The Hydrogen Stream: UK’s launches second tender for low-carbon hydrogen, BMW tests first fuel cell electric vehicle


Munich-based car manufacturer BMW Group is beginning to test near-standard vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell drive train. Prototypes of pure electric vehicles that use hydrogen as fuel by converting it into electricity in a fuel cell will be examined to see how effectively the CO2-free drive train, model-specific chassis technology and vehicle electronics systems work together under real-life conditions. The program aims to test the efficiency, safety, cost competitivenes and reliability of all components. The BMW Group wants to present “a small-series model with this sustainable drive technology, developed on the basis of the BMW X5, in late 2022.” The hydrogen tank of the vehicles can be filled within three to four minutes, according to the German group. The vehicles use fuel cells from the product development cooperation with the Toyota Motor Corporation. According to BMW, the technology could become an alternative to battery-electric drive trains, especially attractive for “customers who do not have their own access to electric charging infrastructure or who frequently drive long distances.”

The UK government is drawing up a second tender to help fund innovative ways to produce low-carbon hydrogen. Up to £60 million (€69.7 million) will be made available to fund feasibility studies and demonstration projects, according to a document published on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) website. No timetable was given for publication of the invitation to tender document, with BEIS stating only: “This competition will open shortly for applications.” A previous £33 million contest awarded funding for two projects featuring carbon capture and storage technology, two linked to offshore wind-powered production and a fifth project based on technology developed by the Gas Technology Institute, a US-based, natural gas-focused non-profit.

The India H2 Alliance is expanding with the aim of building consensus for a common path towards hydrogen commercialization in India’s steel and cement sectors. Indian company JSW Steel has joined the IH2A energy transition coalition as the Steel and Cement Work Group lead, along with two government agencies — CSIR-National Chemicals Laboratory and Scottish Development International (SDI), the international arm of the Scottish government. “Green steel as hydrogen product exports can be a national strategy for taking leadership in the global hydrogen value chain by embedding hydrogen in the industrial supply chain. This is a leadership opportunity,” commented Prabodha Acharya, JSW Steel's chief sustainability officer.

The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public-private partnership which collaborates with European cities and regions to set up locally integrated hydrogen ecosystems, reported that 32 Hydrogen Valleys are currently operating globally with a cumulative investment volume of more than €30 billion. Hydrogen Valleys are geographical areas – cities, regions, islands or industrial clusters — where several hydrogen applications are combined together into an integrated hydrogen ecosystem that consumes a significant amount of hydrogen. “Hydrogen Valleys will significantly mature over the 2020s, due to an increasing number of projects overall and because announced projects themselves grow in size and complexity,” the organization said in a 60-page study released this week. “While in the earlier phases of hydrogen deployment, projects were mostly driven by public authorities or public-private initiatives, today more than 50% of projects are led by the private sector.” The analysis, commissioned by the European Union, reported five Hydrogen Valleys in Germany, four in the Netherlands and France, two in Spain and in the UK, and one in Austria, Denmark, and Italy. Of the 32 Hydrogen Valleys surveyed in the report, 65% are European, 13% are in the Americas and 22% are in the Asia-Pacific region. Internationally, excluding the EU, China leads with three projects, followed by Australia and the US with two each.

Germany-based large-bore diesel engines and turbomachinery company MAN Energy Solutions is acquiring the majority of shares in the Augsburg-based electrolyzer manufacturer H-TEC Systems to complete its range across the hydrogen value chain. MAN Energy Solutions had already purchased a 40% stake in the company in 2019 and agreed last year to take over the remaining shares from former majority share holder GP Joule. The parties declined to provide financial details of the deal. The now completed transaction had until now been subject to approval by the competition authorities. “Today, H-TEC Systems offers electrolyzers in the megawatt range,” said MAN Energy Solutions CEO Uwe Lauber. “The objective now is to prepare the company for serial production because green hydrogen is going to become a mass market.”

The Central German Metropolitan Region action platform Metropolregion Mitteldeutschland Management, the Hypos hydrogen network and more than a dozen regional partners have commissioned a concept for a comprehensive hydrogen network in the area extending over parts of the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony. “Currently, there is a lot of discussion nationwide about potential hydrogen model regions,” Jörn-Heinrich Tobaben, managing director of Metropolregion Mitteldeutschland Management and board member of the Hypos hydrogen network, said in a statement Friday. “In Central Germany, we have already been a functioning hydrogen region with established value chains for decades, which also has a unique selling point throughout Germany with the hydrogen pipeline in the Central German Chemical Triangle.” As part of the study to be carried out by DBI Gas- und Umwelttechnik and Infracon, potential users of green hydrogen will be identified in the Leipzig-Halle region, in the vicinity of the Leuna, Schkopau and Bitterfeld-Wolfen chemical parks, at the Zeitz site, in the Profen open-cast mining region, in Grimma and Chemnitz. In addition, the study will draw up a concept for a hydrogen network between the sites and the future hydrogen storage facility in the Bad Lauchstädt salt cavern.

Ireland-based energy company EI-H2 has appointed EPC services company Worley to develop the concept design “for what will be Ireland’s first green hydrogen production facility.” The project is set to be completed before the end of 2023. Based in Aghada, County Cork, the 50 MW facility would supply over 20 tonnes of green hydrogen per day to a diverse commercial market. “We firmly believe that Ireland is incredibly well positioned to become a global leader in green energy,” Tom Lynch, CEO of EI-H2, said in a note released on Thursday.

Calvera, Spain’s only manufacturer of hydrogen refueling stations, is now supplying the forklift sector, saying it is the one with the highest supply capacity in the market. The company is in charge of every stage of the process, from engineering to full development. “The characteristics of this equipment make it suitable to adapt to both current customer needs and those that may arise from a predictable increase in demand due to its flexibility and its dispensing speed that can reach the supply of 120 forklifts every 24 hours,” the company said Thursday. “The forklift industry has been one of the first sectors to demonstrate the viability and profitability of hydrogen and fuel cell technology for mobility, without grant support.”

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