The Hydrogen Stream: strong push from France, new plans and deals in UK, Italy, Brazil, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Portugal


France's national state-owned railway company SNCF Voyageurs placed a €190 million order with Alstom for the first 12 dual mode electric-hydrogen trains in the country. “A first in France, it will work towards the energy transition goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution, an ambition supported by the French government through its Hydrogen plan launched in June 2018,” wrote Alstom in the press note. The regional trains will be deployed in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est and Occitanie. According to the two French companies, the dual mode electric-hydrogen Coradia Polyvalent train has an autonomy of up to 600 km on sections of non-electrified railway. It is 72 m-long and has a total capacity of 218 seats. Alstom completed the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation effective 29 January 2021.

French-based EODev, an SME that industrializes hydrogen solutions, looks set to accelerate its growth both nationally and internationally following Toyota's announcement on Tuesday that it had become a direct shareholder in the company. EODev, which raised €20 million last September, manufactures zero-emission hydrogen power generators for land (GEH2) and navigation (REXH2) as well as a ready-to-use floating mobile hydrogen production and distribution station (STSH2). Established in 2019, the company has around 40 employees.

Genvia, the joint venture between Schlumberger New Energy, CEA, Vicat, Vinci and the Occitanie Region, is moving into the Schlumberger’s Cameron plant in Béziers, Hérault, to produce its electrolysers. Genvia inaugurated the site on the eve of the Easter weekend; the first units should be produced in July. Genvia uses an electrolysis technology developed by CEA. Occitanie is the first French region to adopt a global and operational strategy via the country's Green Hydrogen Plan, which has a budget of €150 million up to 2030. The region, which has taken a 6.5% stake in Genvia (€3.5 million), is investing in hydrogen technologies, including mobility technologies.

One year after the call for expressions of interest, Bordeaux Metropole, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region and the City of Blanquefort selected a project led by Hydrogène de France to establish a high-powered hydrogen fuel cell assembly plant on the 13-hectare site of a former Ford factory. The project should be commissioned in 2023. According to the municipality of Bordeaux, Hydrogène de France aims to move from engineering to becoming a key industrial operator for large hydrogen infrastructure. The partners called the project “Europe's first high-powered hydrogen fuel cell assembly plant.”

Global energy and industrial majors have created an Indian hydrogen alliance committed to building a hydrogen economy and supply chain in India. NYSE-listed hydrogen solutions provider Chart Industries and India’s Reliance Industries will act as co-leads of the consortium that aims to develop hydrogen production and storage and industrial and transport use-cases. The India H2 Alliance (IH2A) will collaborate with private sector partners, the government and the public to lower the costs of blue and green hydrogen production. The India H2 Alliance will also work with the government to develop a national hydrogen policy and roadmap through for 2021 to 2030.

Philippines’ Department of Energy signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday with Tokyo-based development and distribution company Hydrogen Technology (HTI) to explore the use of hydrogen as a fuel for power generation. This is the second deal on hydrogen research and development signed by the Philippine government this year. The deal aims to “investigate hydrogen production in the Philippines to make the country energy independent.” In January, the Department of Energy penned an MOU with Star Scientific, an Australian research and development company.

Three US companies — hydrogen fuel cell systems developer Plug Power, manufacturer of engineered equipment Chart Industries and industrial service company Baker Hughes — announced their intention to invest in the FiveT Hydrogen Fund, described as “a unique new clean-hydrogen-only private infrastructure fund dedicated to delivering clean hydrogen infrastructure projects at scale.” Plug Power intends to commit €160 million ($200 million); Chart Industries and Baker Hughes each intend to commit €50 million ($60 million).

Zahid Group subsidiary Altaaqa and UK-based developer of alkaline fuel cells AFC Energy signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at a long term-partnership in Saudi Arabia. “We are confident that together we will be a significant player in our Kingdom's aim of becoming the world's leading hub in the production of green hydrogen and ammonia,” commented Zahid Group President Majid Zahid. The two companies are eying opportunities in the wider Middle East. Altaaqa owns and operates a 2 GW mobile diesel generator rental fleet.

Brazilian electric utility company Eletrobras, Munich-based power generation company Siemens Energy and Brazilian electrical energy research institute Cepel signed a memorandum for research cooperation on the complete technological cycle of green hydrogen in Brazil, from production to consumption, “in the dimension of a scalable pilot production plant, which will allow future expansions and complementary activities.” The companies underline in the note Siemens’ proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology.

New research from BloombergNEF suggests that green hydrogen costs could fall 85% by 2050, pushing renewable hydrogen under the $1/kg threshold and undercutting natural gas as well as blue and gray hydrogen production. This new research revised downwards BloombergNEF’s previous 2030 forecast by 13% and its 2050 forecast by 17%. According to the research, the key force behind this accelerating cost decline is the falling cost of solar PV. BloombergNEF expects that solar electricity will be 40% cheaper in 2050 than what it envisaged just two years ago.

The Portuguese government and the European Investment Bank signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding for hydrogen cooperation. “Portugal intends to produce green hydrogen at competitive prices and play a major role in the emerging hydrogen economy,” commented Minister for the Environment and Climate Action João Pedro Matos Fernandes. EIB Vice-President Ricardo Mourinho Félix added that the Luxembourg-based multilateral bank “believe that clean hydrogen has the potential to play an important role … in promoting the green economic recovery in the context of COVID-19.” The signing ceremony took place during the High-Level Conference on Hydrogen, organised by the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union. During the conference energy ministers of the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg called for a regulatory framework for hydrogen in the EU.

