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    Why has green hydrogen become the new El Dorado?

    January 23, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      Germany formally embraced this Sunday the project to promote H2Med, the green hydrogen corridor connecting the Iberian Peninsula with France and extending to central Europe as a measure to ensure security and energy autonomy while betting on decarbonization.

      There are already four countries that are committed to promoting the first green hydrogen corridor in Europe, which despite being promoted in the midst of the current energy crisis, its effects will not be visible at least until 2030, as confirmed by the Spanish government.

      Without being the emergency solution, green hydrogen is gaining more and more strength as a structural solution to energy supply problems for several reasons.

      What is green hydrogen?

      The attraction of hydrogen compared to energy sources such as oil or gas is, among others, its abundance. It is a chemical element that is widely present in nature. It is part of water, of the air we breathe, united with carbon forming organic compounds... Although it is never present free, so to release it chemical techniques are needed that, for example, break the water molecules (H?O) and release hydrogen (H?) on the one hand and oxygen (O) on the other.

      To carry out this process, which could be called manufacturing or obtaining hydrogen, there are different methods. All of them require a high energy input and, depending on the energy used, hydrogen is more or less polluting.

      What types of hydrogen are there?

      Currently, the most widely used method for obtaining hydrogen is the one that uses natural gas and water to release the hydrogen molecule. It is called gray hydrogen because the gas used to produce the hydrogen pollutes less than coal. Coal is the energy source that has traditionally been used to obtain this gas, which is mainly used in refineries and industries dedicated to the production of fertilizers, for example.

      When the energy input needed to break down the water molecule and release the hydrogen comes from nuclear energy, a formula on which France wants to bet strongly and which will undoubtedly be a source of tension in the process of advancing H2Med, it is called pink hydrogen.

      Pure green hydrogen is the one that uses renewable energies for production. But in between there is a whole range of possible energy sources such as biofuels of plant origin, or animal waste, such as slurry, which can be used for hydrogen production.

      The theoretical bet is that H2Med can only transport green hydrogen. Undoubtedly, the debate will be over what is to be considered "green".

      What is it that makes it so attractive?

      Europe sees green hydrogen as the first time in history that it is not dependent on external energy supplies. A security of supply that after the outbreak of war in Ukraine has become strategic. At the same time, it allows it to advance in its project of decarbonization and zero neutrality set for 2050. Before that, by 2030, the European Union has set the target of consuming 20 million tons of hydrogen, of which H2Med could supply 2 tons, 20% of European needs.

      Why does Spain want to lead this energy change?

      Spain has privileged conditions to become a hydrogen energy hub for several reasons. It is clear that the process of electrolysis of water to obtain hydrogen can be done by any industry that needs it. In fact, sector experts insist that the closer the place where the hydrogen is obtained and consumed, the more efficient it is. The cost of transporting hydrogen by tube over long distances is between two and four times lower than transporting the electricity needed for the process of producing it.

      But, along with distance, there is another variable at play. To produce one megawatt hour (MWh) of hydrogen, it takes three gigawatts of renewable energy to produce one gigawatt of hydrogen, and electricity is 50% of the cost of generating hydrogen. Therefore, the cheaper the energy, the more efficient the process of obtaining hydrogen. This is where Spain excels. The sun and wind of the Iberian Peninsula have made it the cheapest strategic geographical location in Europe to produce electricity, which also lowers the cost of the hydrogen production process.

      What does German support for H2Med imply?

      One of the main setbacks to the Midcat project, which aimed to develop a gas pipeline across the Pyrenees to extend gas connections between Spain and France, was that Europe considered it a project of interest only to interested parties and not strategic for Europe. Therefore, the team of the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition turned to a bet like H2Med, which not only bets on clean energy, but also involves several European countries, which will make it more complicated for Brussels to refuse to finance it.

      In addition, German factories are the final destination of the hydrogen transported by H2Med. With Berlin's support, the infrastructure promoters will be able to sign contracts with their final customers even before starting construction, which facilitates the security of financing.


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