Jean-Marie Basset, Distinguished professor at KAUST, Member of the Academy of Sciences and Member of the Academy of Technologies
Paul Lucchese, Energy and Hydrogen Systems Expert in a French organization of research, President of the Hydrogen Cooperation Program at the International Energy (IEA Hydrogen TCP)
Gérard Mignani, former director of research and senior executive of Solvay, Founder and Director Company dedicated to International Open Innovation
|The efforts to fight against global warming must be considerably amplified in this decade of last chance if we are to avoid the dramatic consequences of an excessively high rise in average temperature. To face it, and also to support the economic growth that is essential and desirable for an increasingly numerous humanity, we must combine the implementation of a few key technologies such as the development of renewables, the capture and storage of CO2, nuclear power, the growing electrification of the economy, hydrogen, the circular economy in general, and that of carbon and biomass in particular, as well as energy efficiency. At the same time, R&D and innovation efforts must be stepped up because certain solutions that are necessary and to be deployed in the coming decades are still at the laboratory stage.
Regarding hydrogen, its significant contribution to the decarbonization of society will lead to a massive demand for clean hydrogen, well beyond the amount currently produced. This is why we are pleading for a rapid deployment of carbon-free hydrogen at the global level, by implementing all forms of production of carbon-free hydrogen (“rainbow” hydrogen strategy), declined according to the specificities of the local context. Due to the heterogeneity of the distribution of natural resources and energies on earth, a significant part of this hydrogen and its derivatives will be the object of international trade, leading to a change of geostrategic paradigm and a new distribution of wealth.
France has launched an ambitious program for the development and deployment of hydrogen technologies over the next decade, rightly prioritizing industrial applications and mobility, and supporting the creation of a French industrial sector, which creates jobs. It must now ask itself the question of the source of energy that produces hydrogen by relying on its strengths such as nuclear power, by developing a vision and progressive strategy over 50 years for the production of hydrogen, by not excluding any technological or geostrategic track.
- Hydrogen, a key element of the energy transition
- Hydrogen: how to move towards a completely carbon-free energy vector?
- Key Parameter: the cost of hydrogen
- Why a ‘rainbow hydrogen’ strategy is needed quickly at the global level
- Maturity of the different technologies and the need to invest heavily in R&D and innovation.
- Let’s use the colors of the Arc en Ciel for France
- Hydrogen is no more and no less dangerous than other fuels
- Conclusions and perspectives
Hydrogen, a key element of the energy transition
The fight against climate change presupposes achieving carbon neutrality for the planet in 2050 or 2070 depending on the objectives put forward. On the other hand, the world population will grow further to reach 10 billion inhabitants by the middle of this century, and the standard of living per capita must increase globally in order to decrease the number of people below the threshold. Poverty, make up for gender gaps and other inequalities and provide a larger fraction of the world’s population with a middle-class standard of living, to continue what has already been achieved over the past 30 years. To achieve these goals, global GDP will need to be multiplied by a factor of around 2.5 by 2050.
To achieve these objectives while no longer emitting greenhouse gases, the different scenarios show that it is possible and that different levers must be combined, where fossil fuels will be almost absent at the end of the transition process. :
– Decrease energy intensity per unit of GDP; it is about accelerating the trend already observed for a long time, by progressing in energy efficiency, by taking advantage of digitization, by optimizing uses, mobility and processes. We can therefore hope to stabilize world energy consumption despite the growth in GDP.
– Develop very massive carbon-free sources: renewable and nuclear. The potential of renewables (biofuels, solar bioenergy, wind power, hydropower, etc.) on earth is of the order of a few orders of magnitude above the needs of humanity and renewable energies could provide more than 2/3 of consumption energy after mid-century.
– Rapidly and massively develop the storage and capture of CO2 (CCS), as well as the capture of CO2 in the atmosphere (DAC) which is not yet mature but which should play a role in reducing the stock of CO2 in the ‘atmosphere. Therefore, in conjunction with the carbon of biomass, develop the circular carbon economy (CCE).
– Develop the circular economy and innovation in materials in order to reduce the need for materials, noble, rare or more common.
