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Birmingham Uni fills up on brown gas

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Britain is about to get a new wave of hydrogen filling stations, allowing those few organisations and individuals in possession of hydrogen vehicles to top them up.

According to the Times, "Britain's first hydrogen fuel station" opened yesterday. But, in fact, Blighty has previously had hydrogen stations - they just didn't stay open, being intended to support projects with closing dates.

Yesterday's hydrogen forecourt is at Birmingham University, which is doing a feasibility study on hydrogen transport using a fleet of five "Microcab" fuel-cell vehicles. There will also be stations in London from next year until 2013, supporting Mayor Ken Livingstone's 70-vehicle hydrogen trial fleet. The London government project will see both internal-combustion and fuel-cell hydrogen kit tried out, in buses, police vehicles, and other city applications.

The five-year London trial is to cost £22m, according to the Times. Air Products, the same company which has set up the "mobile fueller" equipment in Birmingham, will provide the capital's new hydrogen stations as well.

"We are extremely proud to provide the first hydrogen fuelling station to a UK university," said Air's Ian Williamson. "We have already installed 21 mobile fuellers and built more than 80 stations worldwide."

Seeking to address the safety worries often attendant on hydrogen, which is very flammable and potentially a serious explosion risk in enclosed garages, he added: "Over 50,000 vehicle fuellings have already safely taken place thanks to Air Products technology."

Normally, hydrogen is produced in industrial quantities by reforming natural gas - which involves massive CO2 emissions, making the use of hydrogen vehicles rather pointless. The idea is that in future one might make bulk hydrogen instead by cracking water electrically, a lovely clean process of itself.

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