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Green Hydrogen

A decade ago, Shell International opened a hydrogen station in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, as part of a project testing hydrogen as an Icelandic green fuel for vehicles and vessels.

The hydrogen is produced from water by electrolysis. This is a power-demanding process, but since all the electricity used in the production in Iceland comes from renewable sources, the product is often referred to as “green” hydrogen.

A new company, Iceland New Energy Ltd., was established in 1999 to explore the possibility of shifting from a fossil fuel paradigm in Icelandic transport to utilizing hydrogen. In addition to local Icelandic shareholders, Iceland New Energy had Shell International (Shell Hydrogen), Daimler AG, and Norsk Hydro (later Statoil and now NEL-Hydrogen) as shareholders.

The projects by Iceland New Energy included research and development with regard to testing hydrogen fuelled vehicles and vessels. The projects also had a goal of demonstrating the infrastructure for compressed hydrogen as a self-service filling station .They also wanted to further develop the distribution system, for example, by organizing and running a small-scale hydrogen transport service.

Beginning in 2003, the Shell hydrogen station in Reykjavík was used to fuel three fuel-cell Citaro buses from DaimlerChrysler.  These vehicles were operated commercially on the streets of Reykjavík by the local public bus service. The station used a technical solution from Norsk Hydro (now NEL-Hydrogen).

The buses were originally to be tested for two years in the public network in Reykjavik, but due to the overwhelmingly positive reception the test period was extended. The operation of the buses went on until 2007 after four successful years in operation.

The experience of operating the station was very positive and there was a strong drive to also test passenger vehicles. This new experiment was kicked off in 2007 with three dozen vehicles from various makers, including Daimler, GM, Toyota, and a majority from Ford.

In 2009, however, it became evident that the serial production of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) would not gain traction [?] until around 2015. Thus, it was decided to stop the demonstration period. Currently, the plan is to renew the hydrogen station before serially-produced vehicles become available.

In 2008 a hydrogen fuel cell auxiliary engine was installed on an Icelandic commercial whale-watching vessel to run all the auxiliaries on a hybrid fuel cell (battery back-up) system. However, it seems clear that because of high costs hydrogen fuel will not become a realistic, economical option in the near future. It is therefore unsurprising that Iceland New Energy has broadened its scope and is now participating in R&D projects related not only to hydrogen, but also to methane, batteries, and bio-diesel.