– Increase the electrification of the economy and increase the share of electricity from 20% currently to 35-40% in 2050 (processes, electric cars, etc.) and develop smart grids
– Massively develop the production of carbon-free hydrogen for the 4 major families of hydrogen uses: mobility (land, sea, even aeronautics), industry, gas networks and urban uses, storage and ” optimization of intermittent renewable energies in smart grids
Each of its technology families will play a significant quantitative role in relation to the total effort, which can be estimated between 5 and 20% each. Given the magnitude of energy consumption, this means a considerable change of scale for each of the technologies mentioned.
Hydrogen is one of the latest technologies recognized as having a major role. The IEA report, “The future of Hydrogen,” delivered at the G20 summit in June 2019 in Japan, enshrines its role. Many governments in Asia, mainly Europe are now devoting significant sums to it through national strategies and action plans aimed at starting the sector and its applications in this decade. Thus the French plan announced in September, with 7 billion by 2030, aims to create an industrial component manufacturing sector, to deploy electrolysis plants and also to develop uses, mainly industrial and heavy mobility. This plan is part of a particularly ambitious European Union hydrogen strategy.
Hydrogen is currently widely used in the industrial world, particularly in the refining and chemical industry (ammonia, methanol, but its production is carried out from fossil fuels and emits a lot of CO2, 2 to 3 % of total emissions One of the main processes is the reforming of natural gas, which emits around 10 tons of CO2 per ton of hydrogen produced.
We will then focus on this question of hydrogen production and transport, the challenge is considerable, since it involves increasing the production of decarbonized hydrogen from a very low level currently to several hundreds of millions of tons within 50 years. We will have to move fast enough in terms of ramping up because the race against time against climate change has already started and is firing on all cylinders, that is to say, imagine a strategy of articulation of all possible avenues.
Hydrogen: how to move towards a completely carbon-free energy vector?
If hydrogen is to play the important role promised to it by 2050-2070, it will therefore have to be carbon-free. How? ‘Or’ What?
For the sake of clarity, we will introduce a palette of colors to distinguish and characterize the origin of the hydrogen produced. This range of colors, often used in publications, does not in any way correspond to an official or standardized name. But work is underway to characterize the hydrogen produced (European Certifhy project which distinguishes green hydrogen from low carbon hydrogen), or at the national level to characterize the hydrogen from its production to its use (taking into account the emissions during transport for example)
“Grey” or “black” hydrogen manufactured industrially from fossil fuels such as coal, lignite or even natural gas. Today, 95% of the hydrogen produced on a global scale is Grey. The color of the hydrogen becomes blue, if, according to the above process, the CO2 is captured in a sustainable manner. It seems industrially opportune to be able to use this CO2 as raw materials essential for our industries such as methanol, dimethyl ether or formic acid. But the essential condition for this use of CO2 is to integrate it into a circular carbon economy in order to ensure that CO2 is neutral with regard to the climate. This means that the CO2 can come from biomass for example, or be captured directly in the air (DAC, Direct Air Capture). In any case, these chains must be validated by rigorous analyzes of the life cycle, from “well to grave” or “well to wheel”, including in particular the phases of storage, transport and distribution of hydrogen. We can cite “turquoise” hydrogen obtained by cracking methane into Hydrogen and Carbon, easier to store than CO2, and with potential commercial outlets
Green hydrogen is produced 100% from renewable energies, without CO2 emissions, either from renewable electricity (electrolysis), or from biomass (pyrolysis, fermentation, biology, etc.) or still processes that are not mature today (high temperature solar, photo electrochemistry, etc.).
“Fatal” hydrogen is hydrogen obtained as a by-product in a chemical process, the main component of which is another (e.g. obtaining chlorine, which produces hydrogen).
Finally, to finish with terminology, we can also cite “yellow” hydrogen produced from electricity of nuclear origin, or even heat of nuclear origin, and which is perfectly carbon-free.
With the exception of “grey” or “black” hydrogen, all other types of hydrogen can be considered to be carbon-free.
Key Parameter: the cost of hydrogen, served to the customer according to production technologies, location and transport conditions.
This is probably the deciding factor when society is faced with this energy and environmental choice.
