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Iberdrola, EDF, BP plan European green hydrogen projects

29 April 2021 Cristina Brooks

Three of Europe's multinational renewable energy generators -- Iberdrola, BP, and EDF -- have drawn up plans that could put them ahead in the emerging race to produce cheap green hydrogen.

Iberdrola and up-and-coming renewable generator BP as well as German utility Uniper will seek public funding to scale their individual hydrogen production projects once related feasibility studies are complete.

The swathe of studies comes as the European Commission (EC) revises its European Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) regulation, a past source of financing for gas networks. Future funding will expand the offshore wind energy and hydrogen sectors, but will end finance for oil and gas infrastructure, the EC announced in December.

Globally, governments are expected to prioritize green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy and electrolyzers, wrote IHS Markit Director Alex Klaessig in a recent report on global hydrogen production.

Hydrogen for refinery and trucks in Spain

BP and two Spanish companies, generator Iberdrola and gas grid operator Enagás, agreed to study building a 20-MW electrolyzer -- potentially scaling up to 115 MW -- to produce green hydrogen at the El Serrallo industrial estate.

They said it could be built near BP's Castellón refinery, which can process more than 6 million mt of crude oil per year.

The refinery is already a large producer and consumer of "grey hydrogen," a product of natural gas steam reforming. The green hydrogen could be used in place of the grey hydrogen needed for refining biofuel, reducing the plant's CO2 emissions by up to 24,000 mt per year.

The electrolyzer could also produce hydrogen for other end uses, "such as supplying the heavy transport sector and contributing to the decarbonization of other energy-intensive industries in the area," said Iberdrola in a statement on 28 April.

Spain's authorities support the project, as it aligns with the Hydrogen Roadmap launched by Spain's Ministry for Ecological Transition in October, the companies said.

The project is applying for the EU's pandemic recovery stimulus funding. Iberdrola said it targeted a share of the €800 billion ($970 billion) NextGenerationEU financial recovery package, 30% of which is earmarked for green bonds.

Hydrogen production marks progress BP's path to reach net-zero in its operations by 2050 or sooner, and it already develops solar pv generation in Spain. "This is, therefore, a further step in BP strategy to transform itself into an integrated energy company, as well as in bp Spain's ambition to lead the country's energy transition, so that it can become a European center for the production and distribution of energy with a low carbon footprint," BP Chariman Spain Carlos Barrasa explained in the statement.

Nuclear powers co-operate in Russia

French multinational energy company and nuclear generator EDF Group and state-owned Russian nuclear company Rosatom announced a tie-up on hydrogen development in Russia and France, as well as worldwide, on 26 April.

Building on their joint research in the nuclear sector, the pair will cooperate on what Rosatom called "new CO2-neutral hydrogen technologies" targeting hydrogen's use as a fuel for transportation and industry.

The companies did not name the source of energy for the hydrogen, but nuclear energy is a likely candidate. Hydrogen can be produced by harnessing nuclear energy and heat to either electrolyze water or steam, or to reform natural gas, World Nuclear Association Harmony Programme Director King Lee said during a workshop for the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

This process is not zero-carbon, but it may reduce the natural gas required by 30%, he said.

Rosatom is also hoping to become a global leader in hydrogen production, transport, and consumption. The state-owned company said in te annoucement it shares Russia's vision for future exports of hydrogen.

EDF operated over 75 GW of nuclear power globally in 2017, IHS Markit's energy data profile of the company shows. That is more than the combination of its thermal and renewable capacity, of which hydropower comprises the vast majority.

Imports by ship planned for German grids, metals

The port city of Wilhelmshaven in Germany also is being positioned by German utility Uniper as a green hydrogen hub to supply producers of steel and iron, as well as hydrogen gas networks.

Uniper is studying plans for a 410-MW electrolysis plant to supply green hydrogen alongside an import terminal and cracker for hydrogen-carrier ammonia. It had originally planned an LNG terminal, but in October it found "that there is currently not enough interest in the LNG sector in terms of booking large, long-term capacities for LNG regasification in Germany."

The facilities would connect to a planned hydrogen network and scale up with national demand.

The two facilities could meet around 10% of the expected hydrogen demand of Germany in 2030 (295,000 metric tons) to boost Germany's energy security, the company announced on 14 April.

"Currently, Germany plans to generate 14 TWh of green hydrogen in 2030, but the demand for that year is forecast to be 90-100 TWh -- the discrepancy between these two figures is abundantly clear," said Chief Operating Officer of Uniper David Bryson.

"We will be heavily dependent on imports if we want to use hydrogen to help us achieve our climate goals," said Bryson.

Uniper has applied to receive state aid from Germany as part of an EU-designated Important Project of Common European Interest.

In February, Germany passed draft legislation seeking to regulate transport of hydrogen through dedicated networks separately from the natural gas networks, in anticipation of further hydrogen grid build-out, according to a memo from Berlin-based consultancy Noerr.

The move comes as over the past year the European gas networks industry group Gas for Climate has advocated for switching up to 75% of existing gas pipelines in favor of hydrogen pipelines across 11 countries in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe.

The gas-network-led body advocated for hydrogen in a recent position paper sent to the EC on revisions to the TEN-E Regulation.

Posted 29 April 2021 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate & Sustainability, IHS Markit

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