Linde Group has announced that the company will invest €30m in a Hydrogen Highway for Germany following a recently commissioned report that shows the costs to build a hydrogen infrastructure are significantly lower than previously expected.

Over 150 delegates attended the 2nd International Hydrogen Day in Berlin – hosted by Linde AG at the Axica Conference Hall next to the Brandenburg Gate.

The main announcement was that around €3.5 billion is the realistic investment that is needed to develop a hydrogen infrastructure in Europe by the year 2020. This is significantly lower than previously believed. That was the main conclusion from a feasibility study of hydrogen infrastructure presented in Berlin by the Linde Group as part of the “International Hydrogen Day”.

The author of the study, renowned energy expert David Hart, found that in Germany, the infrastructure needed to supply 1.9 million cars with hydrogen would cost around €870 million. The study also said that a centralised hydrogen production and storage system could provide hydrogen for 41 million vehicles if approximately €18.5 billion were invested. Investors who were willing to invest in the implementation of a hydrogen infrastructure would expect to see profits after 10 to 15 years. Furthermore, the price for hydrogen was reported at half the price of fuel. It said that due to high taxes on fuel, hydrogen could already be competitive today.

These figures were compared to other projects abroad. China is investing US$36 billion in preparation of the Olympic Games, the Eurofighter costs amount to €24 billion, €5.5 billion were required for building the rail track between Cologne and Frankfurt, and 99km of motorway from Gottingen to Halle has a budget of €1.2 billion.

Chairman and CEO of Linde AG, Mr Wolfgang Reitzle said, “The results of this study are a clear signal to us. A transition to the hydrogen economy is feasible.”

Dr Wolfgang Reitzle at the 2005 'International Hydrogen Day'///Photo courtesy of Linde

The Linde initiative that was unveiled at the “International Hydrogen Day” suggested a “ring-road” or network of highways circulating through Germany equipped with hydrogen filling stations. It would enable the eco-friendly energy source - Hydrogen, which is seen as the energy source of the future, being tested in Germany under real/commercial conditions.

The highway network proposed would run between Berlin, Leipzig, Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne, stretching about 1800 km altogether. Over the next few years, hydrogen-filling pumps would be installed around every 50 km on average. Munich and Berlin already have hydrogen filling stations near the Autobahn, which could be integrated into the project. Some 35 new filling pumps, both for gaseous and low-temperature liquid hydrogen would have to be built, mainly at existing service stations, in order to create the world’s largest “test track” for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The required investment for this hydrogen network would be around €30 million according to Linde’s calculations.

Dr Wolfgang Reitzle said that the initiative would put Germany at the forefront of innovative technology, “This hydrogen highway is an opportunity to strengthen and reposition Germany as a place for innovation because with it we can take the role of innovator in a key new technology,” declared Reitzle. “Engineers have overcome fundamental technical challenges in connection with hydrogen during the past few years. Now we must use this innovative momentum politically as well. We need to give hydrogen the chance to finally prove its suitability as the fuel of the future – unconditionally!”

A Linde Gas Liquid Hydrogen Tanker///Photo courtesy of Linde

Linde has over 100 years experience in Hydrogen and has certainly been a leader within Germany towards developing the technology and some infrastructure to experiment with the Hydrogen Economy. However, Dr Reitzle highlighted the “chick and the egg” syndrome with embracing the Hydrogen Economy.

Manufacturers will not commercially produce fuel cells and automotive cars using hydrogen unless there is a demand for such vehicles. The demand is driven by the consumer who will not be attracted to such developments unless the price is right and the infrastructure is in place. The infrastructure will not be developed unless there is a considerable uptake in the use of such vehicles. Hence stalemate. Linde has decided to take up the challenge and will invest to provide an infrastructure (in Germany) so that this is no longer a barrier. This is viewed as a long-term investment but is necessary to act as a catalyst to speed up the advancement of the Hydrogen Economy.

One important message came out of the Hydrogen Day – the Hydrogen Economy must be built around existing sources of Hydrogen (e.g. Hydro-carbons). The Hydrogen Economy will be significantly delayed if everyone waits for the “green” solution to producing Hydrogen (e.g. wind-turbine/water systems). By using the existing routes to producing Hydrogen will provide the type, quality and cost of Hydrogen for the automotive industry to develop the cars of the future.

