Engie and Air Liquide join forces to develop green hydrogen

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From pv magazine France.

The communities which make up the southeastern French area of Durance-Luberon-Verdon, utility Engie and industrial gas supplier Air Liquide have committed to develop the “HyGreen Provence” green hydrogen project.

The initiative aims to generate hydrogen from solar and other renewable energy sources and store it in underground salt caverns in the region.

The project aims to generate 1.3 TWh of solar electricity annually from 900 MW of solar project capacity when it is complete, in 2027, as well as powering the hydrolysis of green hydrogen on an industrial scale.

“Engie is convinced of the importance of renewable hydrogen in providing ‘zero carbon as a service’ solutions to industrial customers and the regions,” said Gwenaëlle Avice-Huet, executive VP for renewables at the fossil fuel company.

The utility will provide expertise in the production, storage and distribution of renewable energy, including hydrogen, and Air Liquide will contribute electrolysis and low-carbon technology knowhow.

Project to fire up in 2021

The first fruits of the project are expected in late 2021 with the final development phase slated for 2027.

“Eventually, several tens of thousands of metric tons of renewable hydrogen could be produced in this way every year to meet a very broad spectrum of uses,” said Engie. The 25 municipalities and 65,000 inhabitants of the Durance-Luberon-Verdon urban area intend to use hydrogen for mobility, heating and cooling of an eco-district and “virtuous” industrial uses.

A document showcasing the HyGreen Provence project at the Hydrogen Days in the Territories event held in Marseille in July stated 120 MW of solar capacity will be installed in 2021 to generate 170 GWh of solar electricity annually, of which 10% would be used to power the electrolysis of 278 tons of hydrogen. By 2027, the PV plant would have a 900 MW generation capacity, half of which would be devoted to the production of 10,440 tons of green hydrogen.

A spokesperson for Air Liquide’s PR company explained that if a large electrolyzer is built, the project will aim to procure enough solar power from elsewhere to enable the facility to produce the ‘several tens of thousands of metric tons’ of green hydrogen referred to by Engie.

“First and foremost, HyGreen Provence is an ambitious and innovative regional project,” said Durance-Luberon-Verdon president Bernard Jeanmet-Péralta. “It will embrace all those desiring consultation and dialogue, particularly the national parks in Verdon and Luberon. We are involved in the dynamic that is the ‘Vallée des Énergies’ together with partners such as the Iter [international nuclear fusion] project, the Cadarache CEA [energy technology R&D center], [and] géomethane and hydroelectricity [energy sources] in Durance. We are thereby contributing to the energy transition in France along with leading industrialists which, through their respective expertise, bring credibility and viability to the requirement for zero carbon emissions.”

This article was amended on 19/11/19 to restore the estimate made by Air Liquide that 900 MW of solar capacity would generate 1.3 TWh of solar electricity per year and to add the explanation made by Air Liquide’s PR company of eventual electrolyzer plans.