The hydrogen IPCEIs are known, now what?

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The hydrogen sector has waited a long time for the news, but now that the first projects accepted for state funding under the IPCEI* have been announced, it is time to move on to the next step.

The sector appears essential for the future and is undergoing a frenzy of technology advancements and financial transactions, but uncertainties persist. Currently, the majority of support comes from the supply side, but will there be sufficient demand to fund investments?

Will it be economically feasible to transport hundreds of kilometers of hydrogen produced near a wind farm? Will there be sufficient renewable electricity to manufacture the desired amount of hydrogen? These are all question marks that signify challenges on the path to the anticipated expansion.

In France, like elsewhere, the public’s support for hydrogen continues to be structured. However, bureaucratic complications remain a cause for concern.

However, which clients should be targeted? The power of “green” hydrogen resides in its promise to decarbonize heavy industry processes, either by completely replacing fossil fuels or by replacing the “grey” hydrogen already in use. The first case is of great importance to the steel industry, and new collaborations are being formed to unite producers and consumers in the same initiative.

Mobility is another industry where the new molecule appears to hold promise, but the current size of the recharging infrastructure and the number of hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road are insufficient for rapid, large-scale development. There are also concerns regarding H2’s effect on heavy mobility. The maritime and aviation industries are conducting experiments.

Second, transportation must have an economic rationality to prevent price inflation. Both liquefaction and compression are expensive and risky processes. The crucial question is whether the existing gas network can be modified to accept these new molecules, which are smaller and harder to hold than methane. In addition, there is no assurance that industrial units downstream of the network can seamlessly convert from natural gas to hydrogen. Lastly, there is the issue of the substantially lower energy density of H2 compared to hydrocarbons.

Despite these concerns, the sector is unquestionably one of the most dynamic in the renewable energy industry. Global research is ongoing to determine ways to reduce the price of a kilogram of green hydrogen to at least $2, or even lower, so that it becomes really competitive with existing market offerings.

Nedim Husomanovic

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