydrogen driven buses come into operation in Reykjavik after the summer. They will refuel here on a daily basis and operate on ordinary routes in the town. It will be very interesting to witness people’s reactions.”