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BOC begins major fuel cell trials programme in the UK

BOC Gases : 24 June, 2003  (Company News)
As part of its developing hydrogen energy programme, BOC has started two hydrogen fuel cell trials at internal sites in the UK.
A trial at BOCís fabrication technology centre in Wolverhampton, will see a hydrogen fuelled, 100 Watt fuel cell system, supplied by Intelligent Energy, providing electrical power, 24 hours a day, to a gas analyser and alarm system. The second trial is at BOCís St Helens site where backup power for essential services is being provided by a 500W Avista Labs fuel cell, also fuelled with hydrogen.

These are the first in a series of global trials and demonstration projects that BOC will undertake in the coming years and are part of the companyís plans to further develop its hydrogen capabilities, tailored to the specific needs of the fast developing markets for fuel cells and hydrogen energy. Trials will take place in several countries around the world, in addition to the UK, and will test a range of applications and hydrogen supply systems. They will include remote power sites, domestic fuel cells, standby power systems and portable applications.

To supply the hydrogen for these trials, BOC is developing a range of new hydrogen packages and supply systems. These will range from small high pressure composite cylinders to large, lightweight manifolded cylinder packs, increasing the time between cylinder changes and providing handling benefits to customers.

BOCís South African subsidiary, Afrox, is also participating in a series of showcase demonstrations of fuel cell technology, where fuel cells will provide essential power for applications in healthcare, education and water management. Afroxís partners in these demonstrations are Eskom, South Africaís largest power utility, and Intelligent Energy. Intelligent Energy is leading the consortium and was awarded funding for the demonstrations by the UKís Department for International Development.

Afrox, Eskom and Intelligent Energy are also partners in a further project to demonstrate a fuel cell system providing combined heat and power to an Afrox medical clinic in South Africa.

An important theme running through the trials is safety. Hydrogen is arguably as safe, if not safer, than existing fuels such as liquid petroleum gas or petrol, but does present a different set of potential hazards that need to be managed.

'We have been supplying industrial hydrogen for many years and have developed a great deal of engineering and safety experience, making BOC a necessary partner for working with fuel cell developers and fuel cell integrators in developing new applications.

'There has been a substantial growth in the activity around fuel cells, over the last few years, and they are getting close to offering distinct technical and commercial advantages over existing technology in certain niche areas, with the promise of larger mass markets to follow. BOC is supporting these developing markets and positioning itself as a safe and reliable supplier of fuel cell hydrogen,' says John Carolin, BOCís global director, hydrogen energy.
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