The Hydrogen Stream: Gas prices are higher than levelized cost of hydrogen for several technologies in Europe


Natural gas prices are currently higher than the levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH) using alkaline electrolyzer technology on an energy equivalent basis in the UK, Sweden, Italy, Spain, France, Poland, and Germany, according to data provided by BloombergNEF to pv magazine. The same does not hold for China, the US, and the United Arab Emirates, where gas prices are significantly lower. The analysts found cheapest hydrogen in the European Union could be produced in Sweden and Italy, while Germany and Poland would have the highest levelized cost of production. “This reflects the comparably better renewable resources in southern Europe,” BloombergNEF's Meredith Annex told to pv magazine. According to BloombergNEF's modeling, onshore wind is the cheapest source of electricity to power electrolyzers in all European countries. By contrast, solar is the cheapest source in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. “Chinese alkaline electrolyzers are currently the cheapest equipment for making green hydrogen in the market and would allow hydrogen projects to compete the most effectively with current natural gas prices. Proton exchange membrane (PEM) equipment is more expensive, adding a price premium of 11-17% compared to Western alkaline technology. Using PEM to produce hydrogen would make the clean fuel less competitive with current natural gas prices in Europe,” Annex said, explaining that European gas prices will likely fall again later this decade, making green hydrogen less competitive on an energy-equivalent price basis. “Yet industrial players may still see higher demand for green hydrogen as a hedge against future gas market volatility.”

The Fukushima Prefecture and Japanese automotive manufacturer Toyota Motor Corporation are planning to launch a hydrogen truck for use in the residential and industrial sectors. Iwaki and Koriyama will be the first two cities to introduce the light-duty fuel cell (FC) electric truck in collaboration with unspecified logistics businesses and infrastructure providers. “As convenience stores and supermarkets begin to introduce FC light-duty trucks from January 2023, we will build an energy management system that links the fleet management system of each company, vehicle travel information, and hydrogen station information,” Toyota said in a statement. The final aim is to optimize logistics and avoid traffic congestion at hydrogen stations. Heavy-duty FC electric trucks should be deployed at a later stage. The project will also seek to establish hydrogen models for the industrial sector. Companies will produce green hydrogen locally and use it in their gas furnaces, while stationary FC generators will be installed in offices and stores. So far, the initiatives, which target towns with around 300,000 inhabitants, have attracted 27 partners, mostly local subsidiaries of international companies.

A team of researchers from the Tokyo University of Science designed a highly symmetric ruthenium complex with a organic compound containing nitrogen and operating without water that is claimed to improve high-temperature proton conduction in fuel cells. The new hydrogen-bonded metal complex is starburst-shaped and consists of ruthenium ion (Ru3+), three imidazole (HIm), and three imidazolate (Im-­). The resulting single molecular crystal reportedly shows excellent proton conductivity even at temperatures as high as 180 C and as low as –70 C. Imidazole typically melts at 120 C. “Upon investigating the proton conductivity of this starburst-type metal complex, the team found that each of the six imidazole groups attached to the Ru3+ ion acts as a proton transmitter. This made the molecule six times more potent than individual HIm molecules, which could only transport one proton at a time,” the team said.  The researchers aimed to find an alternative to Nafion membranes and used a synthetic polymer-based ionic membrane, which serves as a water-based proton conducting solid electrolyte. The use of water makes the fuel cell unable to operate at temperatures over 100 C. According to the researchers, the insights from their novel molecular design could be used to develop new high-temperature proton conductors, and improve the functionality of the existing ones. The researchers presented their findings in the study “Proton Conduction at High Temperature in High-Symmetry Hydrogen-Bonded Molecular Crystal of Ru(III) Complexes with Six Imidazole–Imidazolate Ligands,” which was recently published in Chemistry – A European Journal.

The United Kingdom has launched a new contractual business model resembling a contract for difference (CDF) for green hydrogen producers. Project developers can submit their proposals by September 7. The subsidy is given by the difference between a ”strike price” reflecting the cost of producing hydrogen and a ”reference price” reflecting the market value of hydrogen. The UK government allocated up to £240 million (€281.4 million) to support the upfront costs of developing and building low-carbon hydrogen production projects. Companies can submit their proposals for both programs through a single application process. Additional details on the budget for this first procurement round will be provided in early 2023.

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