Below, gasworld provides a short summary of the actual presentations on the day.
The International Hydrogen Day

The importance of hydrogen worldwide as the fuel of the future was emphasised by the UN organisation United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Mr Hans Larsen, Head of the Sustainable Mobility Department presented an overview paper on Hydrogen as a future energy carrier – especially looking at renewable energy sources. He highlighted that some technological barriers still need to be overcome but a combination of Government and private funding will continue the trend to resolve such problems. The importance of a network and tightening co-operation between Research, Society as a whole and Business – the “Triple Helix” – will be a driver to ensuring technology advances so that a Hydrogen Economy becomes a commercial reality.

Mr Wolfgang Clement – German Federal Minister of Economics and Labour was the guest speaker for the day. He emphasised that Germany was 100% dependent on oil imports and that 80% of all natural gas imported was used for the Thermo – market (power and heart generation) – and hence Germany must look at alternatives. The German Government is currently amending the Energy Act in order to open up the markets to alternative technologies and companies – with particular emphasis on sustainable energy. The goal being the implementation of renewable energy by 2020.

He stated that Germany can not do it alone and so the Government has joined forces with the US to look into funding technology development into systems for Hydrogen storage etc. The Government is also working within the International Community – including the EU to promote research into both automotive and power generation applications for Hydrogen.

Dr Wolfgang Reitzle at the 2005 'International Hydrogen Day'///Photo courtesy of Linde

Dr Reitzle of Linde Group presented a paper (covered in the main article above) outline the consequences of not embracing the Hydrogen Economy. He asked the German Government for help to incentivise companies to take up the development challenge – with possible tax incentives – although the Minister could not promise anything on that front.

Dr Reitzle showed us a short 5-minute video of the German Hydrogen Highway of the future – including graphics of a futuristic fuelling station. In summarising he returned to the theme of affordability and that the Hydrogen Economy is affordable but the benefits of the Hydrogen Economy are much greater.

Other high-ranking speakers were present at the event including, Franz-Xaver Soldner from the European Commission, who discussed the current energy trends of the EU, the concerns about CO2 emissions, the need to develop alternative fuels to lower such emissions and where Hydrogen fits in within the EU initiatives. He highlighted how the European Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Technology Platform is a road map for the development of both within Europe and needs to be a public/private partnership to succeed.

Dr Aldo Belloni – CEO of Linde Gas & Engineering presented more on what Linde as a company is doing, what their capability and experience in Hydrogen means to helping the development of the Hydrogen Economy and more on the findings of the Hart Report that Linde commissioned. Dr Belloni emphasised the importance that the first major steps in the Hydrogen Economy will be achieved though investment in existing Hydrogen production technologies (steam methane reforming). That Linde will embrace the different routes to hydrogen supply – from the cryogenic route using liquid hydrogen filling stations, to the use of pressurised gas systems and even hydride systems – along the Hydrogen Highway in Germany.

Jiro Nagao, from the Ministry of Economics, Technology and Industry, (METI), Japan, gave a Japanese view on the commercialisation of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in which the Japanese Government is looking to invest ¥35.5 Billion (US$335m) in 2005 to boost the development of the Hydrogen Economy. Again he emphasised the importance of international co-operation.

Marco Baroni from the International Energy Association (IEA) gave a paper on current global Energy trends – showing how oil, natural gas and coal remain key to the energy sources to the world’s demand. That with the rate of demand expected to 2030 – CO2 emissions will also accelerate unless major economies embrace and implement the Kyoto Agreement.

Finally Dr. Robert Dixon from the US Department of Energy presented a US view of Hydrogen and what the US Government is doing to embrace the Hydrogen Economy. An important message is that Hydrogen costs are running 3-4 times higher than is actually needed for a Hydrogen Economy to click in by 2015. Again Dr Dixon emphasised the importance of international collaboration to move the concept forward to an economic reality. The International Hydrogen Day organisers also had a video taped message from the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, - nicknamed the “Hydrogenator” for his interest in the Hydrogen Economy.

Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger///Photo courtesy of the Californian Government

In conclusion, the 2nd International Hydrogen Day was very much international in theme (unlike the first meeting in 2004). The key message is that the Hydrogen Economy – at least the infrastructure is affordable. International co-operation is a must to drive forward the necessary technology advancements to make the Hydrogen Economy realistic. The Linde Group has the vision and is now investing in the required infrastructure in order to be a catalyst for the Hydrogen Economy related to the transportation side to develop and accelerate.