The cost of producing hydrogen from natural gas, by steam reforming, is relatively well known, around € 1 / kg to € 3 / kg depending on the size of the industrial unit and the cost of methane. But the current calculations do not take into account the taxes on the CO2 emitted which will rise sharply in the coming years if we want to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, knowing that a tax of 100 € per ton of CO2 is equivalent to 1 € additional per Kg of hydrogen produced by reforming natural gas.
As for the electrolysis of water, the cost of hydrogen depends mainly on three factors: the cost of electricity, the load factor of the electrolyser, and the depreciation of the Capex (investment) and the OPEX (running cost). It will vary from country to country, and is highly dependent on the cost of electricity, but will not currently drop below 4-5 € / Kg. But here too, the types of electrolysers will vary the cost between 8 and 12 € / kg currently (expensive electrolyser and low load factor). These estimates do not take into account the surplus production of electricity in some countries, or from nuclear in some other countries, photovoltaic or wind at very low costs in some countries.
It should be noted that the outlook for the cost of electrolysers will fall sharply with the massification of demand, itself encouraged by national support programs. The construction of “gigafactories” of electrolysers is planned in many countries, especially in Europe (factories capable of producing 1GW of electrolysers per year). The productions will be financially supported by the various national plans, mainly alkaline and PEM technologies. We can estimate that by 2040-2050 we could reach 250 € / kW for these two types of electrolysers.
The costs of transporting and distributing hydrogen depend on the technology used, the flow transported and the distances. A distinction must be made between final distribution, short / medium distance transport and long distance or maritime transport:
– The cost of distribution can be significant for mobility applications where we need a dispersed network of charging stations, and where we need recompression before distribution; in the long term, this cost may tend towards 1 € / Kg H2 as an order of magnitude
– The cost of short and medium distance transport (up to 100km) will use, depending on the flow rates transported, trucks with gaseous or cryogenic hydrogen, or pipelines for high flows at low hydrogen pressure in the pipes -lines, this cost can reach an additional 1 € / Kg for 500-1000km for example. When pressurized the cost increases by about 30%, and if it is liquefied the cost is about double. But in liquid form, hydrogen is cheaper to transport. Depending on the situation, this cost may be between 0.5 and 2 € / kg.
– Finally, the case of very long-distance transport, often maritime, for exporting countries to importing countries. We will often go through a densified form of hydrogen: ships transporting cryogenic hydrogen (-253 ° C) like LNG carriers, passing through a hydrogenated liquid route (ammonia, methanol, LOHC, Silanes, etc.) where there will be a hydrogenation step in the exporting countries, followed by a dehydrogenation phase on arrival in the importing country or sometimes direct use of the hydrogenated product. These two steps add an energy expenditure and therefore an additional cost. However, the first studies show a final additional cost compared to the gross production price of 40 to 80% (from 1 to 2 € / Kg).
The IEA has positioned the different hydrogen production costs and it should be noted that the cost of “blue” hydrogen is still lower than that from renewables, the cost of CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration) has a low impact. The price of hydrogen (equivalent to a price per ton of CO2 between $ 50 and $ 100 / ton) (See Figure 4.)
Figure 4. Cost of hydrogen production (2018) (IEA, The future of Hydrogen, 2019)
Why a ‘rainbow hydrogen’ strategy is needed quickly at the global level
What order of magnitude are we talking about?
We must therefore move from almost zero production of carbon-free hydrogen to production of several hundred million tons in 2050-2070 at the global level (If we assume that global energy consumption will remain in 2050 at the 2020 level, i.e. around, 15,000 Mtoe, and that hydrogen takes a 10% share, this corresponds to around 450 Mt H2) and this as quickly as possible in order to have an impact on the climate and avoid a too much warming. A significant part of this production will come from electrolysis, thus inducing significant needs in additional electricity. We already know that it will be necessary to multiply the production capacities in PV and wind power, probably by a factor of at least 50 by 2050 to reach several tens of Tera Watt of installed power (currently the installed park by combining wind and PV is 1300 GW or 1.3 TW). These capacities, added to that of nuclear, will be intended to supply the growing demand for electricity in the world due to the electrification of uses; we could thus go from a share of approximately 20% of electricity in final energy consumption to a share of 40% in 2050. The part produced by electrolysis of the necessary hydrogen, even if it will use excess energy at times, will need additional electricity production capacity that we estimate at an additional 20 to 30%, or 10 to 15 TW. These figures are extremely important globally, not only on the hydrogen part and raise other questions, in particular on the availability of certain materials such as copper for example, which we will not deal with here. It should be noted here that a very interesting advantage of nuclear power is to consume with energy supplied equal to 10 times less concrete, between 10 and 50 times less steel, very little copper, no aluminum, much less critical materials and occupying a surface area 100 times less than PV.