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Italian research agency ENEA announced on April 1 that it would lead an interdisciplinary consortium of nine European partners to develop a prototype for high-temperature solid oxide electrolysis (SOE) using renewable solar heat and power for continuous green hydrogen production. “The project will use the solid oxide technology to build a 25 kWe prototype electrolyser capable of producing 15 kg of hydrogen per day. The prototype will be modular, with the potential to be replicated on the MWe industrial scale,” wrote the Rome-based agency. ENEA will work in collaboration with three research institutes — Fondazione Bruno Kessler (Italy), IMDEA Energy (Spain) and EPFL (Switzerland) — to model the prototype. The Italian-Swiss SME SOLIDpower will supply solid oxide electrolysers and the thermo-regulation system. Snam (Italy), Capital Energy (Spain) and Maire Tecnimont Group (Italy), through its subsidiaries NextChem (Italy) and Stamicarbon (the Netherlands), will be the other partners of the 2.7 million euro PROMETEO project. It will be financed through the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).

The European project Flagships, a collaboration between nine companies including Stockholm-based ABB Marine Systems and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, will deploy the world’s first commercial cargo transport vessel operating on hydrogen. Commercial operations are set to commence in 2021. “The demand for more sustainable technologies in inland waterway transport is on the rise,” commented Matthieu Blanc, director of French inland waterway ship owner CFT. The company, a subsidiary of the Sogestran Group, will own the hydrogen cargo transport vessel. The Flagships project was awarded 5 million euros of funding in 2018 from the EU’s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU)

UK carrier airline British Airways has invested in British-American hydrogen-electric aircraft developer ZeroAvia with a focus on hydrogen-electric power solutions for 50-plus-seat aircraft. The British flag carrier airline and a group of investors including Shell Ventures have invested a total of $24.3 million, which “will enable ZeroAvia to launch a new development programme to further demonstrate the credibility of its technology and accelerate the development of a larger hydrogen-electric engine, capable of flying further and using larger aircraft as soon as 2026.” ZeroAvia hopes to achieve commercialisation for hydrogen-electric power solutions for 20-seat aircraft by 2024 (500 miles) and for more than 100 aircraft by 2030.

Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI), a South Korean-based company focused on mobile applications of fuel cell technology, obtained a certificate for its hydrogen cylinder from Standards Australian, DMI said on March 31. The certificate allows the company to set a nationwide hydrogen distribution network in Australia for its fuel cell-powered drones. Earlier this year, it said it was planning to enter the European market in the third quarter of 2021. “DP30, the world's first mass produced hydrogen fuel cell system, enables up to two hours of flight thanks to high fuel cell output of 2.6 kW. In the past, flight time was limited to less than 30 minutes, but now that long-endurance flight became possible, drones are being used in more applications such as infrastructure inspection, public safety, logistics, and monitoring,” the company said in a press release.

Green Hydrogen Systems, a Danish company specialising in pressurised alkaline electrolysers, announced on Tuesday it will partner with Victoria-based Skai Energies on a 100% green hydrogen generation project in Australia. “There is an unprecedented momentum in the Australian market for green hydrogen supported by industrial demand and political decisions,” said Green Hydrogen Systems CCO Søren Rydbirk. The project, whose first stage is to be commissioned in early 2022, includes solar panels, the 430 kW HyProvide A90 electrolyser from Green Hydrogen Systems, a 125 kW fuel cell, and an RE8760 Energy Management System from Nilsson Energy. Green Hydrogen Systems will also support the project with onsite maintenance and remote monitoring and support as part of a three-year service agreement. It will produce around 60 to 90 kg of green hydrogen per day, but it could grow in scale as a function of demand.

Queensland-based exploration company QEM said on Thursday it engaged DNV Australia to undertake a pre-feasibility study into power generation from solar and wind farms, as part of the company’s broader assessment into the production potential of green hydrogen in North Queensland. The company wants to produce green hydrogen in its Julia Creek vanadium and oil shale project, which covers a 249.6 km² area. “The Julia Creek site receives significant sun exposure and DNV has already noted that the site is substantially flat, which bodes well for installation of wind power generation,” QEM managing director Gavin Loyden commented.

US-headquartered Air Products announced on Wednesday it opened a new hydrogen fueling station at its industrial gases facility in Ulsan City, South Korea. “The station is the first station built and operated by the private sector in the city under the South Korea government's subsidy program,” said the Pennsylvania-based company. According to Air Products, Ulsan City houses the country's hydrogen industry hub and is one of the three pilot cities in the national hydrogen economy roadmap.

Denver-based Starfire Energy, a developer of modular chemical plants for the production of carbon-free ammonia and hydrogen, announced on Thursday the closure of a funding round. “The investment round was led by AP Ventures, a significant investor in breakthrough hydrogen technologies, and included New Energy Technologies, Chevron Technology Ventures, Osaka Gas USA, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries,” the company said, adding that proceeds would be used to advance the development of commercial scale applications to decarbonize ammonia production and unlock its potential as a zero-carbon energy carrier. The company did not disclose in its press release how much it had raised.

“We are currently negotiating with world leaders in the development of hydrogen technologies and energy storage. Thus, we expect to strengthen our status as a global supplier of energy resources in the modern environmental agenda,” said Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, as reported by news agency TASS. Last December, the German-Russian Raw Materials Forum (DRRF) organized the first joint hydrogen conference, bringing together experts from business, science and politics from Germany and Russia to jointly discuss the prospects for cooperation in the field of hydrogen.


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