Shell opens second hydrogen fuel pump, but remains focused on full ‘mosaic’ of alternative fuels

By the end of 2018, Shell will have opened three new hydrogen refuelling pumps on sites around London.

But the fuel giant says that its hydrogen network won’t stop there, and that it’s also committed to other alternative fuels.

In February 2017, Shell opened its first UK hydrogen refuelling point in Cobham, which was followed by a new site at Beaconsfield services today (27 March). A third, located at Gatwick North, is in the final stages of production and, while the business is yet to confirm when this will open, it’s certainly not far off.

Shell’s hydrogen business development manager Mike Copson told Freight in the City that London was a natural starting point for its hydrogen network.

“The reason that London came out as a focus was really driven by policy,” he said. “If you look at clean air policy, London really has taken the lead. Also it’s where some sites were already, and it’s got a cluster in one place. So London was the natural first.”

Opening sites in London also meant Shell had proximity to the UK H2Mobility consortium, of which it is a part. The new pump at Beaconsfield services is the firs to be opened in collaboration with the project, and was also built in partnership with ITM Power.

But Copson said Shell’s current focus on London doesn’t mean it won’t be adding hydrogen pumps further afield.

“There are going to be other cities I think following close behind. Manchester’s been quite vocal and there are other clean air city proposals on the table.

“Plus elsewhere in the UK there are already  other hydrogen sites. One in Sheffield, there’s some in Swindon. There are proposals in Cardiff. There’s a cluster in Aberdeen.”

He added: “So I think this lends itself to the point around we have to make sure we’re collaborating. When I say ‘we’ that means the energy providers, the vehicle manufacturers and the policy makers are collaborating to make sure hydrogen is deployed in a coordinated manner. We all need each other; we can’t do it on our own.”

Copson said that Shell’s focus is on the spectrum of available alternative fuels, and that he doesn’t see hydrogen as the only viable option, but rather one of many.

“Hydrogen is actually part of a range of transport fuels that we need to make a lower carbon UK a reality. So it’s actually part of what we call the fuels mosaic.

“To put it more simply, it’s not about backing a winner. It’s about saying as we move forwards, depending on the sector you’re working in and driving in and the location that you’re in, then there are going to be different fuel solutions co-existing as we go through the energy transition.”

He added that the commercial vehicle sector is “one of the most diverse sections of the industry and there are a lot of opinions as to what the next thing is going to be in terms of future fuel. And that’s because they’ve done a very, very good job of making a diesel engine that’s very clean and efficient”.

While Shell is already engaged with commercial vehicle OEMs around the world, Copson said the firm is keen to engage with the logistics industry and get to grips with its refuelling needs for the future.

“A lot of light and heavy duty OEMs are our customers, so the dialogue is happening. But we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the people we already do business with.

“We should also be speaking to industrial bodies that represent the industry to consult with them on what their take on fuels is.

“It’s a huge subject that we need to engage in pretty quickly But also understand that we’re in an energy transition, we’re not in a flicking a binary switch mode.

“We’re working towards a point in the future that no one has the answer for yet and also the timelines are a little bit elastic. So it really depends on collaboration between energy providers truck manufacturers fleet operators as well and as making sure that the policies are supporting that.”