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Shell, BP, TotalEnergies take steps on greener service stations

29 October 2021 Cristina Brooks

Three oil majors have separately signed deals that could see them greening their existing networks of service stations in Europe and the US by offering electric vehicle (EV) charging, hydrogen fuel, or both.

The agreements track policy developments. In a decidedly pro-EV and hydrogen policy move, the EU last month expanded financing arrangements and also started to tender for EV charging point construction under the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Facility. A fast-charging station will be built every 60 kilometers along highways, and a hydrogen filling station for heavy transportation will be built every 150 kilometers.

Currently, the EU offers five fast public chargers every 100 kilometers, according to Finland-based EV charging platform Virta.

The new program will allocate $1.73 billion (€1.5 billion) per year to build EV charging, LNG bunkering, and other alternative fuel infrastructure on trans-European road and rail networks.

In the US, Tesla is building a fast-charging network, and President Joe Biden has pledged that the federal government will set up 500,000 charging units in five years, though funding for that promise has yet to materialize in the spending bills that are being debated by the US Congress.

EV charging every 150 km in France

TotalEnergies plans to spend up to $230 million (€200 million) to install EV charging points at 200 of its service stations along highways in its home country of France by 2023.

By then, TotalEnergies also aims to offer to its French customers "a high-power charging station every 150 kilometers," including 100 stations in urban areas, it said on 28 October.

The move expands on its existing French and global EV charging offering. The company's portfolio includes installed or planned EV charging point networks in Paris (2,300), Amsterdam (22,000), London (1,700), and Singapore (1,500).

Not only will it build its own EV charging points in France, but it plans to compete in tenders held by French road operators to install even more chargers.

The company appears to be following the pattern it set elsewhere in Europe. In September, it won a Dutch state tender to equip the city of Antwerp with EV charging points, for which it will also provide renewable energy, for example from offshore wind farms.

Moving into renewable energy trading and generation is part of TotalEnergies' net-zero strategy, which aims for low-carbon electricity making up 40% of its sales mix by 2050.

Hydrogen network mulled in the UK

BP and the truck division of German automaker Daimler, which also owns the Mercedes-Benz brand, have agreed to study the feasibility of up to 25 hydrogen refueling stations across the UK by 2030, according to a 27 October statement.

BP would build, operate, and supply the stations fueled with green hydrogen, while Daimler would supply hydrogen-fuel cell trucks to its UK customers starting in 2025.

"Hydrogen is critical to decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors—and for heavy and long-distance freight it is sometimes the only answer," said Emma Delaney, BP's executive vice president for customers and products.

BP pledged to grow its hydrogen business to a 10% share of core markets in its 2020 energy transition plan.

EV, hydrogen "opportunities" in the US

Shell Oil Products US' retail subsidiary plans to acquire 248 Timewise-brand convenience store and fueling station sites in Texas from Landmark, it said in a 26 October statement.

The acquisition will also allow Shell to grow its store sales and retail footprint in the US, where its wholesalers, dealers, and joint venture partners operate over 13,000 Shell-branded sites.

Shell said the deal would allow it to offer customers more EV charging, hydrogen, biofuels, and lower-carbon premium fuels, but it would do so "in step with society" per its Powering Progress strategy.

Under the strategy, Shell said it would invest between $1 and $2 billion every year in low-carbon energy such as charging for EVs, hydrogen, biofuels, and electricity generated by wind and solar power, depending on demand.

Shell, which has come under legal pressure to cut carbon emissions in its home country, just this week added an absolute emissions target to its existing goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, covering its operations and the emissions from energy products it sells.

At the same time, the company fended off investor suggestions that it should spin-off its renewable activity. Eni appears to be starting a trend for oil majors with this month's announcement that it would sell its joined-up retail and renewable business.

Posted 29 October 2021 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate and Sustainability


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