Intelligent Energy, a maker of fuel cells which convert hydrogen and oxygen to electricity, last week agreed to sell itself to Meditor, an asset manager that is one of its investors, for £19.5m, warning there “could be little (or potentially no) value remaining” in its stock after an unexpected sales slowdown. Intelligent, a Loughborough university spinout, had put itself up for sale in September after warning that revenues had crashed by three-quarters and it might run out of cash. Shares more than halved, and have since fallen further. It blamed “a slower than expected development of the market”. Meanwhile, Acal Energy, which had developed a cheaper fuel cell by replacing the need for platinum, became insolvent in March. Sometimes the future does not arrive fast enough. But there are more hopeful signs for the hydro-heads elsewhere. Sheffield-based ITM Power has been quietly building a global market in hydrogen technology, making electrolysers that convert electricity to hydrogen. The gas can then be used in fuel cells to power vehicles. It is installing filling stations in the UK with Shell. While carmakers have been slower to produce hydrogen models than electric ones, bus companies and even hauliers, which return to a fixed point, are beginning to embrace it. Compared with electric motors, the range is better and refuelling – around six minutes – quicker, says Graham Cooley, chief executive of ITM. Electrolysers reduce the climate impact of making the gas. Creating a ton of hydrogen by traditional methods creates 12-16 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Using renewable electricity cuts that to zero. But the bigger prize is the decarbonisation of oil refineries and the chemical industry. They have to “crack” oil to release its useful parts, which takes huge amounts of energy and hydrogen. ITM last month agreed with Shell to install a 10MW electrolyser – the world’s biggest of its type – at a German refinery. It would need 1,000MW to produce the 180,000 tonnes of hydrogen used annually by the plant in the Rhineland.
FT 29th Oct 2017 read more »