In terms of intermediate objectives, the IEA sets a production target of 40 million tons by 2030, therefore a very rapid ramp-up
How to achieve this rise in power and achieve such figures?
The “Rainbow” strategy and its articulation
It will probably take between 30 and 50 years for us to be able to switch industrially from black and grey hydrogen to hydrogen of purely renewable origin. The intermediate colors of hydrogen, blue, turquoise and yellow, all correspond to carbon-free hydrogen and will be indispensable during the few decades of the transition phase. Because the climate does not wait and we must implement all means of producing carbon-free hydrogen as quickly as possible and at acceptable costs. This is the meaning of a “rainbow” hydrogen strategy, excluding black and grey of course. This reasoning, valid on a global scale, can be adapted according to the specificities of each country or economic zone. We will examine the case of France a little further on.
The articulation of the rise in hydrogen production between its three temporal and geographical dimensions and the origin of the sources of primary energy is essential to combine rapid deployment, essential for the climate and respect for the environment. Paris Agreement, and the underlying industrial dimension, of which the massification of production is a considerable challenge but also a source of economic value creation.
One of the prerequisites will be to define at international and European level the different categories of hydrogen in a strict, traceable and controllable manner, not excluding any carbon-free source. This will make it possible to set up national policies to support the development of carbon-free hydrogen which will take into account the specificities of each country. But it will also make it possible to set up a framework to initiate international trade in hydrogen and derivatives.
Another fundamental parameter which will govern the hydrogen “mix” will also be the propensity of the population and of society to accept the mobilization of large areas dedicated to the production of hydrogen, and the considerable quantities of materials required when it comes to renewable energies, or the acceptance of CCS technologies, or finally the acceptance of nuclear technologies and nuclear waste management.
The following three phases must be considered:
1 / Temporal: the rise in the production of hydrogen by primary energies will be slow: For example, any new process, whether chemical, biochemical, photochemical, electrochemical, etc. requires a minimum of 10 years between laboratory discovery and its start of industrialization with significant and progressive research, scale-up and industrialization costs. The ramp-up itself is always long, it usually takes 20 years to achieve a 1% market share (example of photovoltaic) then another 10 years to increase to 20-30%. As climate change cannot wait 30 years, it is therefore necessary to rapidly articulate a strategy that will make it possible to supply hydrogen without GHG emissions:
– In the short term (0-10 years): the capture and storage of CO2 can be implemented fairly quickly in existing hydrogen plants by reforming natural gas, where the conditions are met, i.e. – mainly mean an industrial capacity to capture and transport CO2, and underground fields capable of storing large quantities of CO2. There are only a few areas in the world where these conditions are met (H2 blue), start production from renewable energies (H2 green), use existing nuclear power on the grid (H2 yellow)
– In the medium term (10-30 years) ramp-up of electrolysis from renewable energies (green H2), continuation of electrolysis from nuclear power but with the appearance of new reactor models (yellow H2), transition to end of blue H2, and appearance of turquoise H2
– In the long term (renewable energies (green H2 with the appearance of new processes (biological, bio-inspired, etc.)), supplemented by nuclear fusion or new generation fission, H2 yellow).
