‘Not possible’ | Rising costs force Austrian state to abandon plan to bring 35 hydrogen buses to city roads

A plan to produce and supply green hydrogen in Austria for use twice over — once as an industrial process gas in semiconductor manufacturing, and then reused as a road fuel — has hit the rocks amid concerns about its economic viability and the operational costs of H2-powered buses.

The H2Carinthia programme was initiated in 2020 by Austrian gas company OMV, industrial gases firm Linde, utility Verbund, bus company Postbus, semiconductor manufacturer Infineon and hydrogen research institute HyCenta, with a view to trialling up to 35 hydrogen buses in the southern Austrian state of Carinthia.

In addition, it envisaged the construction of a green hydrogen project on the site of Infineon’s semiconductor factory in the city of Villach, as well as purification and refuelling infrastructure for the buses.

According OMV, the bus programme was scuppered by the escalating cost of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure development — including “above average” price increases for components needed to purify waste H2 ready for use in fuel cells.

“The economic conditions have changed considerably compared to when the project idea was launched in 2020,” the company tells Hydrogen Insight. “These include, primarily, high inflation, increased construction costs, changed economic and cyclical parameters, the effects of low growth dynamics, and geopolitical and societal changes with effects on supply chains and price developments in the energy segment and the construction industry.

“All of these factors contributed to a significant increase in the costs of the project and thus to a massive increase in the price of hydrogen — while at the same time reducing the availability of green hydrogen. After weighing up all economic and public interests, it was mutually decided to suspend the project for the time being.”

However, the electrolysis element of the programme — to build a green hydrogen project on the site of the semiconductor factory — will continue.

The partners had already carried out successful feasibility studies and system design for the H2 recycling programme, including the development of a prototype to extract hydrogen from the semiconductor production process, it said.

Hydrogen is used in “carrier gas” in semiconductor manufacturing, where it strips oxygen away from the electronic components being made in order to prevent them becoming damaged. At the end of the process, the hydrogen is usually disposed of, alongside other industrial waste.

But the idea of this project was to extract the leftover H2 from the process stream, purify it and then send it to a new hydrogen filling station in Villach, built by OMV, for use in the fuel-cell buses.

At the time, H2Carinthia was billed as Europe’s first “dual-use” hydrogen project, and had secured €12m ($13m) in funding from Austria’s national research agency, FFG.

The partners gave no indication of electrolyser size, or exactly how it would be powered, although Verbund said in 2020 that it was examining the production of green H2 in Carinthia, a mountainous Alpine state, “in conjunction with” its hydroelectric power plants.

Regional newspaper Kleine Zeitung reported that the H2Carinthia project partners were also finding it difficult to align the H2 demands of both the semiconductor factory and the buses.

Infineon told the newspaper that it might not have been able to supply enough waste hydrogen to fuel the vehicles.

Infineon had not responded to questions from Hydrogen Insight at the time of publication.


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