Green is the new black: Hydrogen ‘is the topic of the year’

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A panel of experts joined a Power Engineering International debate to examine the challenges of developing a green hydrogen economy. Pamela Largue reports.

Hydrogen “is an important topic in terms of decarbonisation across Europe and the world” says Victor Bernabeu, senior policy advisor at Eurogas.

And he added that if we have any hope of establishing an effective hydrogen economy, we must get policy application right.

According to a Eurogas projection, in order to reach net zero by 2050, hydrogen reformed natural gas coupled with green hydrogen will be vital to achieve deep GHG reduction.

However, Bernabeu believes that developing the hydrogen economy comes down to successfully navigating the policy landscape, especially the RED III and Gas Package.

He explained that the Delegated Act defining renewable energy and the discussion on Guarantees of Origin/Union Database provide important details concerning hydrogen deployment.

When referring to the long list of policy requirements, Bernabeu said: “The concept of additionality is perfect, on paper.

“The real question is: Can we make something workable; can we avoid over-burdening pioneering companies? If we are trying to define very strict criteria, could we be hampering the deployment of renewable hydrogen? The perfect compromise is something we can comply with.”

Bernabeu elaborated on the importance of certifying renewable origin and establishing climate value with sustainability credentials within the EU. He believes the Union Database will prove useful in tracking the product and transaction of each molecule.

He further highlighted that the market is not fully compatible in terms of trading practices and recommends all renewable gas and hydrogen must be considered within the same system to avoid working in silos.

Mark Dixon, Victor Bernabeu, Simone Corbo, Felicia Mester - panellists of the Green is the new black hydrogen webcast
Mark Dixon, Victor Bernabeu, Simone Corbo, Felicia Mester

“Blending will be paramount if we want to develop a hydrogen market. We know there is an amount of compatibility and we can manage that. It’s about ensuring a common climate currency and letting the ETS operator choose their own decarbonise pathway,” stated Bernabeu.

In opposition to Bernabeu, Felicia Mester, senior policy advisor at Hydrogen Europe believes a separate hydrogen system is needed.

“We know hydrogen is a gas; we know it’s a molecule, but it’s not interchangeable with natural gas. They are different gases – therefore we need a separate strategy for hydrogen and can’t keep hydrogen economy prisoner to the rules of the gas market.”

Mester promoted separate Guarantees of Origin (GoOs) to avoid false claims and greenwashing. “Hydrogen needs to be in a consistent system, but as a separate energy carrier.”

Mester continued: “We are all talking about a hydrogen economy, but how do we get there? There are three main ways; a separate approach to hydrogen, an ambitious Fit for 55 package, and progressive hydrogen and gas decarbonisation packages.”

She also emphasised the importance of an ambitious Fit for 55 framework to promote a fertile environment for the scaling of many hydrogen-related projects.

Mark Dixon, director of Cerulean Winds, focused on the North Sea Transition Deal with its set decarbonisation targets. The oil and gas activities in the area use fossil fuel powered generation, the greatest contributor to emissions.

“With electrification, you can remove up to 75% of all emissions across the sector,” said Dixon.

The real question is: Can we make something workable; can we avoid over-burdening pioneering companies?

Victor Bernabeu, Senior Policy Advisor, Eurogas

“We have proposed to the Scottish and UK governments a basin-wide approach, consisting of three 1GW floating wind farms. When the wind blows a lot, overage occurs and green hydrogen can be produced.”

Dixon explained that there is no wastage in this system. It allows for efficiency in the conversion from electricity to green hydrogen and back to electricity. It’s an off-grid, entirely private system, a near term solution to allow, in this case, the oil and gas sector to decarbonise.

Dixon suggested that systems like this are needed now to allow industries to take control of their carbon footprint, to see results in the immediate future.

Simone Corbò, hydrogen platform manager at Baker Hughes, delved into the more technical side, highlighting the role of turbo machinery in the development of a hydrogen economy. In terms of the value chain, hydrogen has the potential to replace fossil fuels and act as a support to natural gas.

However, transportation and storage are costly and developing innovation over the next generation of turbines and compressors is vitally important to advance the sector and to enhance its benefits to global decarbonisation.

Listen to the webcast recording on demand: www.powerengineeringint.com/webcasts

Eurogas, Hydrogen Europe and Baker Hughes will all have speakers at Enlit Europe in Milan from Nov 30-Dec 2.

Register now: www.enlit-europe.com/register