The Hydrogen Stream: Projects move forward in China, Japan, Australia and across several European countries


Chinese oil and gas giant Sinopec committed in March to accelerate investments in hydrogen, focusing on “top-level design, core technology R&D, standard system formulation and industrial policy support”. The company, which produces 3.5 million tons of hydrogen per year, has already built hydrogen refueling stations in Guangdong, Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Guangxi. The company expects the number of stations to reach 1,000 by 2025. As part of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, the Beijing-based company has enlarged its scope and included the term “clean” for the first time. It said it would promote the transformation of hydrogen sources from grey hydrogen to blue and green hydrogen. “The China Hydrogen Energy Alliance predicts that by 2050, China's annual hydrogen demand will be close to 60 million tons,” reads the press release. China has the second largest number of hydrogen refueling stations after Japan.

California-based renewable hydrogen systems manufacturer Ways2H and its shareholder Japan Blue Energy announced on Tuesday the completion of a facility in the Tokyo area that will convert daily 1 ton of dried sewage sludge into 40-50 kilograms of hydrogen for fuel cell mobility and power generation. With construction now completed, the companies plan to start ramping up operations by mid-2021. The facility was developed and built in partnership with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Toda Corporation, Tokyu Construction, Chiyoda Kenko and researchers at the Tokyo University of Science.

American hydrogen fuel cell developer Plug Power and Canada-headquartered Brookfield Renewable Partners announced on Tuesday their plans to build a green hydrogen production plant utilizing 100% renewable energy from Brookfield Renewable’s Holtwood hydroelectric facility. The plant will be located along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. “The plant is expected to be online by late 2022, with construction slated to begin in the first quarter of 2022. Once operational, the plant is projected to produce approximately 15 metric-tons of 100% emissions-free liquid hydrogen per day,” reads the press release. Plug Power plans to establish the first North American green hydrogen network and “to produce over 500 tons per day of hydrogen by 2025”.

Australia-based mining company Province Resources began collecting wind and solar data through the Fulcrum3D Sodar monitoring station to asses the wind and solar potential in an area of 1,408 square kilometres in Western Australia. The HyEnergy project could make use of local infrastructure, including the Dampier Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline (DBNGP). “It is great to be able to hit the ground running on the exciting HyEnergy green hydrogen project, I look forward to progressing the feasibility studies as quickly as possible,” managing director David France commented in a note.

UK-based aerospace company Cranfield Aerospace Solutions announced on Tuesday that two new British companies will join the government-supported Project Fresson consortium. “Ricardo UK Ltd brings expertise in fuel cell system development and Innovatus Technologies Ltd brings their innovative Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Tank (SHyFT) technology,” reads the press release. Project Fresson aims to deliver an emission-free (zero CO2), hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered flying demonstrator by September 2022. Cranfield Aerospace Solutions argues that the technology would also reduce operating costs. The consortium includes Britten Norman and Cranfield University. Rolls-Royce is still part of the consortium but is withdrawing from the group. Project Fresson is supported by ATI Programme, a joint government and industry investment to increase the UK’s competitiveness in civil aerospace design and manufacture.

Danish multinational power company Ørsted said on Wednesday it planned to build two renewable hydrogen production facilities for a total of 1 GW by 2030, connecting them directly to a planned 2 GW offshore wind farm in the Dutch North Sea. The green hydrogen would then be distributed through a 45-kilometre regional cross-border pipeline between the Netherlands and Belgium. “The major industrial companies in the region, ArcelorMittal, Yara, Dow Benelux and Zeeland Refinery, support the development of the required regional infrastructure to enable sustainably-produced steel, ammonia, ethylene, and fuels in the future,” wrote Ørsted, saying the companies are speaking with TSOs and local authorities. “Subject to a regulatory framework being in place, the regional network will unlock the first phase of SeaH2Land, which comprises 500 MW of electrolyzer capacity. The second phase of SeaH2Land, which scales the electrolyzer capacity to 1 GW, will require the possibility to connect to a national hydrogen backbone.”

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Gas infrastructure operator Enagás signed an agreement with France's Teréga and GazelEnergie and renewable hydrogen producer DH2 for a hydrogen project called Lacq Hydrogen. The project, announced on Tuesday, involves the production and supply of renewable hydrogen from Spain to France between DH2 and GazelEnergie; hydrogen transmission from Spain to France between Enagás and Teréga; the storage and transport of hydrogen through the Teréga network to GazelEnergie's renewable energy plant; and the production of renewable energy via a combined cycle power plant operated by GazelEnergie. The Lacq Hydrogen project was submitted to the Call for Expressions of Interest launched by France in June 2020 as part of an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI).

“We want the [IPCEI] to be adopted by the end of 2021 and we want to define concrete projects between Italian and French companies on the exploitation of hydrogen,” said French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire during a meeting with Italian Minister of Economic Development Giancarlo Giorgetti. The meeting was meant to strengthen cooperation between the two countries and define a European industrial strategy, with a focus on hydrogen, microelectronics and aerospace.

The European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) approved two reports last week: “A European Strategy for Energy System Integration” and “A European Strategy for Hydrogen”. The European Parliament “believes that the classification of the different forms of hydrogen should be determined according to an independent, science-based assessment, stepping away from the commonly used colour-based approach; is of the opinion that this classification should be based on the hydrogen lifecycle,” reads the final version of the document on hydrogen. The report also asks the Commission to stimulate innovation across the entire hydrogen value chain. “The report is well-balanced and clearly acknowledges renewable hydrogen as the most sustainable and future-proof solution,” said Aurelie Beauvais, deputy CEO and policy director at SolarPower Europe. “While the report keeps the door open for low-carbon hydrogen sources, it is critical to ensure such technologies abide by the highest sustainability standards, and remain transitional solutions to avoid any investments in stranded assets.”

German multinational chemical company Wacker Chemie announced on Wednesday that its project funding proposal to the European Union for production of green hydrogen and renewable methanol at its Burghausen site had reached the next selection stage. “The requested support is in the high double-digit millions,” said the company in a press release, noting that the EU’s Innovation Fund has a budget of €10 billion to support innovative low-carbon technologies for energy-intensive industries until 2030. The Munich-based company wants to build a 20 MW electrolysis plant with multinational chemical company Linde to produce hydrogen from water using renewable electricity. The €100 million project includes a synthesis plant to process the green hydrogen into renewable methanol using carbon dioxide from existing production processes. The synthesis plant’s expected capacity is 15,000 metric tons per year.

Eurogas, the European gas industry association representing 56 companies and associations, has increased its ambition to develop a carbon neutral gas sector, saying it can achieve the goal “not much later than 2045,” well before its previous 2050 target. The association also called for “binding targets for the reduction of green-house gas emissions from gas, and targets for volumes of renewable gas consumed in the EU by 2030”.

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