German giant's goodbye to fuel cells opens for new Danish jobs

Thursday 15 Aug 13


Jens Oluf Jensen
DTU Energy
+45 45 25 23 14

The German group BASF is reducing its fuel cell research, but Danish companies and researchers are poised to take over a growing market for energy technologies.

The worldwide German group BASF is restructuring its fuel cell activities and has chosen to close their division for fuel cells, BASF Fuel Cell Inc. with its factory in Somerset, New Jersey, USA. BASF continues, however, as a subcontractor in the industry.

DTU Energy Conversion has researched in high-temperature polymer fuel cells since 1996 and coordinator of DTU's research in polymer fuel cells, Jens Oluf Jensen is surprised by BASF's decision. Among other things because BASF in a press release dated 1. August 2013 expect growth in the market for fuel cell technologies.

"Sure, it creates a little anxiety at the markets, when a great player like BASF chooses to close a factory, but it is worth noting that it is purely a business decision for BASF. Fuel cell research is a long term investment where you do not get the big return on your research immediately, and BASF has evidently chosen to focus on other more immediate profitable business areas within their diverse group," says Jens Oluf Jensen.

Fuel cells are here to stay

Jens Oluf Jensen doesn’t believe that BASF's abrupt goodbye will affect the general confidence in fuel cell technologies either in Denmark nor the rest of the world. The world is right now experiencing stagnant energy prices due to U.S. production of shale gas, but the need for energy won’t go away. There will always be a market for more CO2-friendly energy fuel technologies, especially when it becomes affordable.

"All technologies to replace coal, oil and natural gas are by definition more expensive than fossil fuels, but everyone knows that energy becomes more expensive in the future. If we don’t do research in alternatives, we’ll end up with both a huge supply problem and serious climate problems, "says the DTU-researcher and emphasizes that there is climate issues, even if a lot of countries are not following the Danish example.

The Danish Government want a Denmark free of fossil fuels by 2050 and it supports many research projects in energy-technologies via The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, The Danish Council for Strategic Research, the Innovation Foundation, EUDP and among others in order to make Denmark independent of fossil fuels. This backing has allowed Danish researchers and companies to gain valuable knowledge for years, thus gaining many patents and setting the standard for the energy industry.

More jobs for Denmark

Denmark has also acquired the reputation of being able to deliver on energy technologies, which is felt at times like this. DTU Energy Conversion has cooperated for years with the Danish company Danish Power Systems - one of only five companies worldwide, who in addition to BASF produces this type of fuel. Both DTU researcher and director Hans Aage Hjuler from Danish Power Systems sees new opportunities.

"We have received a considerable amount of new customers after the changes at BASF," says Hans Aage Hjuler and points to the good Danish reputation in energy as one of the main reasons.

"Denmark has a very good reputation, which is now for us to enjoy when new market shares are allocated. Actually it is not that bad that BASF close its factory, as it also means more Danish jobs. "

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