2 / Geographic: countries have specificities with regard to the carbon-free energy challenge. France, like China and Russia, has a nuclear fleet in good working order and very substantial, which will be able to provide electrical energy very suitable for the electrochemical manufacture of hydrogen. All of Northern Europe, Russia and the United States are particularly suited conceptually and industrially to Carbon Sequestration (CCS) from natural gas to export “blue” or “turquoise” hydrogen. Renewable energies, solar and wind, have seen spectacular cost reductions over the past 10 years and we can see calls for tenders on PV at 1.3 cents / kWh (recent example in Abu Dhabi or Portugal) . As for wind power, on land or offshore, countries like Morocco, Chile, Argentina, China and even the United Kingdom (very recently) and the Netherlands have already bet on this energy, which is particularly suited to their situation. Geographical. In this context of geographical specificity, solar energy can provide an additional energy contribution to the economies of the Maghreb, the Middle East, Central Africa, South America, Australia, and even the South of France. ‘Europe. In the Middle East alone, the investments of the “Solar Energy Association of the Middle East” anticipate investments by 2023 of 1000 billion dollars per year. For example, in Saudi Arabia a Sakawa solar plant producing 300 megawatt of electricity is in operation as well as a 600 megawatt solar unit project under construction is tangible proof of the willingness of oil-exporting countries to move forward. Convert very quickly to renewable energies, particularly solar, which is particularly suited to their geographic location. These geographical areas with gigantic renewable resources and at very low cost will be likely to massively produce competitive hydrogen or chemical compounds based on hydrogen (ammonia, methanol, etc.) on site, part of which can be transported to areas. Intensive consumption (Europe, Japan, Korea for example) but at a significant financial and energy cost given the difficulty of transporting an element as light as hydrogen.
New economic energy balances could then emerge. There will be a complementarity between the exporting and importing geographical areas, and therefore a difference compared to the oil economy: hydrogen will remain expensive to transport, which opens the way to sharing, a balance to be found in each country. Between hydrogen produced and consumed locally or hydrogen and hydrogenated products imported.
Thus, a new geostrategic map of energy and hydrogen could gradually be drawn, much less sensitive than that of oil because it is more dispersed and more balanced but nevertheless essential to the success of the energy transition. The figure below 5 shows the first quantified examples of export / import costs and new routes for liquid hydrogen (2030).
Figure 5. Cost of shipping liquid hydrogen across regions, 2030, USD / Kg.
(www.gjetc.org and Hydrogen Council, Pathway to Hydrogen Competitiveness, 2019)
The global distribution and quality of the main sources of hydrogen is shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Global distribution and quality of the main sources of hydrogen
(www.gjetc.org and Hydrogen Council, Pathway to Hydrogen Competitiveness, 2019)
It should be noted that international agreements have already been established between Germany and
Morocco (June 2020), between Japan and Australia, Japan and New Zealand or countries in the Persian Gulf and others still under discussion.
3 / Origin of primary energy:
- From nuclear power: for countries which could devote excess nuclear energy to the production of hydrogen (France, Russia, USA, etc.) where the marginal cost is relatively low, the fleet is amortized, taking into account the fact that unused water sources will have to be used for food, feed and agriculture. New generation innovative reactors (medium power SMRs, or even micro-reactors) could be dedicated to the production of carbon-free hydrogen in industrial ecosystems. The issue of high-temperature reactors that can provide high-temperature heat and / or electricity could be candidates to power more efficient hydrogen production processes (more efficient high-temperature electrolysis, etc.). These new reactors could be integrated into a hybrid energy ecosystem (with renewables and storage capacities for electricity, heat, etc.) where fine management of the system could make it possible to optimize the production costs of hydrogen. .
- From Renewables: if the main path chosen and supported in the next 10 years is the electrolysis of water by alkaline electrolysers or PEM, connected to electricity from renewable sources, other technologies could see the day beyond: photo electrochemistry making it possible to produce hydrogen directly from a panel exposed to solar radiation, high temperature processes using concentrated solar energy, biological pathways (microalgae etc.) , the direct or indirect fermentation routes, the bio-inspired processes, not to mention the natural hydrogen, which is formed in the geological layers and which escapes everywhere on the surface of the earth without our knowing well characterize its volumes and possible operating costs.
- From fossils: The vast majority of hydrogen currently produced (80 M tons) comes from the processing of natural gas (69%) and coal (27%) In Europe, almost all of the hydrogen comes from natural gas with a strong CO2 contribution. Under current conditions, grey hydrogen costs around 1.5 € / kg in Europe, slightly more than in the United States or China where gas and coal are cheap. The cost of CO2 capture and storage facilities is around € 1 / kg, according to the IEA. In other words, with a CO2 price of around € 100 / ton, it would become profitable to systematize these installations by switching from grey hydrogen to blue hydrogen. This leads to potential gains in CO2 emissions of around 750 Mt (2% of global CO2 emissions). Currently, the cost per kg of green hydrogen is in the range of € 3 to 6 / kg, or two to four times that of grey hydrogen. The cracking of methane producing turquoise hydrogen is also a serious avenue for the medium term.
