Europe headed for decarbonization of power and plans to transfer on hydrogen economy by 2050. The European Union shows determination in implementation of the tasks set within this purpose and inflexibility in the solution of all problems getting in the way to hydrogen economy.

Europeans are supported in it comprehensively not only by the leading western countries but also by the key states of the Pacific Rim. Thus the state initiatives on the hydrogen direction are actively supported by multinational corporations. It is obvious that such changes are capable to remake actually completely the power world map. Meanwhile Russia has good reason to become one of the leaders of global hydrogen power.

The last decade hydrogen technologies actively accustomed practically to all advanced countries of the world: in particular, in Germany, France, Great Britain, Holland, the USA, Japan, China, Australia and South Korea. They already captured actually all key spheres of human life. However since 2017 their development goes simply huge rates. And this year was marked by representation at once three hydrogen strategy — the European Union, Germany and France. All of them assume still big concentration of efforts on creation and introduction of the hydrogen equipment and infrastructure, including in power, industrial and transport sectors, for cardinal acceleration of transition to hydrogen economy. Need of operational solution of nature protection problems of global scale and, as result, sharp toughening of relevant requirements for all directions of social and economic activity became the main reason of it. After all broad application of hydrogen technologies is recognized as one of the main ways for overcoming of the majority of the environmental problems which are saved up by mankind.

Greener than green

In June of the current year the government of Germany approved «National hydrogen strategy» (Nationale Wasserstoffstrategie). It is recorded in the document that the country begins reorientation of economy to essentially new power which basis will be hydrogen. The priority determined increase in own production and use of hydrogen, first of all in primary branches of the German industry (in particular, chemical and steelmaking) and in transport sector. And within the next decade it is supposed to provide at least the fifth part of all needs of Germany with so-called green hydrogen which process of receiving excludes release of carbon dioxide (CO2). Mainly it is about electrolysis of water with use of the electricity developed at the expense of «green» renewables (renewable energy sources).

By the carried-out calculations, the need of the German market for hydrogen will make about 90-110 terawatt/hours by 2030. To provide a part of it with its «green» hydrogen, by this time it is necessary to create production in 3-5 GW of electrolysis power in Germany. The generating installations constructed for this purpose — electrolyzers will be able to give to 14 terawatt/hours of environmentally friendly hydrogen, spending thus about 20 terawatt/hours in a year of the electric power from renewable energy sources. By 2035-2040 it will be possible to put additional capacities of electrolyzers with productivity up to 5 GW into operation.

The authorities of Germany are sure that in the long term it will be possible for Germany to switch to «green» hydrogen completely. But in a transition period to new hydrogen economy — at least in the next 10 years — the country should use actively as well the hydrogen received in the course of steam conversion or pyrolysis of methane provided that allocated at this CO2 will be utilized by producers.

Meanwhile it is not a secret for anybody that the main problem of receiving «green» hydrogen that so far it is too expensive. Today electrolysis with the electric power from renewed energy sources remains the most expensive production technology of hydrogen in the world. So, it is approximately three times more expensive than steam conversion of methane. For this reason «green» hydrogen makes only 4% of the world production (about 78% of hydrogen is received when processing natural gas and oil, 18% — coal). And it besides that the German government itself recognizes that in present conditions production and application not only «green», but also any other hydrogen in many sectors of economy still unprofitably in principle as using traditional fossil energy carriers much cheaper.

However, all this does not frighten the authorities of Germany. It is supposed that granting by the state various privileges and preferences for ensuring the fastest transition to hydrogen, first of all those sectors of economy where its use is already now close to profitability, will lead to considerable reduction in cost of hydrogen projects — will work a scale effect. Here the main task of the German government is to support actively rapid growth of production and consumption of hydrogen that is creation of necessary production and marketing chains. Thus the special attention of the power of Germany is intended to be paid to the coordinated development of various sectors in the direction of hydrogen economy by means of the corresponding planning, financing and updating of standard and legal base.

