Hydrogen revolution: how PKN Orlen plans to transform road transport in Central Eastern Europe

2022/02/08 at 12:43 PM

Road transport will be revolutionised in Central Eastern Europe by 2030. To this end, PKN Orlen, the Polish leading oil refinery group, will intensively invest in producing and distributing hydrogen as a new type of fuel for the sector. What has the company scheduled to do and in what countries of the region?

Orlen petrol station in Poland, source: PKN Orlen

Despite being the largest oil refinery in Poland and Central Eastern Europe, PKN Orlen is gradually shifting towards new types of fuel. The creation of a series of sustainable businesses will be one of the company’s key focuses for the coming years. “We need to maximise profits and dynamically grow our new business lines to drive our transformation into a multi-utility group. This is the only way we can effectively respond to the challenges facing the fuel and energy sector,” says Daniel Obajtek, CEO of PKN ORLEN.

Therefore, the Polish refinery group is regarding hydrogen as a crucial element of the energy transition. It also intends to invest 7.4 billion zloty (over 1.6 billion euros) in developing hydrogen-related businesses. According to the company’s hydrogen strategy, this fuel was chosen due to the following factors: it does not emit CO2; it is ubiquitous; it has a high energy density; it can be stored in the form of derivative products.

Vision for production and use of hydrogen at PKN Orlen, source: PKN Orlen

Hydrogen hubs

To implement its hydrogen strategy, PKN Orlen will establish 10 hydrogen hubs in Poland and Czechia that will use renewable energy sources and municipal waste conversion. The first hub was launched in Trzebinia, Lesser Poland, in 2021. In mid-2023, the second production facility will be put into operation in Włocławek, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship. The company’s hydrogen hubs will produce around 60,000 tonnes of low- and zero-carbon hydrogen per year. By 2030, PKN Orlen is planning to install approximately 0.5 gigawatts of new hydrogen production capacity by using renewable energy sources.

Hydrogen refuelling stations

Another company’s goal is to establish a network of hydrogen refuelling stations in Central Eastern Europe. Earlier, the Polish refinery group announced plans for launching 102 points of this type. Now, the figure is a little bit higher. Orlen’s hydrogen strategy indicates 111 hydrogen refuelling stations to be installed in Poland, Czechia and Slovakia. Currently, the group operates only two hydrogen refuelling stations in Germany. Four more points will be built this year: three in Czechia and one in Kraków, Poland. The network will increase up to 30 by 2025 and up to 111 by 2030. The largest number of hydrogen stations, 57, will be launched in Poland, while 28 and 26 facilities will be put into service in Czechia and Slovakia correspondingly.

Orlen petrol tanker, source: PKN Orlen

The planned hydrogen stations are being developed for refuelling private cars, heavy goods vehicles and buses. According to PKN Orlen, refuelling a car at 700 bar will take five minutes, with about 5 kilogrammes of fuel offering a range of up to 700 kilometres. Furthermore, the group is establishing cooperation with 17 municipalities and four public transport companies in Poland to refuel urban public transport and trains in the future. “The implementation of our hydrogen strategy will position us as a partner of choice in building a hydrogen economy in Central and Eastern Europe,” adds Daniel Obajtek.

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