Maturity of the different technologies and the need to invest heavily in R&D and innovation
The first generation of hydrogen technologies are technically mature to move to the early adoption and market stage with public support to close the gap with market prices. Nevertheless, the IEA underlines in its latest ETP 2020 that by 2050 we will also need technologies which are only at the demonstration stage, prototypes or even at the laboratory level. In particular, half of the CO2 reduction target will be covered by technologies which are only at the technical demonstration or prototype stage. It is important to be able to position the different hydrogen access technologies of different colors. This strategic rainbow approach is essential to set up a range of relevant and efficient industrial technologies with a different timetable depending on the technologies used and in line with economic realism and scientific and industrial advances.
It is therefore essential to strongly develop R&D on hydrogen to accelerate its deployment, reduce the cost of technologies and their energy efficiency, and include them in a circular economy.
The case of high-temperature electrolysis, which consumes less electricity, is an example of a technology to be put on the market before 2030. Even more promising areas for hydrogen production are biological or bio-pathways. Inspired (see box), where France has a leading R&D fabric. Research on materials, catalysis, improvement of hydrogenation processes or the release of hydrogen in molecules such as ammonia, methanol, “liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC)” etc. is of prime importance.
Major advances have been made through the use of photo catalysis associated with electrolysis. This innovation process is essential to reduce the cost of production and offer technologies
Let’s use the colors of the Rainbow for France
France has initiated an ambitious plan both to support the deployment of hydrogen technologies in two main directions by 2030: industry and heavy mobility, but also to support the creation of a French equipment sector: electrolysers, fuel cell, tanks, etc. This “hydrogen” strategy should lead to the creation of direct and indirect jobs in the long term. Mc Kinsey estimates that around 40,000 jobs will be created in 2030 and 150,000 jobs in 2050. We can cite the very interesting and essential initiatives of the SNCF on the rapid development of the “Hydrogen Train” which should allow a strong decarbonisation of our network. Railway. The French Hydrogen Plan takes into account the need to also support R&D and create training centers of excellence linked to hydrogen technologies. Finally, it also promotes the emergence of ecosystems where applications can be concentrated and where many synergies can be developed between them in order to achieve sustainable economic models more quickly.
However, if we can clearly see the appearance of a multiplication of production sites in the territories, which is quite relevant for some of the applications but for quantities that are still modest in view of the final objectives, it is perhaps missing a consideration of ” a real strategy of production deployment for large quantities and a more strategic reflection on the long-term policy to be implemented in order to have a significant effect on CO2 emissions. It should be noted that there are initiatives, projects that show the way, such as the 1 GW PV + Hydrogen project in Manosque. But beyond that, there is no real reflection on the economic optimum for national production on the one hand and possible imports, associated with hydrogen “diplomacy”, the energy sources that France wishes to put into practice. Work, between nuclear (existing, new nuclear, when how much?), renewables (which ones, which limits, acceptance of giga projects), is there a place for the CCS, for example for the northern regions of near France of the very dynamic ecosystem of the North Sea? These are all questions that should be investigated by bringing the various ministries concerned to the table, including that of Foreign Affairs
France has a lot of assets to use:
– The fact of having a facade both towards the north of Europe but also on the Mediterranean; it could have a proactive policy towards the Maghreb countries to develop a hydrogen partnership there without giving way to our German friends alone. The port of Fos-Marseille and its industrial zone, its hinterland to Lyon, the port of Le Havre and the Seine valley to Paris are at least two complementary ecosystems of critical size that should be mobilized and boosted. To make them hydrogen hubs with a European, even global dimension.
– It will be at the heart of the future skeletons of hydrogen transport infrastructure between the Mediterranean, Maghreb, Spain, Portugal and northern Europe. Why not launch a major Hydrogen Mediterranean initiative? Next to the one under discussion between France and Germany
– Having significant offshore potential on the English Channel, the Atlantic and off the Gulf of Lion. Shouldn’t we accelerate and massify offshore wind farms?
