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What are Ukraine’s chances to become a hydrogen exporter?

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Instead of fossil fuels, hydrogen is a more ecologically friendly alternative. The notion of using green hydrogen to replace coal, oil, and other traditional energy sources is gaining traction.

Despite its risks and high costs, hydrogen, called “the fuel of the future” in the West, has the potential to forever transform the world’s energy, including Ukraine’s. In the EU, our country is regarded as a prospective hydrogen producer and supplier. However, this concept has recently been proposed in the context of Nord Stream 2.

Why should Ukraine carry gas when it can transport hydrogen? However, as it proved out, there will be none if there isn’t one. What are the chances that hydrogen will be helpful to Ukraine, and what are the chances that it will be nothing more than a pipe dream? Our hydrogen prospects were investigated by ICTV Facts.

As the climate problem deepens, the world strives to transition to renewable energy and attain carbon neutrality. The international community will assemble in Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of October for a UN climate conference.

Here should be established a feasible strategy for implementing the Paris Agreement, which calls for a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

Leading countries seek to transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources by the middle of the century. According to Bloomberg, wind and solar energy now account for barely 2% of global output. And, in the best-case scenario, by 2030, it should have risen to 15%.

Hydrogen is one of the potential clean energy sources. It may be utilized as a source of energy for heavy industry as well as a fuel for huge vehicles like planes and ships.

Hydrogen may become a part of our daily life in the future. However, its creation has already sparked a lot of debate.

The most prevalent chemical element in the universe is hydrogen. The stars, including our Sun, are built on this foundation. Hydrogen may be found in a variety of places on Earth, including water, plants, animals, fossil fuels, and more. However, you won’t find it in its purest form in nature.

To obtain pure hydrogen, it must be separated from other molecules using energy-intensive procedures. But, in the end, we have gasoline that is virtually ideal. After all, hydrogen produces a lot of energy while emitting no CO2, thus it has a lot of promise for decarbonizing the global economy.

Coal-derived black or brown hydrogen is the dirtiest. After all, such a manufacturing process produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.

Yellow is the hydrogen produced by nuclear power reactors’ energy during the electrolysis process (in which water is divided into oxygen and hydrogen by current). France, which produces a substantial quantity of electricity from nuclear power reactors, promotes it the most in Europe.

Gray hydrogen is currently the most frequent kind. Natural gas is used to make it. Most of the time, such hydrogen is utilized in the chemical sector to make fertilizers and refine oil. Although it is very inexpensive, such manufacturing results in considerable carbon dioxide emissions.

Blue hydrogen is created in the same way as gray hydrogen is created from gas. CO2 emissions, on the other hand, are collected and do not reach the atmosphere. Be a result, blue hydrogen is referred to as a pollutant-free gas. Russia is one of the countries that is particularly interested in its manufacturing.

Researchers at Cornell and Stanford universities, on the other hand, examined the creation of blue hydrogen and found that it emits more greenhouse gases than direct burning of gas, oil, or coal.

  • Its manufacturing is 20% worse than gasoline and 60% dirtier than diesel fuel, according to the Energy Science & Engineering research.

Green hydrogen, which is generated by electrolysis from solar and wind energy, is the purest but also the most costly type. Experts predict the future of the global economy based on its use. And, in particular, Ukrainian.

  • Ukraine should concentrate on green water since it is an effective approach. Green hydrogen may be produced in large quantities for personal use. Also, through its gas transmission infrastructure, for export to Europe, – says Hans-Josef Fell, an economist and head of the Energy Watch Group.

A new hydrogen plan was announced in the EU in the summer of 2020. The European Union intends to spend up to €430 billion on renewable hydrogen generation by 2030.

Ukraine may be eligible to receive a portion of these funds. Our country is one of the major partners in the production and delivery of green hydrogen, according to the European Commission.

Four European gas infrastructure firms, including Ukraine’s local GTS Operator, announced their plan to build a Central European hydrogen corridor from Ukraine to Germany in September 2021.

  • The motorway will go through Slovakia and the Czech Republic, connecting high-demand locations in Europe. According to the OGTSU’s press office, the corridor will also allow transportation of hydrogen from production facilities to hydrogen consumers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The project’s initiators have already begun researching the technical viability of such a corridor, as well as its capacity and cost.

Ukrtransgaz, the operator of domestic gas storage facilities, said it is looking at the potential of turning one underground gas storage facility in the Luhansk area into a hydrogen mixture storage facility.

Siemens, a German company, is also contemplating a project in Mariupol to build a hydrogen generation facility based on a metallurgical plant.

The prospect of being a top producer and exporter of green hydrogen to EU countries is both appealing and appealing to the media. After all, with its abundant energy and natural resources, Ukraine has the potential to create a completely new energy industry. Hydrogen would provide a steady revenue and new jobs to the country.

