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The different types of hydrogen refueling infrastructure available to local authorities – and how they can benefit all local stakeholders

Our previous blog post examined hydrogen buses as a means of decarbonising transport fleets and the related refueling considerations local authorities need to bear in mind. In it, we provided an overview of established and nascent bus deployments in Europe. We looked at the funding available to local authorities and their supply partners intending to use hydrogen to decarbonise their fleets, and the kind of refueling infrastructure with which those organisations could begin their decarbonisation journey.

This post will discuss the different types of refueling infrastructure available and how councils can approach installing refueling stations to deliver the maximum benefit to all local stakeholders.

The refueling experience

There is a range of refueling infrastructure options available to local authorities wishing to install their first hydrogen station. Authorities could start with a cost-effective, small-scale portable refueling station. These types of small units are ideal for demonstration purposes and could be moved from depot to depot to allow a range of users the chance to trial and evaluate hydrogen vehicles and the refueling experience.

This kind of station has several advantages, including a small footprint, simple plug-and-play installation and integration, as well as its portability. They would usually come in either a 350bar or 700bar solution, although dual pressure solutions may also be available in the market. Another alternative would be to fill 700bar vehicles to 350bar, which typically achieves around a 60% fill, often enough to allow for a reasonable demonstration of the fleet in normal operation.

Advanced systems should come with mass flow metering, meaning that you can track dispensing of fuel through a fuel management system and allow third parties to use the system, in addition to its usage by your own fleet. As such, through evaluating the transition of your own fleet to a zero-carbon fleet, regional authorities can also enable local businesses and organisations to make the same transition by allowing access to their refueling unit.

Smaller refueling units will typically fill up to 100kg per day, allowing them to be used as a permanent solution for small fleets of light vehicles, as well as for demonstration and evaluation of vehicles and refueling systems. For trials of a small number of larger vehicles where fast filling is required, external ground storage could be installed alongside the refueling unit to give it the ability to fast fill buses, waste trucks or HGVs at and to achieve back-to-back fills.

Once you have made the decision to transition your fleet to hydrogen at scale, then a larger refueling system will be required. Systems can be configured to meet the required operational and refueling profile and typically range from 100kg/day to over 1000kg/day.

This kind of station can refuel a mixed portfolio of vehicles such as buses, waste collection trucks, vans, cars and other light, medium and heavy duty vehicles. They can dispense at both 350bar and 700bar through multiple dispenser points and fuel a fleet of vehicles within a given timeframe or throughout the day.

Features such as fuel management systems and pay-at-pump systems can be added to enhance fuel usage monitoring and invoicing of fuel, enabling the systems to be deployed in either a private depot-based scenario or a public location.

In short, a hydrogen refueling experience shouldn’t be any different from a conventional refueling experience. Users will find refueling with hydrogen is straightforward, fast and easy to use.

Where can councils source their hydrogen?

Local authorities wishing to install hydrogen refueling infrastructure can choose whether to have hydrogen produced onsite or offsite. Onsite production systems, usually via electrolysis, have featured in many projects around Europe and a range of infrastructure developers will offer to supply, own and operate both production and refueling systems on customer sites.

The hydrogen could also be produced offsite at an existing or new production facility operated by others and transported onto site via high-pressure gas tube trailers. Most hydrogen refueling systems are able to take hydrogen directly from both electrolysis and tube trailers. Both solutions offer a range of advantages depending on the scale and scope of the project, preferred investment model and the site characteristics.

geno deployment

One point to consider when looking at the type of hydrogen sourced is that green hydrogen (hydrogen produced directly from green power) could be eligible for Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). Under this scheme, RTFCs can be sold to companies that need them to meet their obligations under the RTFO. Certificates are generated for each kilogram of green hydrogen used in a vehicle. This could create a revenue stream and authorities should investigate how this could feature in their projects.

Where could you site your refueling station?

Hydrogen refueling stations can be deployed within either a depot-based environment or on land dedicated for a refueling hub, and it is likely that in a city-wide refueling network both scenarios will be required.

Stations can be designed to meet the specific needs of a fleet and so the footprint of a station can be tailored to fit into existing depot facilities. Of course, with limited space this can be challenging at times and so a dedicated piece of land for a refueling hub could make things easier, especially with future growth in mind.

A typical set of considerations for site selection would include the following:

  • Available land for siting hydrogen infrastructure and mobile delivery assets, such as tube trailers
  • Locations available allowing existing traffic routes to pass the proposed station location
  • The ability to create safety distances between the hydrogen station and other areas of the site
  • The availability of utilities and possibilities to upgrade power provision (especially if onsite production is being considered)
  • Site access and egress for hydrogen delivery vehicles, such as tube trailers
  • Third-party access potential, if within project scope

If the council is planning on developing new depots in the future, it should consider as early as possible in the design phase how a refueling solution could be integrated.

The other option is to acquire through purchase or lease third-party land which could be dedicated for the production and refueling of hydrogen. The land selected could be in an area within reach of the council fleet, but also other private fleet operators, and developed to be a public or semi-public refueling hub, which could feature both hydrogen and electric charging. This land could be designed from the start to accommodate everything that’s needed and to allow for future scalability of the infrastructure as usage grows.

Lessons learnt

In our discussions with developers of hydrogen stations, they tell us that these are the most important considerations for a successful project.

  • Start with the end in mind – consider how the project could scale up.
  • Identify the baseload fleet early on. Typically, this would come from a medium-duty fleet, such as buses, refuse trucks or other waste division vehicles. These vehicles will bring the volume throughput that supports the investment.
  • Allow time for the planning phase.
  • Evaluate the procurement of vehicles and stations together.
  • Sound out the planning department early – identify location options for consideration.
  • Bring in potential third-party users early.
  • Consider feedstock options now and new options in the future.
  • Weigh up sourcing options against the station operating cost.

We are here to help and advise you on refueling solutions and how these can be integrated into your project. If you would like more information on refueling options for your council’s fleet of hydrogen vehicles, please contact us at: Contact Us

By Nick Power, Hydrogen Business Development Manager – EMEA, Haskel Hydrogen Systems Group

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