Hydrogen: the energy of a “clean” future

Aleksandr NOVAK
Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation

Hydrogen deposits of application

The hydrogen obtained with the use of low-carbon technologies can be an efficient decarbonization method for those industries, which consume a great amount of coal or gas at present as an energy source, or such hydrogen may become the alternative for the already used hydrogen replacement for the low-carbon one (for example, in the oil refining and chemical industries).
Despite the fact that the hydrogen is mainly used in the industrial production today, this chemical element has a significant potential for extension of the scopes of application.
In the electric power industry, it can be used as a carbon-neutral fuel both for centralized and distributed energy production, and act as means for energy storage and be used as a secondary energy carrier, which stores the energy produced at the renewable energy facilities.
In addition, use of hydrogen in admixture with methane or in pure form, in the gas supply system is considered as the area for decarbonization of decentralized heat supply and housing and utilities sector.
The hydrogen can be used with different types of transport – vehicles, storage transport, trains, aircraft transport, vessels – both in the fuel cells and in the internal combustion engines.

Hydrogen Energetics Present and Future

According to experts, at present, the global demand for pure hydrogen levels 75 mln tons annually. At that, about 95 % of consumption accounts for oil refining and chemical industry, which mainly provide independently their own demands in hydrogen due to its production at the special-purposed plants at the immediate consumption location (so called a captive market). In addition, about 42 mln tons of hydrogen are used in admixture with other gases (mainly, in the form of synthetic gas) as a feedstock or a fuel during thermal and electrical power production.
For comparison, at present, less than 0.01 mln tons of hydrogen is consumed annually as an energy carrier in such promising areas as transport and energy generation industry. Such negligible amounts are largely owing to persisting barriers for the hydrogen energetics development: high cost of the low-carbon hydrogen, insufficient readiness of technologies for its widespread application, including provision of safety for all production
chain, deficiency in required infrastructure for hydrogen storage and transportation, as well as a number of gaps in regulatory and legal framework.
As of today, the hydrogen production made of fossil raw materials is the most cost-effective. According to IEA (International Energy Agency), in the structure of the world production of pure hydrogen, 75 % accounts for natural gas, 23 % – for coal. At that, the hydrogen produced from the fossil raw materials (firstly, from coal) possess a relatively high carbon foot print. For reduction of the carbon foot print and further decarbonization of the industries, implementation of technologies for hydrogen production from the fossil raw materials with the use of carbon capture and storage systems, as well as, firstly, the electrolysis of water by means of the energy from the nuclear, hydro-, wind and solar energy production facilities, is possible. Great opportunities are offered by the new technologies for low-carbon hydrogen production, the technologies for pyrolysis of methane, in particular.
At present, the global experts has not reached common ground on potential amounts of the hydrogen global market. The range of estimates for the hydrogen global demand by 2050 fluctuates from several dozens to nearly 700 mln tons annually. Two potential scenarios of the hydrogen energetics further development are competitive: development of the global market with large capacity transportations of the energy resource from the centers of production to the centers of consumption, similar to oil and liquefied natural gas markets, or hydrogen local concentration of production and consumption within the framework of individual countries and small regions.
Under which scenario the further development of the hydrogen energetics progresses, will mainly depend on the global economy decarbonization rates and the speed of the hydrogen technology implementation and development. The demand on the side of the countries, which have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, but have not sufficient own resources for low-carbon energy and fuel for their industries decarbonization, will contribute to the hydrogen global market introduction. One more not insignificant motivation, which is able to increase the volumes of hydrogen production and consumption, is development of technologies for its use as the means for energy storage in RES plants and extension of hydrogen fuel cell scopes of application.

