Today at 17:30PM Oslo time, in Oslo Norway, a hydrogen refueling station exploded at the Uno-X station at Kjørbo, on the waterfront of the E18. This is a busy public area, next to a highway, and on the waterfront near Oslo. News broke of this explosion as we were ion the process of preparing an update to last week’s news about the outage of hydrogen refueling in the SF Bay Area following an explosion at the Air Products hydrogen facility in Santa Clara, CA.
When launched in 2016, this same station was hailed as the first hydrogen refueling station powered by hydrogen electrolyzed on-site powered by electricity generated by nearby solar panels.
The location of the Uno-X station at Kjørbo is easily findable on Google Maps. (UPDATE: Google Maps says the station has been permanently closed and satellite view shows the equipment has been removed) Going to Streetview, we see that there is a hydrogen refueling kiosk next to a small carpark, and behind that kiosk is an area of black fencing shown in the picture above.
A loud bang was heard at 1730 local time, and the air bags of at least three cars driving by deployed due to the pressure of the explosion. Two people have gone to emergency rooms, due to their air bags deploying. Images and video included in the news reports show black smoke rising from the site. Fire crews deployed quickly and by 18:15 PM the neighboring roads were open again.
Unlike the explosion in Santa Clara, this will not affect the rest of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the Oslo Area. The Santa Clara explosion affected a hydrogen processing center serving the whole SF Bay Area, whereas this Uno-X station is just one public hydrogen refueling station.
The question is whether the equipment behind that black fencing is just hydrogen storage tanks, or if it is other kinds of equipment.
According to GreenVisits (UPDATE: Green Visits no longer offers a visit to the Uno-X station, because earlier we noted the station is permanently closed), the Uno-X station at Kjørbo has on-site electrolysis powered by what they claim is excess electricity from local solar power on nearby buildings. They then compress H2 into on-site tanks, for refueling cars. That sure sounds like a kind of green nirvana story doesn’t it?
The press release announcing this facility has more fascinating details. Namely a nearby “net energy positive building” (meaning the building produces more power than it consumes) supplies electricity to electrolysis equipment at the Uno-X station.
The office building in question, Powerhouse Kjørbo, is its own amazing story. It’s a normal office building built in the 1980’s, that was rehabilitated with known technologies to minimize energy consumption and to maximize energy production.
In other words the Uno-X station which blew up truly is the perfect example of the hydrogen economy. The negative story of most of the hydrogen economy is that it is a fossil fuel in disguise, because usually hydrogen is extracted from natural gas. But this station … er the operative word is WAS .. this station WAS the dream we’re told about hydrogen, that it can be extracted from seawater using solar energy and stored in tanks for use.
Well, yes it can, until the equipment explodes.
According to twitter activity – Norway had only two remaining hydrogen stations, one of which is this Uno-X station that exploded.
What follows is the official press release announcing the opening of the Uno-X station in question.
NEL ASA: Uno-X Hydrogen to build world’s first hydrogen station powered by surplus renewable energy from the neighbor Powerhouse Kjørbo building
(Oslo, 1 April 2016) Uno-X Hydrogen AS, a NEL ASA (NEL) joint venture, announced today the decision to build a hydrogen refuelling station with on-site hydrogen production co-located with Powerhouse Kjørbo, an energy-positive office building in Sandvika, Norway.
“We are excited to build a hydrogen refuelling station at Powerhouse Kjørbo, enabling fuel cell electric vehicles to fill hydrogen produced locally by the energy-positive office building. This will be the world’s first hydrogen station with such an integrated solution, and represents an innovative example of the role hydrogen can play in grid balancing and utilization of renewable energy,” says Jon André Løkke, CEO of NEL.
Kjørbo is centrally located in Sandvika outside of Oslo, by two of the busiest roads in Norway with 80 000 cars passing daily. The project has a total budget of NOK 28.4 million, of which NOK 5.7 million is support from the Akershus County Council and NOK 7.7 million is from the Norwegian public enterprise, Enova, responsible for the promotion of environmentally friendly production and consumption of energy. Other project partners include consulting firm Asplan Viak and Bærum Municipality.
“Uno-X Hydrogen wishes to contribute to the green shift within the transport sector by providing renewable, zero-emission hydrogen fuel to our customers. This hydrogen refuelling station marks the start of our planned network of minimum 20 stations in Norway by 2020 and enabling all Norwegians to have the option to choose a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle as their next car,” says Roger Hertzenberg, CEO of Uno-X Hydrogen AS.
Powerhouse Kjørbo, which is owned by Entra ASA, uses solar panels that can supply upward of 200 000 kWh each year, twice the amount of the building’s annual energy consumption.
“The Powerhouse partners are developing Kjørbo office park into one of the most environmentally friendly real estate projects in Norway, operating as a net producer of renewable energy. We are pleased to welcome Uno-X Hydrogen on the site and look forward to providing a state-of-the-art hydrogen refuelling station to the next generation of low emission vehicles”, says Arve Regland, CEO of Entra ASA.
Reference made to announcement released earlier today: “NEL ASA: Awarded NOK 25 million contract to build a hydrogen refuelling station with on-site hydrogen production from solar energy”
NEL ASA is the first dedicated hydrogen company on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Since its foundation in 1927, NEL Hydrogen has a proud history of development and continual improvement of hydrogen plants. NEL is global a supplier of hydrogen solutions, covering the entire value chain from hydrogen production technologies to hydrogen refuelling stations for fuel cell electric vehicles. H2 Logic A/S is a leading manufacturer of H2Station® hydrogen refuelling stations that provides fuel cell electric vehicles with the same fast fuelling and long range as conventional vehicles today. www.nel-asa.com
About Uno-X Hydrogen
Uno-X Hydrogen AS is a joint venture, owned by Uno-X and NEL with 51 % and 49 % respectively. The joint venture will build a network of hydrogen refuelling stations, where fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) can operate between all the major cities in Norway. The stations will be deployed in cities like Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, Kristiansand, along with corresponding corridor locations. The target is that FCEVs can drive between the most populated cities in Norway within 2020.
Powerhouse is a collaboration of companies dedicated to building energy positive buildings. The collaboration consists of Entra, Skanska, Snøhetta, the environmental NGO ZERO, the aluminium company Hydro, the aluminium profile company Sapa og the consulting firm Asplan Viak. Powerhouse wants to demonstrate that it is possible to build energy positive buildings, not just in the southern regions of the world, but also in cold Norway. www.powerhouse.no
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