Together with the recent EU Green Deal and EU’s hydrogen strategy call was announced for installing at least 40 GW of electrolyser capacity by 2030, as part of the bloc’s effort to become climate neutral with net-zero emissions by 2050. That is one of the means to decarbonize energy system and will affect sectors like transport, gas grid and heating, industry and will become important part for electric power system. That includes impact for main sectors here in Lithuania as well.
For transport part it might be the most promising decarbonization option for trucks, buses, ships, trains, large cars, and commercial vehicles, where the lower energy density (hence lower range), high initial costs, and slow recharging performance of batteries is currently a challenge. While there are advantages for using hydrogen as a fuel for fuel cell systems the new technology is still lacking the pace for changing the old oil-based transport and battery charger vehicles too. Even though hydrogen and fuel cells seem very reasonable solution, the challenge is in the supply and delivery of the fuel itself. Systems for transporting hydrogen must have very high-pressure tanks (due to low density of H2) or have tanks suitable for liquid version of it (H2 liquifies at -253 C). To have a ready and available fueling station necessary storage tanks as well must be present (normally high-pressure versions) and the compressors ready to supply hydrogen at typical 350/700 bar pressure for the vehicles. With all the challenges addressed, the resolution is needed for refueling infrastructure as well as the needs of final customer.
Gas grid is one part of the current system that can be party decarbonized with least of effort. Not talking about pure hydrogen infrastructure, which would require totally rebuild the system itself. Current natural gas grid can accept and is capable utilizing green gases like green hydrogen. The end user whether heating application or power generation companies can accept controlled level of hydrogen in the mix (5-25% concentration of hydrogen in total gas mixture, depending on the country and requirements, f.e. UK – 0,1%, Germany at 5%, plans for 10%, France – 6%, Netherlands – 12%). Further assessment like monitoring how that would impact the infrastructure and additional measures what maintenance might be needed will have to be evaluated. Higher injection volumes also technically possible, but probably would require some investments into the infrastructure and should be designed for each individual project in accordance with TSO/DSO. But that is quick way to start initiation for green gas market (with green certificates) and have impact for lower CO2 emissions in end users applications.
In the future synthetic gases might be utilized like combining hydrogen with captured CO2 (such fusion produces synthetic CH4) for the same purpose and still using same infrastructure. Also, more combined heat and power technologies might be present to utilize available together with fuel-cells based combination.
The main heavy users of hydrogen gas are industrial companies, like most common and known in our region - fertilizer production companies and oil refineries. Such companies required huge amount of gases for their internal production processes and despite the fact of stronger requirements for CO2 emissions and sustainability, at the final stage their business and the process depend on the price. Current estimation for producing green hydrogen is 4-7 Eur/kg and this price heavily relates to the needed CAPEX investments for the equipment (mainly electrolysis equipment) and electricity price that is needed for loading the electrolysis units (for hydrogen to be green, the electricity must come from renewable energy sources). To be competitive with conventional fuels in the industry green hydrogen must be produced at the price level of 1,5-3 Eur/kg. For such prices to become reality the CAPEX needed for the equipment must be lowered by at least 50% ant electricity prices should drop down to 10-20 Eur/MWh. The need for power input would be investigated individually, since for such companies several electrical MW producing hydrogen will not be enough.
Balance of electric power system
Balancing electric power system becomes an issue with increasing renewable energy sources. Inconsistent generation from wind and solar parks requires necessary storage solutions. Coupling between gas grid and electrical grid comes as additional an opportunity here by turning excess of electricity into green hydrogen gases and them storing/using locally or transporting it using gas pipeline infrastructure. This opportunity can help to balance across the year and work as a seasonal energy storage. While storage of hydrogen gases is still a big question, as currently most promising storage location are salt caverns or depleted gas fields, the existing gas pipelines can be utilized for this purpose and new gases can be used in the sectors mentioned above.
Will all the possibilities and gains available finally it will come down to the end customer what alternative will he choose and what will be most acceptable. With such ambitions from EU for the additional capacities of green hydrogen production it is clear that hydrogen will play its part in the energy sector. The faster the technology will be adapted the more interesting projects we will see in the near future.
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