The hydrogen market is stirring these days, and many energy sector companies have jumped on the bandwagon as a part of their climate change mitigation efforts.
Both tightening competition and technological immaturity pose problems, but Nel says it's ready to take on the challenge at its capital markets day Thursday.
"The market is moving from a demonstration stage toward a purely commercial market. Hydrogen hippies are no longer alone in driving the cars. Now there's real business dependent on hydrogen, and that's good for the whole industry," Nel Fueling Senior Vice President Jørn Rosenlund says at the event.
World leader in filling station supply
As a fuel of the future, hydrogen is showing itself to be an increasingly safe bet. In Nel's case, the forward-looking market is mainly that of supplying H2 refueling stations, going by the company product name of H2Station.
The fact that the hydrogen market has only recently emerged from its cocoon entails that there are still obstacles along the way. Nel says the technology remains somewhat underdeveloped, with much needing to take place become production is made optimal.
"Both Nel and all our competitors are still struggling with the technology, which is still immature. Faults and alarms still need handled. However, we're collecting a lot of data from our stations that can help us become more wiser. That's how we'll be able to drive down costs," Rosenlund says.
Although despite its technological immaturity, a widening field of players are starting to see the green gas as viable investment area.
"We want to become a global leader within hydrogen filling stations, but the market will undoubtedly have room for more players than we're seeing at the moment. It will depend on our ability to meet market demand, and we're well equipped in that regard," says Nel Chief Executive Jon André Løkke.
Hydrogen is going to be big. Perhaps just as big as wind and solar
Nel estimates a 400-fold increase in hydrogen refueling between the years 2015 and 2022 – a figure worth dwelling upon.
Thursday morning, shortly prior to the capital markets day event, Nel released a statement heralding major ambitions for the coming four years.
Ahead of 2025, the company has set a target to produce H2 for USD 1.5 per kilogram, effectively achieving and perhaps overshooting fossil parity.
"Hydrogen is going to be big. Perhaps just as big as wind and solar. Green hydrogen will be able to outcompete fossil alternatives in the future. But we have a lot of work ahead of us," Løkke says.
The question of whether making green hydrogen at USD 1.5 per kg four years from now is excessively optimistic was not entertained. Even though hydrogen – not least the green variety – is presently known to be costly to produce.
Nel says its plan centers on cutting costs by scaling up production into double-digit gigawatt territory, expanding capacity and continuing to invest in technology, both in the short and long term to secure its desired market position.
One production method that's gaining traction among fueling operators is the option of directly integrating H2 electrolysis in wind turbines – a technology Nel is piloting in Norway.
"It's an exciting solution and is something we will actively use in making our projects more accessible for wind developers interested in integrating our systems," the CEO says.
Scaling was a key word during the capital markets day. Nel has high hopes for the future hydrogen market, and production must be expanded to make that ambition manifest.
Many countries have laid out decarbonization programs, and several of such designs have hydrogen playing a central role, often featuring objectives for transforming vehicles fleets to mainly consist electric cars.
Nel, however, is undaunted by that prospect – quite the opposite, the company is confident that hydrogen will be a big part of the future's fuel mix.
"It will impossible to electrify the whole car fleet. We believe hydrogen can play a big role [in the segment] currently powered by diesel," Løkke says and continues:
"Long-distance ships and airplanes operating on electricity are infeasible. That's why hydrogen will also play a large role, because we can move a large volume of energy in a very short period of time. Tanking is just so much quicker."
English Edit: Daniel Frank Christensen