– Having carbon-free electricity of nuclear origin. Should we not make optimal use of the existing fleet to co-produce hydrogen? And extend the lifespan of power plants that must be disconnected from the grid for this purpose precisely to ramp up more quickly before renewable energies take over? Should we not reflect on the nature of the nuclear power of the future (SMR, small reactors) adapted to the production of hydrogen in a given ecosystem?
– Having the second largest seafront in the world and overseas islands, a privileged ground for testing and developing sustainable energy systems in advance
– Leading-edge R&D which will prepare the next generations of technology, but which should be strengthened
All these assets are to be put at the service of a more global vision and above all integrating short, medium- and long-term dimensions, but also European and Mediterranean integration.
Hydrogen is no more and no less dangerous than other fuels
Like any new technology, the safety aspect of the use of hydrogen is crucial for its development and its societal acceptance. All major automobile companies have carried out standardized crash tests in all kinds of circumstances with their pilot car at hydrogen and with tanks filled under 700 bar of hydrogen by crashing them into concrete walls or in a fire. Hydrogen cars meet the latest standards of Security. For example, ENSOP, National School of Fire Brigade Officers, located in Aix have Developed procedures for responding to various accident situations involving.
Hydrogen vehicles and are training all the brigades in France. They are convinced that The risk of hydrogen when it is released to the general public is a controllable risk, at the same Title than other types of fuels. One of the reasons for the safety of hydrogen is that It is a very light gas which dilutes very quickly in the atmosphere and the explosive limits are never reached. On the other hand, the risk to be addressed as a priority is a possible leak in a confined space, risk which is the subject of developments and for which technological and regulatory solutions exist.
Conclusion and perspectives
Hydrogen will make a significant contribution to the decarbonization of society, which will induce massive, unprecedented demand for clean hydrogen, well beyond the amount currently produced. This is why we are pleading for a rapid deployment of carbon-free hydrogen at the global level, by implementing all forms of production of carbon-free hydrogen (“rainbow” hydrogen strategy), declined according to the specificities of the local context. Due to the heterogeneity of the distribution of natural resources and energies on earth, a significant part of this hydrogen and its derivatives will be the object of international trade, leading to a change of geostrategic paradigm and a new distribution of wealth.
Numerous government initiatives, associated with ambitious plans as part of the post-covid recovery plan, have been launched in recent months (France, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc.). International cooperation must be strengthened to articulate this strategy between its temporal and geographic dimensions and that of primary energy sources, while not excluding any.
France, for its part, has launched an ambitious program for the development and deployment of hydrogen technologies over the next decade, rightly prioritizing industrial applications and mobility, and supporting the creation of a French industrial sector, creating jobs. . Public support is absolutely necessary to lower costs through mass production, on the other hand to bridge the gap between market price and the cost of carbon-free hydrogen, still too expensive at least for the next decade. .
France has major advantages in R&D, innovation and the establishment of a high-performance and exporting industry. We can only welcome the initiative of the French Government which associates the industrial world with the academic world with the creation of a center of excellence for R&D and training in hydrogen technologies. We hope it will complement it with a broader and long-term vision on the production and transport of hydrogen, encompassing geopolitical and economic aspects.
The preferred route for production is electrolysis, but this will generate additional needs for carbon-free electricity after 2030, in a context where the government plans to close a third of the nuclear fleet in 2035, more than decarbonized 100TWh electricity will disappear. It must now ask itself the question of a source of hydrogen-producing energy by relying on its strengths such as existing and future nuclear power, which must be adapted to this new use, by developing a vision and progressive strategy over 50 years for the production of hydrogen, by not excluding any technological or geostrategic track, nor the question of imports and the resulting diplomacy, especially in Maghreb region. A dedicated policy on Hydrogen for Mediterranean area could or should be developed, with potential industrial and diplomatic benefits for France. This requires developing a more “holistic” view of France’s long-term energy strategy. Particular emphasis should be placed on a Hydrogen strategy for the Mediterranean from which France could draw diplomatic benefits.