Utajärvi aims for its own hydrogen production and one of the first refueling stations in the country – University of Oulu involved with multidisciplinary research

The municipality of Utajärvi in Northern Ostrobothnia is one of the first municipalities in Finland to aim for local production and distribution of hydrogen. It is partnering with the University of Oulu in a multidisciplinary study to investigate the production and use of hydrogen in industry and heavy transport. The cooperation will also promote the hydrogen distribution network and storage.
Hydrogen laboratory with test tube of green liquid
Photocatalysis or solar hydrogen research at the University of Oulu. University of Oulu / Janne-Pekka Manninen

The research project at the University of Oulu will study and develop technologies for local hydrogen production and use, and will produce business models for balancing the supply and demand of green hydrogen. The aim is also to explore hydrogen storage solutions and to test hydrogen as a transport fuel and the performance of hydrogen trucks in northern conditions.

The hydrogen will be produced using green electricity from a solar power plant under construction in Utajärvi. The municipality has also zoned an area for a wind farm. The research project will also investigate the technical and economic feasibility of solar hydrogen, i.e. hydrogen produced photocatalytically without electricity, as a renewable energy in the Arctic and develop solutions for hydrogen production in northern Finland based on this. The aim is to develop a prototype solar hydrogen reactor that would also have commercial potential.

The plan includes the construction of a vehicle refueling station in Utajärvi, alongside highway 22. This will involve studying the structure of the station, assessing its utilisation and performance, and calculating the quantity and cost-effectiveness of the hydrogen needed as transport fuel.

Hydrogen is a clean, cheap, and realistic energy source for transport. "Finland is lagging behind in the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel. We do not yet have any hydrogen refueling stations, which prevents, for example, the introduction of hydrogen trucks. Without getting the energy logistics right, the green transition will be cancelled," says Jouni Juntunen, Professor of Automotive Business at the University of Oulu Business School, who is in charge of the study.

According to Juntunen, the research's focus on solar hydrogen production and hydrogen storage and transport solutions that enable efficient energy production, storage and logistics is particularly important.

"In the municipality of Utajärvi, renewable energy will be produced for use in an industrial area by Skarta Oy. This will enable the local production of hydrogen and the piloting and deployment of local hydrogen storage along highway 22. The project will open new avenues for this, and as a municipality we are enthusiastically involved," says Anne Sormunen, Mayor of the municipality.

The results of the research will be used to develop carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly energy solutions and the transition towards a hydrogen economy. In practice, the results will contribute to the development of hydrogen refueling stations and networks, and the conversion of hydrogen into transport fuel.

The project is coordinated by the University of Oulu Business School and has been prepared in collaboration with the University of Oulu Kvantum Institute, the Materials and Mechanical Engineering Research Unit and the Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit. The project involves the municipality of Utajärvi, Utajärvi Business Park Ltd, Skarta Oy, Wetteri Power Oy, Pohjaset Oy and The Finnish Central Organisation for Motor Trades and Repairs.

The project will run from 1.9.2023 to 28.2.2026 and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Hydrogen future and sustainable steel

Last updated: 24.1.2024