Oil and gas company Shell opened its first hydrogen refuelling station on 22 February at Cobham services on the M25, the UK’s largest fuelling station.

The new hydrogen station has been supplied by ITM Power and is the first fully branded and public hydrogen refuelling site in the UK. It is the first of three hydrogen stations Shell plans to open in the UK in 2017 to enable customers with hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles to refuel easily.

The hydrogen at the refuelling station is generated onsite using an electrolyser which works using just water and electricity. The initiative has been partially funded by the European Fuel Cell, Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) as part of its HyFIVE project, and the UK's Office of Low Emission Vehicles.

Shell is a founding member of the Hydrogen Council, announced at Davos in January 2017, comprising energy companies, OEMs and technology partners with a collective pledge to accelerate investment in the development and commercialisation of the hydrogen and fuel cell sectors.

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles convert hydrogen into electricity and produce only heat and water when driven. They offer an alternative to the conventional internal combustion engine, a driving experience similar to electric cars, and no local emissions. Hydrogen vehicles can drive up to 700 kilometres without refuelling and can be refuelled in a few minutes at a standard forecourt with a hydrogen pump.

Matthew Tipper, Shell's Vice-President for Future Fuels, 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 has already successfully launched similar sites in California and Germany, as part of a joint venture, and hopes to open a network of up to 400 hydrogen sites by 2023. As a founding member of the new Hydrogen Council announced in Davos in January, Shell has pledged to accelerate investment in the development and commercialisation of the hydrogen and fuel cell sectors. The company is currently assessing the potential of more hydrogen fuelling projects in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of FCH JU, commented: “While FCH JU project HyFIVE already delivered significant results and contributed to addressing major EU challenges, we are very pleased to see an important industry player joining the venture. The opening of Shell’s first station in UK occurs one month after the Hydrogen Council announcement at Davos, and reinforces the industrial commitment towards decarbonisation.”

Sinead Lynch, Shell’s UK Country Chair, 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.”

Photo: Sinead Lynch, UK Country Chair at Royal Dutch Shell fills up at the new Shell hydrogen refuelling station in Cobham.