Hydrogen instead of methane: how Russia can integrate into the global trend

Hydrogen instead of methane: how Russia can integrate into the global trend

10 November , 17:17Photo: biz.censor.net
In a carbon-free future of the planet, "green" hydrogen should be the source of 25% of all energy produced. Great hopes are pinned on it in terms of energy storage, primarily renewable energy sources. Russia lost the battle for renewable energy sources, but now it can get into the "hydrogen" leaders - if it wants.

Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil

Hydrogen has become the hottest topic in green energy this year. The European Union has published its Hydrogen Concept and Plan for the transition to zero CO2 emissions in 2050. Germany did it for him. At the end of October, the Russian government also adopted a Roadmap for the development of hydrogen energy in the Russian Federation until 2024.

Clean energy source

Hydrogen is an energy resource that is produced from other sources of energy - electric, or from natural gas, coal. But then it can be used either as fuel or as a medium for storing energy. If the car runs on hydrogen, then there are no emissions. Vyacheslav Kulagin, head of the research department of the energy complex of Russia and the world, INEI RAS, says:

- There are many options and chains in which hydrogen can be incorporated. This is the electricity production chain, this is the energy storage chain, these are the transport chains. The theme is very trendy. Now in several countries, quite active work is underway to produce hydrogen vehicles. First of all, there is motor transport, but there are also hydrogen trains. So far, this is all at an experimental stage, because everything is complicated with the economy, and it is quite difficult to compete with alternative resources.

Hydrogen is different - from gray to yellow. Today it is made from fossil fuels and used in industry. However, the eyes are not directed at him. We are talking about the fuel of the future, which will be produced without a hydrocarbon footprint and will burn without leaving it behind. Director of the analytical center "New Energy" Vladimir Sidorovich explains:

- It will be "green" hydrogen, which is produced using electricity and electrolysis. It can be blue hydrogen, which is produced from natural gas with carbon dioxide capture and storage. It could be hydrogen, which will be produced from electricity in nuclear power plants, and is therefore sometimes referred to as yellow. There are many options, but so far I have not heard of any large investments in Russia.

Russian experts express sufficient skepticism about the rapid spread of hydrogen in the energy sector of the future. Production technologies are not sufficiently developed, they say. Since hydrogen is a secondary energy source, the cost of producing it is higher than the cost of extracting and transporting natural gas. The transition from hydrocarbon fuels to hydrogen is still a long way off, says Vladimir Parshukov, a member of the Council for Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources:

- If for some reason the supply of natural gas stops, then the main carrier that will replace gas will be liquefied natural gas. Its transportation has been worked out, storage and transportation has also been worked out. This will be a more economical way. Transporting hydrogen is a rather big problem both by road and rail. This requires the development of sufficiently knowledge-intensive and time-consuming work. The easiest way is to use hydrogen as close to the place of its production as possible.

What's going on in the world

In the summer of this year, the European Union adopted a concept, the priority of which is renewable hydrogen, produced from wind and solar energy. Cumulative investments in renewable hydrogen could range from € 180 billion to € 470 billion by 2050. The money for the implementation of the program will be allocated now. Until 2024, the EU will provide funding for the construction of 6 GW electrolysers for the production of renewable hydrogen. 1 million tons of clean gas will be produced. By 2030, production will increase to 10 million tons. For this, the European Commission is going to allocate subsidies for the construction of 40 GW electrolysers.

In Europe, they understand that while the price of "green" hydrogen is higher than any other type of fuel, but its cost is rapidly decreasing. The EU countries hold leading technological positions in this segment and intend to increase their advantage. By 2030, about 1 million jobs will be created in this market segment.

The Spanish oil and gas concern Repsol has announced the start of construction of one of the world's largest plants for the production of clean fuels and green hydrogen. The initial investment will amount to 60 million euros. The plant will be built in 4 years.

In Holland, Shell and a gas distribution company are starting to build hydrogen production facilities using 10 GBt of electricity from offshore wind farms. The first hydrogen will be produced in 2027. In 20 years, the consortium will produce 800 thousand tons per year. For this, the wind park will double. It alone will cost $ 30 billion. The project will be ready this year. Participants are counting on European and national subsidies.

In Asia, too, do not sleep. The world's largest hydrogen production plant has already opened in Fukushima, Japan. A solar-powered hydrogen plant can produce gas to fuel 560 fuel cell vehicles per day. Project participants Toshiba, Tohoku Electric Power and natural gas distributor Iwatani hope to be able to transfer their technology overseas and supply fuel to Japan from there. The plant will become a testing ground for the development of new energy technologies. The project cost was $ 189 million.

In China, the industrial production of the hydrogen industry in 2025 will amount to $ 148 billion, and in 2035 - $ 740 billion. Shanghai plans to build a "hydrogen energy harbor" with a turnover of 7.23 billion dollars a year.

