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Groundbreaking held for the world’s largest methanol fuel cell factory

In Denmark, methanol fuel cell technology developer Blue World Technologies ApS has held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Port of Aalborg for what is being hailed as the world’s largest methanol fuel cell factory. The plant will cover 5 285 m2 and will have an annual production capacity of 750 MW, equivalent to 50 000 fuel methanol cell units.

On September 17, 2019, Danish methanol fuel cell developer Blue World Technologies held a groundbreaking ceremony for what is being hailed as the world’s largest methanol fuel cell factory at the Port of Aalborg. The factory covers 5 285 m2 and will have an annual production capacity of 750 MW, equivalent to 50 000 fuel methanol cell units.

Held in the Port of Aalborg on September 17, 2019, the Blue World Technologies groundbreaking is an important milestone for the Danish startup in realising its vision – to be the leading supplier of methanol fuel cells and eventually to retire the internal combustion engine (ICE).

This is an important day, not only for us but for the world. When we started Blue World Technologies, it was with an aim to make a difference in the world. We wanted to take the fuel cell technology – that we have been working on for the past two decades – from development stage to large-scale commercial production. With the groundbreaking we are now one step closer to supplying a solid green alternative to the combustion engine, said Dr Anders Korsgaard, CEO of Blue World Technologies in his address at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Rapid development

Since Blue World Technologies was founded in October 2018, the company has grown from a team consisting of the three founders to a team of 37 people, with new staff joining each month. When reaching full production in 2023-24, it is expected that the team will have grown to more than 500 people.

In early spring 2019, the company closed a successful seed-round investment, and currently, it is in the process of the next investment round which is expected to close within the next couple of months.

“The story of Blue World Technologies is a story of innovation and sustainability. Our planet hungers for new and more environmentally friendly solutions to stop climate change – solutions based on smart thinking and tomorrow’s technology. Blue World Technologies is part of the answer. As Mayor, I am very excited about the project. Blue World Technologies will not only strengthen Aalborg’s position within green energy but also support our goal to become Denmark’s Green Test Center”, remarked Thomas Kastrup-Larsen, Mayor of Aalborg, at the well attended groundbreaking ceremony.

The construction of the new production facilities is expected to be finished by the end of Q1 2020, after which the installation of the highly automated production equipment will begin.

The production is planned to start in the late summer of 2020 and from then ramp-up to reach full production capacity in 2023-24. The production will primarily focus on the key fuel cell components such as bipolar plates, membranes, and electrodes.

Blue World Technologies methanol fuel platform. The production plant in the Port of Aalborg will primarily focus on the key fuel cell components such as bipolar plates, membranes, and electrodes.

A greener powertrain for the automotive industry

Worldwide, there is a strong focus on finding green alternatives to fossil-fuelled combustion engines in the transportation sector. According to Blue World Technologies, the methanol fuel cell technology provides that alternative.

As a hybrid-setup in combination with a small battery pack, the methanol fuel cell acts as a range extender delivering long-range, fast refuelling with liquid fuel as well as addressing the worldwide problems with air pollution.

Using methanol as fuel provides the opportunity to reuse the already existing fuelling infrastructure, and when using green methanol produced from renewable electricity and feedstock sources – such as biogas, biomass, and municipal waste – the fuel will be carbon dioxide (CO2) neutral from a well-to-wheel perspective.

“There is a great demand for new technologies for the automotive industry and we see that all the global car manufacturers are making a switch in focus towards electric vehicles. At the same time, there are some significant shortcomings in the technologies available on the market when it comes to range, refuelling time and cost-effectiveness. This is the gap we want to fill with the methanol fuel cell technology,” explained Mads Friis Jensen, CCO at Blue World Technologies.

With decades of accumulated experience in the industry, the focus for the company is on an advanced technology portfolio ranging from core materials to stack and reformer design and the final reformed methanol fuel cell system.

By covering the entire value chain to enable optimized performance and cost-effectiveness of components and systems, seamless scale-up of production and product delivery can be ensured.

Targeting the Chinese market

The company is working closely together with R&D departments at OEMs within the automotive industry, and the first cars are expected to hit the roads for tests during the first half of 2020.

Earlier this year, AIWAYS entered as a shareholder in Blue World Technologies as a strategic decision to accommodate the overall goal of the company of creating the next generation of sustainable vehicles.

Present at the event, the AIWAYS U5 SUV is one of the platforms that Blue World Technologies – in close collaboration with AIWAYS – is working on integrating the methanol fuel cell technology for.

As China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, Blue World Technologies has from the very beginning had a strong focus on the Chinese market both regarding investors, production equipment and potential customers.

To build the right relations in China, the company has benefited from the strong bridging between China and Denmark that the City of Aalborg – especially through the Chinese-Nordic Innovation Center – has established over the past years.

“In establishing close business collaboration with Chinese companies, being from Aalborg has opened some doors for us. In general Aalborg is highly recognised in China as a city of innovation and green technologies, and we are grateful for the support that we have received from the Municipality of Aalborg in order to create a solid foundation for business relations to some of the leading industry players in China”, said Dr Anders Korsgaard, CEO at Blue World Technologies.

About Chinese-Nordic Innovation Center

The Chinese-Nordic Innovation Center (CNIC) has offices both in Shanghai and in Aalborg. Its main purpose is to assist companies and universities in building stronger relations, business opportunities and sharing knowledge across borders. CNIC is the result of a cooperation agreement between the City of Aalborg and the Chinese organisation National Tech-Transfer Center (NETC). Thousands of companies, universities and public institutions are a part of NETC which has been founded by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and Shanghai Municipal People’s Government. As such, the total turnover of the NETC companies exceeds DKK 3 000 billion.

In the autumn of 2018, Aalborg was selected as the organisation’s 9th innovation center in the entire world putting Aalborg at par with cities like Amsterdam, Boston, Singapore, and Toronto. Aalborg is the Chinese gateway to the Nordic Countries and vice versa when it comes to promoting tech transfer and building stronger relations. As such, CNIC has assisted Blue World Technologies in establishing contacts and building relations in China which is part of the foundation of the methanol fuel cell factory that will be built in Aalborg.

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