Germany’s Linde gas corporation leads European hydrogen campaign

Publish date: March 2, 2005

The German gas giant Linde AG released a report Thursday arguing that the development of a hydrogen filling station infrastructure for vehicles in Europe running on the pollution-free fuel would be considerably cheaper than originally assumed. The company also revealed plans to build some 40 filling stations along the Autobahn in Germany.

The new revelation came on Linde’s “International hydrogen Day” celebrations on February 24th. The firm published estimates of 3.5 billion Euro for the building of a hydrogen infrastructure by 2020, significantly cheaper than earlier estimates that have put a price tag of some dozens of billions of Euro. For instance, the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) estimated infrastructure investments at 220 billion Euro by 2020.

6.1 million hydrogen cars by 2020
This, first-of-its-kind report and its cost estimates were commissioned by Linde from e4teck consultants and the Imperial College, London, which analysed 12 different scenarios for the production and distribution of hydrogen in the transportation sector—that sector which will likely reap the early benefits of a hydrogen-based fuel economy. The report bases its calculations on anticipated infrastructure creation costs projections and an assumed 6.1 million hydrogen cars, which themselves will cost an estimated 870 million to manufacture.

"The results of this report are a clear signal to us," said Linde President Wolfgang Reize.
"It shows that the switch-over to a hydrogen community is possible."

Step by step development
The report suggests that breaking ground with the hydrogen infrastructure begin in populated areas and large cities to secure the best market influx early on. Further development will gradually include all major European cities and the highways that connect them, suggests the report, which will make hydrogen available for one third of the Europe’s population of 120 million.

"That the report indicate that it’s most suitable in the highest populated areas first is something Bellona has said for a long time,” said Bellona hydrogen Technology expert Isak Oksvold. "This should mould the foundation for a Norwegian initiative of hydrogen development."

It remains to be seen if the various European governments embrace Linde’s ambitions, even while Linde president Reitzle points to positive responses from the these countries and says their endorsement will give investors and customers security and incentive. He suggested tax relief for hydrogen use to make the cross-over to a hydrogen driven energy economy society more palatable.

hydrogen Autobahn
Linde made it clear at Thursday’s event that the firm want to set up 40 hydrogen fuel stations along the Autobahn, making it possible to drive pollution-free between all the major cities in Germany. The fuel stations will form a 1800-kilometre "hydrogen ring," connecting Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne with fuel stations every 50 kilometres.

Linde has dubbed the project "The European hydrogen Highway," and estimates that getting the filling stations up and running will cost a little under EUR 30 million.

Even though the schedule is not completely ironed out yet, the Linde company declared at "International hydrogen Day" that they wish to start development as soon as possible. They are also open to co-operation with similar projects in neighbouring countries.

Possible signal of victory for hydrogen vehicles
The German car industry has invested much time and money in hydrogen technology. A so called "hydrogen ring" would be a golden opportunity to test their pollution free cars in at fully developed infrastructure. The proposed 1800-kilometre route is placed at favourable positions for the big car makers and development centres, and some of Linde’s hope is that this will nudge car producers take the opportunity to give their cars a test run in real conditions. The "ring" development will also show the cost limit of hydrogen infrastructure.

Linde is respected as a serious industrial concern that would not likely hatch such an initiative just for the sake of PR. Linde works closely with leading car producers such as BMW and GM- OPEL to develop hydrogen technology.

"The initiative form Linde may therefor mean they see more hydrogen cars on German highways within a short time" says Bellona’s Oksvold. He did not rule out that Linde has shared information or inked agreements with car producers, that enable them to propose such an ambitious endeavour.

Linde’s co-operation with Bellona in Norway
Linde Gas is one of Europe’s leading fuel producers with environmentally-friendly hydrogen as a specialisation. In addition to hydrogen, the firm also delivers tanks to store the fuel in. This includes stationary tanks and tanks for use in cars. Bellona’s collaborating partner AGA is being taken under Linde Gas’ wing will represent Norway’s hydrogen endeavours. AGA has been collaborating with Bellona’s own hydrogen car project, and delivers hydrogen for the two cars. AGA has additionally been an invaluable partner and contributed to the knowledge of hydrogen and gas installations.

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