A major explosion at a hydrogen filling station west of Oslo on Monday has forced the shutdown of the few other such facilities currently to be found in Norway. That’s causing major problems for all owners of hydrogen vehicles, and for efforts to cut carbon emissions in the transport sector.
“This is just tragic,” Ulf Hafseld, the leader of Norway’s hydrogen car association Hybil, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “The situation has already been very difficult lately, and now comes this.”
Hybil had been hoping that more stations would open this spring, adding to the three that have been operated by filling station chain Uno-X. The explosion that rocked the Sandvika area late Monday afternoon occurred at the Uno-X station located at the busy intersection of the E18 and E16 highways, forcing not only immediate closure of the station and evacuation of the nearby area, but also shutting down the E18 in both directions when traffic was heavy at the end of a long holiday weekend.
Uno-X also quickly shut down its two other hydrogen stations at Hvam in Skjetten, northeast of Oslo, and at Åsane north of Bergen, pending results of an investigation into the cause of the explosion in Sandvika. Another hydrogen station at NorgesGruppen’s delivery firm Asko’s regional warehouse outside Trondheim also shut down after the explosion. Asko has invested in hydrogen trucks as part of its effort to cut carbon emissions.
There also were seven other stations run by competitor Hyop, but it went out of business last fall. Hybil reported in April that another firm, Hydrogenisk, had taken over two of Hyop’s stations in March and was working to get them back into operation.
The hydrogen filling stations have used equipment from hydrogen technology Nel, which has now urged the shutdown of all 10 filling stations in Norway, including Uno-X’s three.
“We took contact with Nel Monday night (just after the explosion in Sandvika) and asked for their advice,” Jørn Arvid Endresen of Asko Midt-Norge told DN. “They recommended quite quickly that we close the station (near Trondheim) indefinitely, and we did that the same night.”
Endresen said no Asko deliveries would be affected since they only had one hydrogen truck under testing so far. Asko also has some hydrogen-driven forklifts, though, which will now need to be replaced by battery-driven vehicles.
There otherwise are around 170 private hydrogen cars in Norway, according to Nel’s marketing chief Bjørn Simonsen. “Until the hydrogen stations can reopen, there are unfortunately not many possibilities for their owners to refuel,” he told DN. Nel’s stock, meanwhile, fell sharply on the Oslo Stock Exchange following the explosion on Monday.
Hafseld remains in despair over the utter lack of refueling options for hydrogen car owners this week. “This is a new downturn for hydrogen projects in Norway,” he said, claiming that defies the government’s signals for development of hydrogen vehicle use.
“It’s going in the wrong direction and we’re lagging far behind in terms of plans to only be selling zero-emission vehicles in Norway by 2025,” he told DN. “We’ve become terribly vulnerable when there’s only one player in the market, or when everyone is using the same technology.”