French-based exploration/production company Total SA, just as many of its major global competitors in the traditional energy sector are doing, is branching out to the alternative energy space as a response to climate change policies pushing to shrink the world's carbon footprint.

Total is targeting Berlin and other parts of Germany to unleash a network of hydrogen transportation fueling stations tied to grid-connected renewable energy-based electricity generation. A model for this new way to address the two major sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will open next year at Berlin's new international airport, Schoenefeld.

"Hydrogen is a good partner with wind to balance out the grid," said Werner Diwald, a board member at privately held Enertrag, a German-based wind integration company. "It is the best system to integrate mobility, electricity and teaching [consumer education] into one system."

Total's concept is to build a grid-connected energy center, starting with an 80-100 MW wind farm on about 25 acres adjacent to the new airport just southeast of Berlin. Parts of the renewable-generated power would be split among the grid, creating hydrogen through electrolysis and meeting the electricity needs of the Total fueling station cafe/store. Hydrogen in turn will be supplied for fueling vehicles at the station and in a small on-site generator and a natural gas pipeline.

A mixture of biogas produced separately at the site, hydrogen and natural gas will be compressed for use in fueling compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles; other gas will be used in the on-site generation that will send additional supplies to the grid. "We see this as the future," Diwald said, because it is a double reduction of carbon.

Longer term Total's goal is to have 1,000 hydrogen stations in place in which there will also be regular gasoline fueling, along with public fueling of CNG vehicles. Total intends to "share the risk" with partners like Enertrag, said Patrick Schnell, Berlin-based head of special projects for Total, estimating that the overall buildout by 2020 will cost about 1 billion euros. "The next step is to make a business case to have a standardization of equipment."

At two stations in Berlin and the large one at the new airport Total hopes to generate interest among the general public and governmental officials throughout Germany, Schnell said.

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