As nations work to lower their carbon footprint and meet climate change goals, hydrogen is gaining traction as a formidable solution to the planet’s quest for cleaner energy. Hydrogen is not a newcomer, by any means. A hydrogen-powered fuel cell system supplied electricity and water for the Apollo 11 mission, and liquid hydrogen fueled the rockets that carried that first team to the moon. However, due to high production, storage, and transportation costs, as well as a lack of infrastructure to support its use, hydrogen has seen limited use in the commercial realm. Thanks to modern advances in technology, the growing demand for energy worldwide, and a new level of awareness about how our actions impact the planet, that’s about to change.
Global spending on hydrogen energy research is on the rise. Governments, equipment manufacturers, and energy providers are investing in hydrogen development at an unprecedented rate. Support is coming from nations that both import and export energy, as well as renewable electricity suppliers, industrial gas producers, electricity and gas utilities, automakers, oil and gas companies, major engineering firms, and local municipalities.
For example, ONTRAS Gastransport GmbH (ONTRAS), GRTgaz S.A., and GRTgaz Deutschland GmbH, German and French gas transmission system operators (TSO), signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in January to “enhance knowledge and research sharing in relation to the transportation and blending of hydrogen and natural gas in their networks.”
Out of the gate, this MoU is centered on two projects. The first, led by ONTRAS, involves a gas filter that separates methane and hydrogen compounds from a mixed gas stream. The objective is to build a pilot set of membranes for the separation of hydrogen in hydrogen/natural gas mixtures with high purity. Testing is expected to begin later this year.
The second project, led by GRTgaz, is a dedicated testing facility to validate the FenHYx platform. FenHYz is designed to reproduce the features of gas networks and especially those of the gas transmission networks (compression, expansion, measurement, analysis, injection loop, etc.). The project will assess the hydrogen readiness of network equipment and evaluate its operation with internal and external leakage test benchmarks. Construction will begin this year.
“With the European cooperation for the separation of hydrogen and participation in the testing facility project, we will open new possibilities for the use of existing networks for future trans-border green gas transport,” said Ralph Bahke, managing director at ONTRAS.
“Our agreement with ONTRAS will strengthen European research and development efforts towards the deployment of hydrogen and the achievement of climate neutrality. This MoU opens new opportunities to contribute towards the identification of reliable and competitive solutions for the development of the sector and the integration of hydrogen into gas networks,” said Thierry Trouvé, CEO of GRTgaz.
Denmark has taken it a step further, declaring the 2020s to be “the hydrogen decade.” The Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy, and Utilities is providing US$19 million to help fund two hydrogen storage projects. To date, public and private funds earmarked for hydrogen production in Denmark have reached nearly US$75 million, according to data from Hydrogen Europe, a European hydrogen and fuel cell association.
Not to be outdone, Korea has announced plans to create the first hydrogen-powered society. It plans to build three hydrogen-powered cities by 2022, where each city uses hydrogen as the fuel for heating, cooling, electricity, and transportation.
The World Economic Forum predicts that global energy demand will rise 30 to 40% by 2050. As nations seek to lower emissions and diversify their energy portfolios, hydrogen is set to play a much larger role in the global energy mix.
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