BOC, the industrial gases and clean energy business, is to provide the refuelling technology for Scotland’s first fleet of hydrogen-powered buses. The project aims to have 10 buses operating on the streets of Aberdeen by 2014.

Launching the programme at Aberdeen’s Marischal Hall, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said, “Hydrogen buses will produce zero local emissions.  Aberdeen is already Europe’s offshore energy capital and this exciting new project can help position it as a leading city for low carbon technology and green transport.  With a strong group of project partners, this initiative will boost Scotland’s profile as a key hydrogen technology hub and a world-leading investment location for pioneering low carbon energy and transport systems.”

Aberdeen City Council leader Barney Crockett commented: “This funding is a vital contribution to Aberdeen City Council and its partners’ work to introduce a fleet of hydrogen buses to the area.  I believe this initiative will stimulate further innovative hydrogen technology projects and attract even more high-level investment to this city.  It is a crucial step towards Aberdeen becoming a world-leading, smart hydrogen city.”

For BOC, a member of The Linde Group, the project represents another stage in establishing hydrogen power as a viable transport option in the UK. Nick Rolf, BOC Innovation Manager for Hydrogen Systems, noted: “This will be the UK’s largest demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell buses and cements Aberdeen’s position as a pioneer in the field of low carbon mobility. The project will also provide a template for the production of hydrogen from renewable sources on a scale that is unmatched elsewhere in the UK.”

The hydrogen-powered buses will be operated on First and Stagecoach bus routes in the city by early 2014 and refuelled at Scotland’s first commercial-scale hydrogen refuelling station, which will be owned and operated by BOC. The design of this state-of-the-art station will also allow the refuelling of hydrogen-powered passenger cars as they become available in the future. 

A novel aspect of this project is that the hydrogen will be produced by electrolysis. A 1MWe electrolyser provided by BOC will split ordinary water into hydrogen and oxygen. Scottish & Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD) will work with BOC to harness the electricity from a nearby wind farm to power the electrolyser which will also operate in a grid balancing capacity. The hydrogen produced will be stored for use with the bus fleet but can be converted back to electricity to supplement mains supplies at times of peak demand.

The Linde Group has installed more than 80 hydrogen fuelling stations in 15 different countries. It has completed over 400,000 successful vehicle refuellings, supplying hydrogen to projects both large and small.