Development of Hydrogen Energetics in Russia

In 2019 Russia joined the Paris Climate Agreement and, doing it, has supported the international efforts for combating climate change, environment protection and efficient use of natural resources.
Already today, the country is one of the global energy security underwriters by providing its European and Eastern partners with the natural gas – the most ecologically clean fossil energy source.
One of the key goals embodied in the Energy Strategy of the Russian Federation for the period until 2035  is to develop the Russia potential in the new promising areas, based on the available competences in the deposit of traditional energy production industry, by creating its own research and engineering base of the future energy production industry and increasing export of high technology solutions and non-resource products. In this
connection, the hydrogen energetics development comply with the set goals completely.
Despite the fact that the domestic fuel and energy and electric power balances are the most “green”worldwide today, Russia proceeds with further work on development of the alternative sources, including expansion of hydrogen using in the domestic market.
At present, application of hydrogen as an energy carrier in transport, power engineering and industry is considered as the most promising areas. Besides, the hydrogen can be potentially used for power supply of consumers from the energetically isolated regions and territories with specific environmental requirements, for example, in the Arctic.
Our country has important competitive advantages: significant energy potential and resource base, generating capacities, geographic proximity to the hydrogen potential consumers, research groundwork in the area of hydrogen production, transportation and storage, as well as the operational transport infrastructure.
In October 2020, to implement the potential available in the country, the Government have approved the road map on the hydrogen energetics development in the Russian Federation up to 2024, with its goal – expansion of hydrogen production and consumption, as well as joining the ranks of world leaders in its production and export. At present, the draft of the Concept for development of the hydrogen energetics has been prepared, in which the hydrogen energetics development priorities are represented with determining of short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives.
One of the primary goals to be focused on shall become development of competitive technologies for hydrogen production from the fossil raw materials, both, firstly, from the natural gas, by means of the electrolysis of water based on NPGS (nuclear power-generating station) and RES. At that, the work on developing the renewable energy generation in the country shall be continued paying special attention to reduction of cost of energy obtained from the solar and wind farms, for arranging economically viable production of hydrogen with minimal carbon foot print.

Use of Hydrogen at Oil Refineries in Germany
Link: pressebox.de

Individual attention should be paid to developing the technologies for efficient and safe transportation of hydrogen, which have not received sufficient progress for wide-scale application in industry until now. For achievement of efficient results, development of the domestic scientific school and occupational staff competencies, creation of engineering centers and testing areas for processing the pilot projects, as well as development of the relative regulatory framework on standardization and in safety area along the whole life cycle chain from production to application of hydrogen energy carriers. For introduction of new solutions into the market, it shall be also necessary to provide the legislative support of hydrogen energetics.
Development of all these areas is provided for withing the road map framework on hydrogen energetics development. As of 2024, it is planned to implement a number of pilot projects in the deposit of hydrogen energetics aimed, including at creation and application of the pilot plants for hydrogen production with no carbon dioxide emissions, development, manufacture and testing of gas turbines running on methane-hydrogen fuel, creation of the railway transport pilot sample running on hydrogen and pilot testing areas of the low-carbon hydrogen production at the facilities for hydrocarbon feed refining or natural gas production, production of hydrogen using nuclear power plants.

International Cooperation

Interaction with foreign partners in the area of the hydrogen energetics is in progress. Firstly, the European Union and Asia-Pacific Region countries, in which the long-term programs for hydrogen energetics development have been adopted, will be counted on.
At the moment, the most intensive dialog is conducted with German and Japanese parties. The agreements in principle on interaction within the framework of bilateral work group have been achieved within the framework of the Russian-Japanese Consultative Energy Council. Individual attention is paid to prospects for cooperation on hydrogen area between the Russian companies and the Japanese authorities.
In particular, one of the largest Russian power generation companies – Rosatom – within the framework of the Agreement on cooperation signed in 2019 with the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of Japan, develops the feasibility study (FS) for the project of hydrogen supply from Russia to Japan. In case of a progress, we can say about implementation of a large-scale project for organization of global supply chain of hydrogen,an in future – about creation of the unique low-carbon hydrogen cluster, with the hydrogen price interesting for potential partners.
Sharing experiences as regards development of technologies can become one more promising area for two parties’ cooperation.
As regards the Russian- German cooperation, signing of the joint Russian-German declaration of intentions between the RF Ministry of Energy and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Germany on cooperation in the deposit of sustainable energy is at high readiness for execution. It is specified that the high level work group on sustainable energy under the chairmanship of the Ministers of the RF and Germany Ministries of Energy will be created, including the subgroup on cooperation in the hydrogen energetics area.
The declaration signing will become the ground for mutually beneficial cooperation in energetics between our countries, for sharing the experiences in the area of studying the technology for hydrogen production, storage, use and transportation to implement the joint Russian-German projects in this deposit, as well as it will enable the use and improvement of the best available technologies and practices.
As of today, the Russian federation energy policy reflects the major world trends totally. Over the years, our country is one of the leaders in the global hydrocarbons market, at that, in parallel, Russia does not lose, but expands competencies in traditional areas of the fuel and energy complex, and it intends to join the number of the world leaders in the deposit of hydrogen production and export. This will have a multiplicative effect on development of the related industries and will contribute to achieving of the global goal for the world economy low-carbon development.