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Hydrogen and the opportunities that it represents for business today


22.06.2021 Written by: Editorial Dept

Hydrogen as an energy vector is already a protagonist in its own right within all of the energy transition plans that governments and institutions throughout Europe and the world are promoting. And it is already a very interesting alternative, with many opportunities for companies and for society in general.

The trajectory of hydrogen during recent years

International and national strategies were put in place at the beginning of the 21st century to develop hydrogen technology in Europe. And through 2015 mainly commercial products were developed around the fuel cell, including some domestic applications.

The root of its definitive impulse is in the 2015 Treaty of Paris, which called for zero CO2 emissions in order to reduce global warming by 25%. This request to the states materialised in the Green Deal of the European Union, based on:

  • Energy efficiency.
  • Renewable energy.
  • Circular economics and industrial competitivity.
  • Clean, safe and connected mobility.
  • Bioeconomy
  • CO2 capture and storage

Hydrogen has been seen as potentially capable of solving the great challenges posed by the great energy transition, and is once again noted in the headlines and capturing interest around the world.

Energy efficiency Industry competitiveness and circular economy Clean, safe and connected mobility Bioeconomy Capture and storage of CO2 Renewable energy

Advantages of hydrogen as an element:

  • It is the universe's most abundant element.
  • It can be produced without a carbon footprint.
  • It can be transported.
  • It can be stored for long periods of time.
  • It can make CO2 valuable
  • It has an energy density with is extremely high.
  • It can be utilised to generate electricity and/or heat.
  • It can be utilised as a raw material, as fuel or as an energy vector.

Fundamental questions about hydrogen as an energy vector:

  • Hydrogen is a gas which is colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-toxic.
  • It is a very reactive element and is not usually found free in nature, so it always has to be separated in order to use it, which requires a large amount of energy.
  • It is a great reducer, which makes it very useful in many applications.
  • The amount of energy that it contains is very high in comparison to its weight (3 times more than gasoline), and its volume is very low. That is why it is necessary to pressurise it to 200, 300 and up to 700 times atmospheric pressure, or to liquefy it.
  • It liquefies at -253 ° C under atmospheric pressure. This being an expensive process.
  • Its density is 0.07 as compared to that of air: it escapes upwards very easily, which is negative in terms of storage, but very positive from a safety point of view.
  • Reacts with steel and other metals: making it brittle, a fact which is unfortunate with respect to its transport and pipelining.
  • It is highly flammable, but has a lower heat dispersal capacity than a hydrocarbon (less dangerous fire). Furthermore, it only explodes at concentrations above 18% (while just over 1% is enough for gasoline). And its auto-ignition temperature is more than 500ºC (that of diesel being approximately 200ºC).

Primary types of hydrogen and how they are produced:

Grey Hydrogen:

This is 95% of current production It is obtained from fossil fuels (from methane or coal). It has a significant CO2 impact. Very competitive: its cost being between €1 and €2 per kilogram.

Blue Hydrogen:

It is produced from fossil fuels (natural gas in particular) but in a manner which captures the resulting CO2. Its CO2 footprint is very limited

Green Hydrogen:

No carbon footprint. Obtained from water, by electrolysis, thanks to electricity obtained from renewable sources (solar and wind). Its weight is currently minimal (less than 1% of that currently produced). Its cost is approximately €7/kg, but it is expected that by 2030 it will be approximately €2/kg.

Key factors for the use of hydrogen for industrial consumption:

  • Ninety-nine percent of hydrogen produced specifically for industrial consumption is reformed from natural gas.
  • Today's industrial consumption of hydrogen must operate continuously without interruption. Any interruption in its supply would paralyse industrial plants (refineries, ammonia production...), which require a predictable supply.
  • The operation of the natural gas reforming plants runs 44,000 hours continuously, scheduled shutdowns are only carried out every 5 years.
  • Industrial certainty for all processes is built upon the stability of supply.
It permits the decarbonisation of end energy consumption in many of the main sectors that emit GHGs. In connects renewable primary energy to the end consumer for efficient distribution and storage. It is used as a renewable commodity. Decarbonise industrial thermal energy usage Promote the decarbonisation of heating and energy in buildings Decarbonise transport Act as a barrier to increase the resilience of the system Distribute energy across sectors and regions Facilitate the large-scale integration of renewable energies and energy generation 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Facilitate the implementation of a renewable energy system Decarbonise end uses Competitiveness

Information obtained through the hydrogen cycle, organised by Adegi. Webinar participants and speakers:

Samuel Perez Ramirez

Iberdrola Innovation, Sustainability and Quality division.

Javier Rodriguez

Managing director of Cidetec Energy Storage.

Arturo Fernández Goyenechea

Innovation manager at Petronor.

Imanol Iturrioz

Head of R&D at the CAF Group.

Javier Brey Sánchez

Chairman of the Spanish Hydrogen Association and H2B2 founder and CEO.

Fernando Espiga

Head of Energy Transition at Tecnalia.

Raquel Azcárraga

Head of Sustainability at Bankinter.

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