The government of Germany is not anxious that upon prompt transition to hydrogen economy the country will not be able to provide completely the needs for hydrogen due to internal production, especially «green». Therefore both in medium-term, and in the long term it should import hydrogen and in very considerable volumes. It is obvious that larger part of the hydrogen consumed by Germany will be bought outside Germany. It means that already now it is necessary to create infrastructure for hydrogen supply from abroad and in parallel — to form the international system of tracking of an origin of the electric power and hydrogen confirming ways of its production. For this purpose, in turn, it is necessary to define the list of potential supplying countries of hydrogen and to enter power partnership with them. On a large scale, Germany together with other potential importers needs to begin promptly formation of the world market of hydrogen.

As for purchases of «green» hydrogen, Germany is guided first of all by the most perspective EU countries in respect of its production — mainly in the region of the Northern and Baltic seas, and also in Southern Europe, though it is obvious that it is not enough. Therefore even in day of acceptance of the of «National hydrogen strategy» Germany signed the agreement on construction of the first plant on production of «green» hydrogen in Morocco with use of solar energy based on the technologies Power-to-X.

If to speak about current producers and suppliers of fossil energy resources to Germany, the authorities of Germany are suggested them to be passed to renewable energy sources and thus to be among potential suppliers of «green» hydrogen to Europe. Because diversification of sources of raw materials and transport routes remains the main issue of energy security both for Germany and for the European Union in general. But «National hydrogen strategy» of Germany establishes an accurate framework for all companies that allows them planning «more competently» the directions of the investments. That, in general, seriously complicates activity of the companies — suppliers of energy resources to Europe and, in particular, to Germany.

Especially as «National hydrogen strategy» Germany assumes to use larger part of the gas pipelines existing now for hydrogen pumping, besides creation of purely hydrogen pipeline transport systems. Besides, Association of the gas transmission operators FNB Gas of Germany (Vereinigung der Fernleitungsnetzbetreiber Gas e.V.) has already submitted the concept of national hydrogen infrastructure within which more than 90% from about 5900 km of the existing gas networks are offered to be switched to hydrogen transportation by 2030. Thus Germany and Europe intend to solve the outlined problem with hydrogen import.

Let’s remind that it is not a so new idea. At the beginning of the current year the European operator of the high-level electric networks the Dutch TenneT (the largest in the Netherlands and Germany) and the Dutch gas infrastructure company Gasunie (both are controlled by the government of the Netherlands) presented options and possibilities of use of gas infrastructure of Holland and Germany for «climatic neutral» economies. Thus experts are sure that by 2050 an import share on this direction will make from 40 to 80%. It is a big question how it can be achieved without consent of exporters of traditional energy carriers to Europe, including Russia.

Nevertheless the government of Germany is ready to fix transition to hydrogen economy not only by privileges, but also «to back» by big money. For example, only Ministry of Transport of Germany invested over the last ten years in researches, development and introduction of hydrogen technologies over 700 million euros. However there were pilot projects only. Now time of implementation of large-scale programs came. Therefore in addition to the means which are already spent for development of this direction Germany intends to allocate about 7 billion euros for activization of development of the domestic hydrogen market, and for projects of global hydrogen integration at least 2 billion euros. The main investments it is planned to enclose in transfer to hydrogen fuel of transport sector.

It is obvious that in case of successful realization such a country remains to «National hydrogen strategy» (and the authorities of Germany do not doubt it) the largest importer of energy resources in Europe. However, thus Germany expects to become the world leader in the field of hydrogen technologies and its key exporter.

With widely closed eyes

After acceptance of «National hydrogen strategy» of Germany this year also the final version of the similar document of the European Union — «Hydrogen strategy for climatic neutral Europe» which, generally, a little differs from the German analog was published. It is told in it that general investments of Europe into «green» hydrogen by 2050 can reach 180-470 billion euros. And total European investments in the hydrogen made from fossil fuel will not exceed 3-18 billion euros.

To provide a half of the needs for «green» hydrogen, by 2030 the European Union will need to bring into operation in the territory to 40 GW of electrolyzers which will make to 10 million tons of environmentally friendly fuel. Still at least as much «green» hydrogen as it is necessary to import.

Thus in the EU perfectly understand that «green», even hydrogen with utilization of CO2 cannot compete with traditional types of energy resources today. However European officials, as well as the German government, rely on the same scale effect. According to the calculations which are available for them, over the last ten years cost of use of electrolyzers was reduced approximately on 60%. And in the next decade it will decrease in comparison with present level at least twice.

Strategy of the European Union practically does not concern questions of import of hydrogen. At the same time European officials stand up for that the international market of hydrogen was created soon, and the world prices for hydrogen would be quoted in euro. And that global business acted on the basis of the established European rules and standards.

Rationality

After presentation of hydrogen strategy of Germany and the European Union France could not remain away from the processes gaining steam not only in Europe but also in the world. «National strategy of development of carbon-free hydrogen» was also presented here, however French preferred speaking not about «green» and not about hydrogen in general, namely about its carbon-free part. The matter is that France possesses one of the largest capacities of nuclear power in the world (which develops to 70% of the electric power here today). After the terrible accidents which happened in nuclear branch, in particular in Japan, but not because of French, fighters for improvement of global ecology demand closing of nuclear power plants (NPPs) worldwide. Despite it, in France by 2030 the NPPs will develop over 50% of electric power. And carbon-free hydrogen in this country can just be developed at the expense of atomic energy. Therefore, in comparison with other states of Europe, France has serious advantages on prospects of production of environmentally friendly but not «green» hydrogen.

As well as in the German version of hydrogen strategy, French also urged to accelerate transition to hydrogen economy, on what the government will allocate about 7 billion euros. But by 2030 in the territory of France it is supposed to launch a system of electrolyzers already on 6.5 GW. And such a need for import of «green» or any other hydrogen as in Germany is not expected here, at least, so far.

Realists

It is remarkable that the special place in «National hydrogen strategy» of Germany is taken by offshore wind power. For loading of the growing electrolysis capacities allocation of sites of the sea water area under construction of offshore wind power stations especially under production of hydrogen is provided in the document. The government of Germany together with the neighboring sea states plans to stimulate receiving hydrogen in this sector by means of entering of special amendments into standard and legal base. It is interesting that the multinational power corporation Shell together with the German Siemens and the Dutch TenneT started lobbying actively an initiative to build offshore wind power stations in Germany especially for production of «green» hydrogen since 2018.

It is necessary to notice that the last five years Shell in general very actively joined in development of hydrogen power. In particular together with the British ITM Power specializing on hydrogen technologies Shell develops a network of hydrogen gas stations. And here «green» hydrogen is developed by means of electrolysis directly at gas stations. Such a technology allows installing hydrogen gas stations at already operating Shell stations worldwide. In addition, the Anglo-Dutch company together with the French Total is included into the consortium created for construction of a network from 400 hydrogen gas stations in the territory of Germany which further plans including implementation of similar projects worldwide.

It is important to note that experts of Shell skeptically look at prospects of the global oil market, however, as many other multinational power corporations, not to mention profile experts and analysts. So, the international certified and classification society DNV GL (key specialization the assessment, consulting and management of risk is) created in 2013 by merge of Det Norske Veritas and Germanischer Lloyd issued a new forecast of development of the world energy market recently till 2050 (Energy Transition Outlook 2020) in which it is claimed that the peak of consumption of oil was already passed in the world in 2019, though the previous analysis of DNV GL showed that it will occur not earlier than 2022. It is also noted in the document that in spite of the fact that natural gas remains the main source of primary energy for all forecast period, the peak of its consumption should be expected in 2035 (earlier experts of DNV GL claimed that it will occur in 2033). Nevertheless, many players of the oil and gas market, such, for example, Shell, already actively master potentially breakthrough technologies for a long time, first of all hydrogen, to ensure a worthy place in a power system of the future.

Russia and the domestic companies which only start being connected to so important global processes, look still not too convincingly against such prompt power transformation in the world. Though there are also some exceptions, for example Gazprom Group.

Without thanking and contrary to

Transition of the world to hydrogen economy will demand not only huge investments, but also will take a lot of time. It is obvious that even now power scarce Europe and Asia in foreseeable prospect will not be able to provide themselves with hydrogen completely, especially with exclusive «green» only. Thus, the majority of the key countries of the world creating hydrogen infrastructure, equipment and the equipment will seriously depend on import of new energy resource. At desire, only current main suppliers and exporters of traditional energy carriers, including Russia, of course, will be able to solve this problem.

Hydrogen technologies accustom to our country, but not too quickly. Experts consider that the main problem that this direction is deprived of attention and support of the state. So, this summer the Russian authorities submitted at once two documents concerning prospects of development of the hydrogen direction. However, only the general contours of development of hydrogen power are outlined there.

At the beginning of June Power strategy of the Russian Federation till 2035 was approved. By the way, a task of entry of Russia into the number of world leaders in production and export of hydrogen was set in it. Thus supply of new fuel out of country borders in 2024 is to make only 200 thousand tons, and the whole decade later — only 2 million tons. And at the end of June the Ministry of Energy brought in the government the project of development of hydrogen power in Russia for 2020-2024, a so-called road map. It assumes development of regulatory base and technical regulation of production, transportation, storage and use of hydrogen, as well as support of pilot projects in the field of its production and export. According to the document by the end of the current year officials have to prepare the concept of development of hydrogen power and also provide support measures for pilot projects of production of hydrogen. Next year it is planned to enter incentives for buyers of this energy carrier in domestic market and potential exporters.

However, so far it is not known of concrete measures. At the same time in the explanation to a road map of the Ministry of Energy it is said that implementation of the plan will not demand additional expenses of the federal budget, though the first domestic producers of hydrogen have already been defined Gazprom and Rosatom. These companies, according to the plan, will start pilot hydrogen installations by 2024 respectively at the enterprises of production and processing of natural gas as well as on the NPP.

In addition, next year Gazprom is to develop and test a gas turbine on methane-hydrogen fuel. And in the next three years will analyze use of hydrogen and methane-hydrogen fuel in gas installations of various types and also its use as motor fuel in different types of transport.

In turn, Rosatom together with Russian Railway and machine-building concern Transmashholding will construct on Sakhalin testing ground for railway transport on hydrogen fuel elements (this project was declared last year).

Gazprom for a long time fixedly has been watching development of hydrogen technologies. There is an active cooperation on this direction with scientists from the Netherlands, France and Germany. Hydrogen is already developed on three objects of the Group. In September the fourth installation of production of hydrogen — on JSC Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat was put into operation. Complex scientific and technical project on processing of technologies of low-carbon production and use of methane-hydrogen fuel for gas turbines in Samara and Ufa is carried out, and the tests of the production technology of hydrogen from natural gas with zero emissions are conducted in Tomsk. In particular, a perspective way of receiving hydrogen without release of CO2 is pyrolysis of methane without access of oxygen at which only hydrogen and solid carbon in the form of soot which can be used in various industries as raw materials. Gazprom is engaged in researches on this direction as independently, as well as in cooperation with European and, first of all, German partners.

Prospects of an entry of Gazprom into the export markets of hydrogen are also studied in parallel. Here competitive advantages of Russia are considered: existence of reserves of capacities, proximity to potential consumers, such as the European Union countries in particular China and Japan and also the operating powerful gas transmission infrastructure. So, even the most conservative estimates show that the existing infrastructure of Gazprom already now allows transporting gas mix in which the level of hydrogen can reach 20%. And the most modern gas pipelines (for example, such as Nord Stream and Nord Stream — 2) are capable to provide export of fuel in which a share of hydrogen makes to 70%. At the same time, by estimates of Gazprom, hydrogen transport on export gas pipelines involves some risks of violation of the long-term contractual obligations connected with quality of gas and also need of additional investments into system of transportation of gas. Therefore it is considered an option of creation of capacities for production of hydrogen from the Russian natural gas in Europe in close proximity to the markets of consumption.

Together with it Gazprom has been studying since 2018 the prospects of use of mix of methane and hydrogen in power and on transport that is possible even without essential infrastructure changes. Also it will promote reduction of harmful emissions in the atmosphere for 25-30%, however still hydrogen direction in our country remains out of a zone of special attention of the state.