Shell opens its first UK hydrogen refuelling station

Oil giant Shell has today (22 February) launched its first fully-branded hydrogen refuelling station in the UK, with plans already in place to open two more stations in 2017.

Following the success of similar openings in the US and Germany, Shell has introduced its first branded UK hydrogen refuelling station at the Cobham service station on the M25. The station has been supplied by ITM Power.

Shell’s vice president of Future Fuels Matthew Tipper said: “Hydrogen has the potential to become a clean and versatile transport fuel for the future, and the Cobham hydrogen site is one of the ways Shell is encouraging the use of alternative fuels to contribute to the energy transition. This will provide customers with hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles the ability to refuel simply and quickly, at one of the largest petrol stations in the UK.”

Shell opened its Cobham site in 2012 and was designed for the 150,000 vehicles that travel along the M25 daily. In 2016, the site received more than one million customer visits. Unlike the traditional vehicles that visit the site, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles produce zero CO2 tailpipe emissions.

Chicken and egg

Shell hopes the introduction of its refuelling station will help overcome the “chicken and egg situation” of hydrogen mobility. Purchases of fuel cell vehicles suffer from a lack of surrounding infrastructure to support them, but investment into infrastructure will only become viable if there is a large customer base for the vehicle.

Fortunately, the future trends of hydrogen mobility look promising. Fuel cell industry shipments grew by two-thirds in 2016 – compared to 2015 levels – with transport-related fuel-cell capacity doubling to 280MW.

Shell has taken steps to facilitate this growth in Europe. Shell is part of a German joint-venture initiative aiming to establish a network of up to 400 hydrogen sites by 2023. The company is currently assessing the potential of projects for areas including Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Additionally, Shell is a founding member of the Hydrogen Council, which was announced at Davos in January 2017. The Council will pledge $10.7bn towards hydrogen projects over the next five years.

Shell UK’s country chair Sinead Lynch added: “We believe the journey to a low-carbon economy requires a coordinated and collaborative approach among organisations in the transport sector, including providers of energy and transport vehicles, users of transport vehicles, local authorities as well as government. The Cobham retail site is a small but significant first step toward developing infrastructure needed for increased usage of hydrogen vehicles.”

The Cobham hydrogen station is the third in the UK to be supplied by ITM Power as part of a broader HyFive project, partly funded by the UK’s Office of Low Emission Vehicles.

Last year, the Office provided a £2m funding pot aimed at tripling the number of hydrogen vehicles in the UK. The fund will cover up to 75% of new vehicle costs bought by April 2017, while also covering the running costs for the vehicles for up to three years.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie