Imagine that you could travel anywhere without polluting the environment, using energy produced by anything, anywhere. This is no longer a distant dream, but a real possibility according to Christopher Kloed in Norsk Hydro Electrolysers. – Technically there are no limitations that stop us from realising this today. In Oslo there is already a bus running on hydrogen and we are involved in several hydrogen-bus projects both nationally and internationally. This summer a hydrogen driven car was shown in Oslo and hydrogen can be used to run trucks, boats and aeroplanes. To sum up, hydrogen is a clean energy source and can cover all energy needs.
We are entering the age of hydrogen
It was the Clean Air Act of California and other US states demanding that a certain percentage of new cars sold in 2005 should be so called zero emission vehicles, that accelerated the development of hydrogen fuel cell cars, says Kloed. The engine is electrical in the same way as a battery-driven car, but instead of the batteries the electricity is produced using fuel cells that burn hydrogen. The only "waste" product in this process is clean water. These cars are the only alternative we know of, that can combine zero-emission with the comfort and long-distance driving which present day cars offer.
In short time all the big car manufacturers will offer hydrogen driven cars. BMW have already started producing their first hydrogen car. In contrast with most producers putting their money on fuel cell technology, BMW have chosen to use a traditional combustion engine under the motto: "The age of hydrogen is not to come, it is already here."
In Norway we have got solid knowledge about the production and utilisation of hydrogen, says Kloed. – We have strong suppliers of both equipment and technology for the production, storage and transportation of hydrogen. If we use our huge gas resources, we can get a very cheap fuel and at the same time supply Europe with large amounts of hydrogen. And, when producing hydrogen, the cost of CO2 depositing is quite modest. However, we have also got lots of hydraulic power and renewable energy, which we do not exploit today. Using electrolysers developed by Norsk Hydro Electrolysers we can produce hydrogen using all these different sources of electricity. The production of renewable energy does not always coincide with the consumption of electricity, and in periods of low consumption we can produce cheap hydrogen.
A "Clean Air Act" in Norway
However, to initiate the use of hydrogen we need a resolution like the Clean Air Act of California where it is made a legal demand that a certain share of all the new cars sold should be zero emission vehicles, Kloed says. – Substituting all of Norway’s gas driven cars of today with hydrogen driven cars of tomorrow implies converting 25 TWh from gas to hydrogen. This does not mean that we will use more energy – on the contrary, fuel cells are twice as affective as ordinary combustion engines, hence there are strong arguments both economically and environmentally for the use of hydrogen.
– Apart from shipping equipment to Europe and North America we have several projects in developing countries as well. In these countries hydrogen is not competing against an already existing gas based infrastructure. In the future the export of technology will probably be more important than the production of energy, Kloed continues. In many ways Norway has now got a golden opportunity to go from being a producer of fossil energy to become a supplier of the full spectre of energy and an exporter of technolocy.
With all these clear advantages, why isn’t the future of hydrogen the obvious choice for Norway?
– Our experience is that nothing comes easy. Our oil-wealth is part of the problem because it functions as a sleeping pillow for the nation; in fact it is our headache. We have a number of hydrogen alternatives in Norway, which have been stopped due to a lack of co-ordination and understanding within the government, says Kloed who hopes for a hydrogen-program based on mutual long-term efforts from both the government and the industry.