However, this subject has so far only been discussed in terms of hypothetical plans and concepts. Real initiatives require more than simply memorandums; they also require cutting-edge technology and multibillion-dollar investments.

According to market players’ estimations, Ukraine’s hydrogen potential may cost up to € 100 billion to achieve. This is a huge sum of money for Ukraine. As a result, the process is unlikely to succeed without the help of wealthy Western investors.

European investors are showing interest, but only on a memorandum basis thus far. In specifically, Ukrainian Naftogaz and German RWE Supply & Trading agreed to establish a comprehensive green hydrogen supply chain, from manufacturing to export.

Both firms agreed to look into the possibility of working together to build a comprehensive value chain of green hydrogen and its derivatives, such as ammonia, in Ukraine.

Green hydrogen will be provided to the European market through the use of ammonia as a medium. But not by pipeline; instead, ammonia trucks transport it by sea.

  • Existing facilities will create green ammonia. Take, for example, the port plant in Odessa. During my visit to the Odesa area, I visited with the plant’s management and reviewed the technical options available. Producing ammonia from hydrogen, loading it into a gas carrier, and shipping it to Germany by sea is not an issue.

It is now lucrative only if this green ammonia is purchased at a significantly higher price than conventional ammonia. Special pools have been established across Europe to encourage the development of green energy. As a result, green ammonia, like hydrogen, may be supplied to Europe at a considerably higher price, argues Yuriy Vitrenko, chairman of the board of Ukraine’s Naftogaz.

However, he claims that the current issue is not with ammonia production, but with green hydrogen generation.

  • Enough renewable energy sources must be available. We are exploring the development of so-called offshore wind energy plants (windmills on the sea shelf, – Ed.). In addition, specific equipment for hydrogen generation is required.

It’s possible that the feasibility study may take many months. It will take several years to complete the rest of the process. It will be years, if not decades, before all hydrogen energy is available. But, as the CEO of Naftogaz stated, “we need to start doing something today, using the available capacity.”

The dangers of hydrogen use must not be overlooked. It has a significantly higher explosive potential than natural gas. The hydrogen molecule is the lightest of all the chemical elements, and it penetrates metals fast, causing them to become brittle. When combined with air, the result is an explosive combination.

The Hindenburg airship disaster in 1937 is a dramatic illustration of hydrogen’s explosiveness. Hydrogen was pumped into the zeppelin. And, according to the official account, the disaster was triggered by its release.

The frame’s wire snapped and penetrated the flesh. An electrical storm likely triggered the formation of an explosive combination of hydrogen and air.

Hydrogen airships were outlawed as a result of this disaster. So the first effort at a hydrogen revolution came to an end over a century ago.

The volatile and explosive nature of hydrogen makes it difficult to transport in today’s world. After all, hydrogen is only a gas that moves through metal pipes. As a result, European nations are investigating the potential of pumping a hydrogen-natural-gas combination.

Germany has the greatest level of hydrogen concentration during gas pumping at 10%, followed by France at 6% and Spain at 5%. To fill the remaining 90-95 percent of the capacity, natural or biogas methane is required.

According to ACER, the European Union Agency for Energy Regulatory Cooperation, 65 percent of EU nations still refused to allow hydrogen injection into their GTS in 2020.

Currently, the use of hydrogen in Ukraine’s gas transportation infrastructure is just being investigated. Even if an appropriate proportion can be discovered, natural (as well as bio) gas will continue to be the GTS’s primary fuel. They are the ones who will dilute hydrogen.

As a result, a huge amount of gas will be required: self-production will not suffice for wide-scale exports of hydrogen mixture. As a result, maintaining Russian gas transportation is important. Furthermore, Ukrainian customers will continue to require a large amount of natural gas.

  • Hydrogen will not replace gas transportation for Ukraine in the near future,’ says Olga Belkova, the GTS Operator of Ukraine’s head of contact with government agencies and foreign organizations.

Natural gas, she claims, will be required for at least another 20 years. After all, natural gas is necessary for domestic industry and consumers. It will take a long time to replace it with new energy sources.

That is why switching from natural gas to hydrogen is just impossible. As a result, just the retention of transit status is required for our economy to decarbonize.

After abandoning coal and nuclear energy, Germany now refers to natural gas as a transit technology and aims to boost its exports, notably via the notorious Nord Stream-2 bypass.

For all countries, hydrogen transformation is too big and expensive. According to Bloomberg, the global proportion of hydrogen energy will increase to only 4% by 2040. The price of gas has risen to 24%.

  • If we succeed in making the hydrogen dream a reality, it will have no impact on Ukraine’s present transit gas position, budget, or security,’ says Olga Belkova.

As a result, Ukraine must take advantage of possibilities to join the green accord and create new, potential hydrogen energy during its discussions with European partners. However, we must not overlook contemporary geopolitical and economic objectives. Maintaining natural gas transit through Ukraine is one of the most important.

Arnes Biogradlija
Creative Content Director at EnergyNews.Biz

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