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Russia plans to emerge as hydrogen exporter

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According to a draft development plan released in August, Russia wants to become a hydrogen exporter within a few years and deliver up to 12 million tonnes per year (tpy) of the fuel by 2035.

The country is eager to carve out a position for itself in the European and Asian energy transitions, and sees a chance to transform part of its massive natural gas supplies into low-carbon hydrogen. In June, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that Russia might capture 20% of the worldwide hydrogen market.

However, its expansion plan provides widely disparate forecasts for how much hydrogen Russia will transport internationally. In the worst-case scenario, the country may export only 2 million tons of hydrogen per year by 2035, increasing to 15 million tons per year by 2050. In comparison, the high-end scenario predicts 12 million tpy supply by 2035 and 50 million tpy supply by 2050.

The government established a working group of enterprises, research institutes, and federal agencies in July to develop hydrogen technology, production, and commerce. State nuclear corporation Rosatom, oil and gas companies Rosneft, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, and Novatek, petrochemicals firm Sibur, vehicle maker Kamaz, investment organization Sistema, and state technology groups Rostec and Rusnano are among its members. Novak, Russia’s former energy minister who currently controls energy policy from the prime minister’s office, serves as its chairman.

The scaling-up of Russian hydrogen is planned in three stages, according to the growth plan. The first stage, which will last from 2021 to 2024, would try to build pilot clusters for hydrogen production and undertake pilot projects with the goal of exporting up to 200,000 tpy by 2024. The clusters are expected to be created in Russia’s north-west and south-west, as well as the Far East and the Arctic.

The second stage, which will last from 2025 to 2035, will see the first commercial hydrogen projects go live. It will also concentrate on the widespread adoption of hydrogen technology in a variety of domestic sectors, ranging from petrochemistry to housing and utilities. The third stage, which might extend until 2050, may see a considerable upscaling of Russia’s hydrogen strategy, assuming a significant increase in worldwide demand for the fuel, as some forecasts believe.

Russia intends to produce a wide range of hydrogen kinds, but its key focus will be blue and turquoise hydrogen obtained from natural gas.

Gazprom is promoting blue hydrogen, which is created through a process called as methane pyrolysis. The little-used technique also generates solid carbon as a byproduct, which has industrial applications and does not require storage like CO2. Other oil and gas corporations are interested in blue hydrogen, which is likewise produced from natural gas through reforming but requires carbon capture and storage (CCS) to be clean.

Russia has green hydrogen ambitions as well, however the country’s wind and solar sectors are still in their infancy and would need to be built up. Even yet, it would make more sense to employ renewables to decarbonize the Russian power infrastructure rather than to produce hydrogen.

Another alternative is yellow hydrogen. It, like green hydrogen, is created through electrolysis from water. However, unlike green, the electrolyzers used to make yellow are driven by nuclear energy.

Anela Dokso

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