ORLEN to build first hydrogen refuelling stations on Czech market

The ORLEN Group is engaged in consistent work to develop environmentally friendly hydrogen technologies. Construction of hydrogen refuelling (HR) points is due to begin at two Benzina stations in the Czech Republic (in Prague and Litvínov) by the end of this year, to be made available to motorists in 2021. There are also plans to open more HR stations – in Brno, Plzeň and Prague, along the D10 motorway. These projects will support the ORLEN Group’s commitment to achieve emission neutrality by 2050.

“Energy transition is a necessity, and our ambition is to spearhead the process both in Poland and Central Europe. We are also looking to leverage the related challenges, including the global trend towards new mobility, as business opportunities. In the coming years, we will invest more than PLN 25bn in projects designed to mitigate environmental impacts, opening us up to new business models. We have a specific action plan, which includes work on developing alternative fuels and low-carbon technologies. Hydrogen will certainly be an important transport fuel of the future, which is why we have been firmly stepping up work in that area, including at our foreign service stations,” says Daniel Obajtek, President of the PKN ORLEN Management Board.

Hydrogen is both a safe and environmentally friendly fuel, obtained from natural gas and renewable energy sources, but also from biomass. Purified, it can be used as a fuel powering electric vehicles, soon to serve as a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels.

“Hydrogen-powered vehicles are the future of the automotive industry, given short refuelling times and the technically undemanding methods of its storage and transport. We are now holding advanced talks with the local authorities of Prague, the Central Bohemian Region and the Ústecký Region on its use as a fuel in Czech public transport. We are also in regular contact with hydrogen-powered car makers, which in the future may lead to formal business links and exciting projects,” says Tomasz Wiatrak, President of the Management Board of UNIPETROL, the ORLEN Group’s Czech subsidiary.

HR infrastructure will first be installed at the ORLEN Group’s Benzina stations in the Barrandov neighbourhood of Prague and in Litvínov. It will be supplied with hydrogen produced during crude oil processing at UNIPETROL’s refineries in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou. Construction of the refuelling stations has been contracted by UNIPETROL to the Bonett Group, the largest vendor of alternative fuel infrastructure in Central Europe and the second largest supplier of CNG in the Czech Republic. The Group operates on the Czech, Polish and Slovak markets, where it focuses on building, operating and delivering alternative fuel filling stations.

The construction of HR stations within its Czech retail network marks another step in the ORLEN Group’s strategy to develop alternative fuels. In 2019 and early this year, ORLEN signed letters of intent to collaborate with the Metropolitan Association of Upper Silesia and Dąbrowa Basin, Krakowski Holding Komunalny, Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne of Kraków and the City of Płock, as potential customers for its hydrogen output. Since December 2019, PKN ORLEN and Pesa Bydgoszcz have been involved in a joint project to develop a hydrogen-powered rail vehicle.

ORLEN has also commenced a process to select the contractor to build a hydrogen hub in Włocławek, designed to ultimately produce up to 600 kg of purified hydrogen per hour. The project provides for the construction of a plant for the production of fuel-cell grade hydrogen, logistics infrastructure, and hydrogen refuelling stations. Initially, the fuel will be distributed primarily for use in public and freight transport, with passenger car refuelling also possible.

Hydrogen technologies are being developed by the Group also at the ORLEN Południe biorefinery in Trzebinia. According to plans, production of fuel-cell grade hydrogen is due to be launched in 2021.

Hydrogen fuel is very popular especially in the United States, Japan and Germany. At the end of the previous year, there were 432 HR stations globally, of which 330 were available to the general public. PKN ORLEN has two refuelling points for hydrogen-powered vehicles at its German service stations operating under the ‘Grupa ORLEN-star’ brand.