Hydrogen in Russia

Experts in Russia are well aware that practically all EU countries have adopted programs that sharply limit the use of electricity obtained from hydrocarbons. In the energy balance of Germany, in the first place is the production of electricity from wind, in the second - solar generation, and only in third place - energy from sources of hydrocarbons. In 10-15 years, most EU countries will switch to non-carbonaceous raw materials, so the supply of natural gas will decline. Vladimir Parshukov says:

- Gas now outperforms hydrogen. But if we take the economy as a whole, when, in addition to the price, we have to pay fines for environmental damage, for non-fulfillment of climate agreements to which Russia has signed, assuming obligations, then, of course, it will be more profitable to use hydrogen over time.

The fact is that there are no reliable hydrogen technologies in Russia, all experts interviewed by Novaya Izvestia admit. There is an association of developers and manufacturers of equipment for use in the hydrogen economy; there are programs for individual regions. Valeriy Dzyubenko, Deputy Director of the Association of Energy Consumers, says that projects related to hydrogen in the energy sector are at the level of startups, fuel cells are used, but these are purely theoretical descriptions. No one could name any practical examples of using hydrogen on any significant scale for power engineering. The Roadmap announced the development of a hydrogen project by Rosatom based on the Kola NPP. Gazprom instructed one research institute to prepare a design assignment.

- Rosatom, Gazprom - these are all just projects. I do not know of any real production facilities for the creation of hydrogen, its storage, accumulation, and use for energy needs. There are many promising projects, projects and intentions to do this in the future, perhaps, maybe there is a lot of talk about this. As for practical examples, they are not known. Maybe they are implemented in a not very public format, but even such examples are unknown.

Once our country was advanced in the use of hydrogen, recalls Vyacheslav Kulagin:

- We ran cars on hydrogen. The most amazing thing is that it was during the war years in besieged Leningrad, where five hundred cars were driven on hydrogen. There were great difficulties with the supply of petroleum products. Airships were flying on hydrogen. And, in order to transport these airships to the right places, unique engineers were found who, in these conditions, from improvised means, collected technology that allows the machine to move on hydrogen from airships. Then they planned to develop this program, but after the war, when they compared the economy in conditions when there were no difficulties with the supply of petroleum products, it turned out that hydrogen was much more expensive. And they refused to develop these programs.

So far, in our country, hydrogen is considered as an interesting promising direction for the future. Whichever field of application you take, hydrogen is the loser. It is more expensive than gas generation. Hydrogen in vehicles is more expensive than a gasoline car. But the main word here is "bye".

In Russia there is a problem of excess electricity production. In the Russian North, consumers consume no more than 50% of electricity at some nuclear power plants. There are advantages for Rosatom in hydrogen production because it needs to maintain a certain level of electricity generation. Nuclear units are difficult to regulate in terms of power. At the same Kola nuclear power plant, it is necessary to generate electricity, but there is nowhere to put it. It can be dumped, for example, into the production of hydrogen reserves. This will help make nuclear power more flexible and will allow them to increase the regulation range, which they now have a very modest one.

At Gazprom, as Vyacheslav Kulagin says, there is an option when hydrogen can be added to gas and supplied to Europe in the form of methane-hydrogen mixtures:

- Much depends on what kind of pipes we are talking about. Five percent is painless enough for the system. If we are talking about a pipe such as Nord Stream, gas with a much higher hydrogen content can be used for it. These opportunities are there. But the problem is that the pipes are different, you need to look at which ones we are talking about and which directions of delivery. And there may be different permissible hydrogen content so that there are no problems. And the second serious question: to put it into a pipe, you need to produce hydrogen at its beginning. And the question is what will happen at the end of the pipe.

If power plants receive gas through a pipe, then this is not a big deal. But there are consumers who use methane as a raw material for the production of fertilizers. Not everything is so simple, experts say, the issue is more complex. Vladimir Parshukov believes that it is currently impossible to use the existing pipelines for transporting hydrogen.

Despite the adoption of the Roadmap, experts found it difficult to answer the question of how much the state is ready to allocate for the hydrogen program.

- Due to the fact that there is a reformatting of all federal target programs, it is difficult to say specifically what amounts will be allocated for which projects, but the amounts are allocated sufficient for the implementation of pilot projects and the creation of experimental samples. The program is designed in the short term for three years and in the future - up to ten years, - says Vladimir Parshukov.

When formulating national goals for the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier, it is necessary to proceed from the resources that the country has and what it is ready to offer in this regard with the benefit of itself and foreign partners. Valery Dzyubenko recalls:

- Unfortunately, we have an example of renewable energy, on which huge funds are spent - per megawatt is significantly more than the average in the world, but we have not achieved any significant progress in the development of the industry. This is a consequence of a series of mistakes in the choice of mechanisms, methods of support, distribution of risks and responsibilities.

Experts say that the economics of hydrogen energy will be in many ways similar to the economics of natural gas: someone will gain technological leadership, someone in production due to the cheapness of electricity, and someone will be engaged in supply and transit.

Leadership is a serious goal that requires not only large, but, most importantly, effective investments.

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