EU countries establish hydrogen goals

By Jude McLean

FH2R – the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (photo: Toshiba)
FH2R – the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (photo: Toshiba)

In line with the mid-century carbon-neutral goal, nations throughout the world are establishing hydrogen as a viable route to decarbonise stubborn industries with new, ground-breaking plans. Late last year, Norway officially teamed up with the world’s biggest economies to push the advancement of hydrogen production.

The new strategy accounts for the fact that in order to become climate-neutral by 2050, Europe and all other continents need to transform their energy systems, which is responsible for well over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Global projects
Currently, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Hydrogen Projects Database lists over 300 hydrogen production projects throughout the world, with additional projects being launched almost weekly.

At the beginning of last year, Japanese companies and centres including the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and Toshiba Energy announced the most ambitious hydrogen production projects to date, the largest-class green hydrogen production alkaline electrolyser.

Named the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), this project is currently the largest solar-energy-powered 10-MW class hydrogen production, able to supply 1,200 Nm3 of hydrogen per hour.

Canada has an even more ambitious and larger hydrogen fuel project currently in the pipeline from Air Liquide. The 20-MV proton exchange membrane (PEM) based in Becancour hopes to one day supply North American industrial and mobility markets.

Other noteworthy hydrogen projects are in progress by Shell and ITM Power. Moreover, Australian company Infinite Blue Energy has secured finance to begin their 52.2 MW Arrowsmith Hydrogen Project close to Perth, which is planned to become operational by 2022.

Norway also has big plans in hydrogen development, with last year’s announcement of the Deep Purple Project, which aims to create subsea storage of hydrogen from offshore wind.

illustration: IRENA
illustration: IRENA

Electrolysis costs continue to fall
One of the major stumbling blocks to green hydrogen production has traditionally been the high costs, but thanks to continued innovation in the sector, these costs continue to fall. The decreasing costs of renewable energy are largely responsible for this, yet cost reductions will need to fall further, especially when it concerns electrolysis facilities.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) recently released new research which highlighted some strategies to drive down hydrogen production costs.This included the need for low electricity costs paired with a well-funded electrolyser deployment timeline, as well as the standardisation of design and components, including the improved procurement of high-value resources such as iridium and platinum.

Another important area of concern highlighted by the IRENA report is the supply chain value barriers. For example, from the initial electrolysis to the transport to fuel cells, it requires a complete overhaul, to drastically improve infrastructure and storage. This would allow production centres to more effectively and affordably meet demand centres.

The future – hydrogen boilers
The UK also recently announced plans to replace all natural gas boilers with hydrogen boilers over the next decade, which will make a substantial difference to the country’s carbon emissions, with heating currently accounting for one third of total emissions. The rollout is planned to begin in Fife, Scotland from next year.

A plumber in the trade, with over 10 years of experience, Jude McLean has a keen interest in renewables, specifically hydrogen technology and the future of heating. Visit his blog at www.boilerbrain.co.uk.