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In the beginning was the refueling station

By Marcel Corneille

June 5, 2024

Image titel: Emcel

Sources: H2 refueling station termed Clean Energy Station. Easy to recognize is the photovoltaic system that covers the entire roof of the refueling station.

In the beginning was the refueling station

Creating planning security through the development of H2 infrastructure

We have long discussed the question of what comes first when ramping up hydrogen mobility. But this chicken-and-egg problem doesn’t actually exist: The refueling station always comes first! Why this is so exemplifies the first hydrogen refueling station in Gießen.

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In August 2023, the first hydrogen refueling station in the regional district Gießen, from Roth Holding & Co. KG, was put into operation under the label “Clean Energy Station.” Before the preceding planning and approval phase, operator Frank Roth had asked himself two essential questions: Do I have customers for the hydrogen refueling station today? And does the legal framework clearly define what green hydrogen is?

In both cases, the answer was no. But the feeling was: The customer wants green hydrogen, so I’m going to start building a corresponding refueling station. Even during the construction phase, it became clear that customers were coming and wanting green hydrogen. How did it work out so well?

The station

This station located on Schiffenberger Weg is suitable for all vehicle types and as a multi-energy station offers diesel, gasoline, electricity and hydrogen. Green hydrogen is produced on site from the company’s own regional wind and solar power plants. Generation by electrolysis takes place with a 1.25‑MWel PEM electrolyzer, which can be expanded to 2.5 MWel and will be able to produce in the expansion stage up to 36 kgH2 per hour. The H2 storage system at the station can store up to two metric tons of hydrogen.

The hydrogen is delivered to buses and trucks at 350 bar and to cars at 700 bar. To compensate for fluctuations in generation or demand, external electricity can also be fed into the electrolyzer. Hydrogen can also be delivered by truck using a trailer solution. Furthermore, excess hydrogen produced can also be delivered, likewise by trailer, to other refueling stations or customers in the area. This makes the station very flexible and able to handle a wide scope of demand as well as supply other customers if needed.


Fig. 2: The H2 value chain – from H2 generation based on renewables to fleet operation. The key components are highlighted in orange.

What is important?

H2 refueling stations, as a nucleus for the energy transition and sector coupling, are indispensable. They connect renewable electricity with mobility customers. The chicken-and-egg problem is often discussed here. Practice shows that it is an unnecessary discussion. The refueling station must be there first. It is then able to attract customers in a variety of ways. The key point here is that it creates planning security for all parties involved.

With the station in Gießen, for example, the operator Roth and all project participants told connections in their networks about the construction of the refueling station. They very quickly expressed an interest in the hydrogen. Two examples are the initiatives H2-Lernwerkstatt in the regional district Gießen (see box 1) and the HyWheels Hessenflotten-Cluster from Fulda (see box 2). The engineering firm Emcel was involved in the planning and approval of the station and promoted networking with these two initiatives, which were developed along with Emcel.

Summary

Hydrogen refueling stations are advancing the clean transportation transition. As direct customers, fleet customers such as the H2-Lernwerkstatt and HYWHEELS Hessenflotten-Cluster are benefitting because they do not have to worry about having a hydrogen supply themselves. But for the delivery of hydrogen to the refueling station and the storage of renewable energy, refueling stations are also welcome customers. The most important factor in this phase of the H2 market ramp-up, however, is the planning security that hydrogen refueling stations offer for the clean energy and drive transition. Private and business customers can thus reliably tackle their fleet conversion.

Box 1: H2-Lernwerkstatt in district Gießen

The learning workshop (Lernwerkstatt) was developed, together with Emcel, out of the e-coach bus consultations that the state of Hessen energy agency (LandesEnergieAgentur, LEA Hessen) was offering, and was significantly implemented by Fahma Fahrzeugmanagement GmbH. The learning workshop allows bus companies in the district of Gießen and the surrounding area a low-threshold entry into electric public transport, which is associated with a relatively low financial risk. They can gain experience with hydrogen buses, and at the same time the citizens familiarize themselves with hydrogen-powered public transport.

The projects H2-Tankstelle (refueling station) and H2-Lernwerkstatt are combined for mutual benefit: The refueling station enables bus operation and provides the learning workshop with a sure source of hydrogen, and the learning workshop provides the refueling station with regular customers with a corresponding demand for hydrogen.

Box 2: HyWheels Hessenflotten-Cluster

The HyWheels Hessenflotten-Cluster emerged from a study that was used to develop a detailed concept for hydrogen-based transport logistics in the region Fulda in year 2020/21. The cluster represents a central point of contact for players from the shipping and infrastructure sectors (refueling stations as well as service and maintenance) and has set itself the goal of providing shipping companies with a low-threshold entry into hydrogen-powered commercial vehicle transport. These benefit from easier procurement of fuel cell trucks, accessible H2 infrastructure and lower financial risks. Refueling station operators such as H2-Tankstelle Gießen in turn gain further hydrogen customers.


Fig. 3: The HyWheels Hessenflotten-Cluster offers the shown players synergy effects and added value through networking and cooperation. 

Author: Marcel Corneille, Emcel GmbH, Köln

Kategorien: Germany | News

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