December 2004

Shell Opens First Combined Hydrogen and Gasoline Station in North America

Washington— Shell Hydrogen (U.S.) opened the first hydrogen dispenser at a retail gasoline station to service a fleet of six fuel cell vehicles from the General Motors Corporation, the companies announced November 10.

Located in northeast Washington, D.C., the station is part of a collaboration between Shell and GM to demonstrate hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and refueling infrastructure technology, an important contribution in making fuel cell vehicles an everyday reality. Shell will offer both compressed and liquid hydrogen at the Benning Road station.

“Today marks the next major step in Shell Hydrogen’s effort to make a substantial advance and move research further into reality,” said Jeremy Bentham, chief executive officer of Shell Hydrogen. “This location also enables us to showcase the effectiveness of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in a city where key policymakers live and work.”

According to Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research and development and planning, the only way the hydrogen economy will come about is if local communities, government, energy companies and automotive companies work together.

“The only way the Hydrogen Economy will be realized is having not only fuel cell vehicles, but also convenient places to refuel and local communities that will support this transition to a new energy source,” Burns said. “I want to applaud both the local community and Shell on this important milestone. “I believe the opening of this station is a historic moment,” Burns continued. “We will look back on this day and realize that it was a watershed moment — the moment when we started down a new path to a future where we have readily available hydrogen, made from renewable feedstocks, to power our vehicles and energize our economy.”

The hydrogen station is the centerpiece of a partnership between Shell and GM to develop hydrogen-fueled vehicles on a commercial scale. The companies also are working together on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Infrastructure Demonstration and Validation Project, which was announced in late April by the Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham.

“Shell has a clear business strategy for the hydrogen market,” said Shell Hydrogen CEO Bentham. “Our aim is to become the market leader in a growing industry that will provide hydrogen alongside improved traditional fuels to customers enjoying new generations of attractive vehicles. To meet our customers’ wishes for this attractive fuel, we’re focused today on large scale demonstration projects, what we call ‘Lighthouse Projects’, that create mini-networks of hydrogen fueling stations in specific cities or regions of the country. These Lighthouse Projects will bring together governments and several energy and auto companies to hasten full commercialization of hydrogen as a transportation fuel.”

Shell has developed a realistic understanding of the importance of hydrogen and the steps necessary to make this happen. The following is Shell’s step-by-step approach to development of the hydrogen mass market:

Step One: Stand-alone projects with restricted access (like depots for hydrogen-fueled buses).

Step Two: Second generation sites, with public access, but separate from existing gasoline stations (e.g. the facility Shell opened in Iceland in April 2003, which supplies hydrogen made from water to three city buses).

Step Three: Fully integrated fuel stations (traditional fuels and hydrogen).

Step Four: Within the next five years, mini-network “Lighthouse Projects” (semi-commercial, public-private partnerships involving multiple energy companies, governments, and fleets of 100 or more vehicles).

Step Five: 2010-2020 connecting the mini-networks with corridors and filling in the white spaces.

“We are now celebrating the achievement of the third step, and are moving forward to realize steps four and five,” said Bentham. “We need to accelerate the process today by coordinating with government leaders and the public in order to build effective public/private partnerships and realize semi- commercial lighthouse projects. Based on our analysis, Lighthouse Projects should include:

  • Fleets building up to 100 vehicles and beyond.
  • Fueled from mini-networks of 4-6 integrated hydrogen/gasoline stations.
  • Have both semi-commercial and publicly subsidized elements.
  • Focus on transportation in urbanized area.
  • Have a high visibility because people must be able to see the miracle of hydrogen technology with their own eyes. It mustn’t be only something they read about.”

The new station in Washington will cement Shell’s position as a leading developer of hydrogen as an alternative fuel. Established in 1999 as a global business of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Shell Hydrogen companies have fuel cell demonstration projects in each of the leading hydrogen markets: Japan, North America and Europe.

Fuel cells turn hydrogen into electricity in an electrochemical reaction. The electricity is used to move a vehicle and, since no fuel is burned in an engine, the only emission is water vapor. The GM fuel cell minivans have been driving in normal everyday traffic around the nation’s capital for more than a year.

In separate initiatives, the United States Postal Service has been delivering mail using a GM fuel cell minivan, which GM refers to as the HydroGen3. The State of Maryland also has announced a similar lease with GM. Last month, GM and its partner in China, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), announced they would be delivering a fuel cell vehicle to Shanghai early next year. GM also operates a small fuel cell fleet in California.


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