With the energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union, in general, and Germany, in particular, have realized that one of the weaknesses of the old continent is its dependence on the outside world. It already happened during the pandemic, with the manufacture of masks. And then with the semiconductor and technology crisis. That is why Berlin has just joined the H2Med project, the corridor that will allow clean hydrogen to be transported across the Iberian peninsula to northern Europe. And to disconnect from Moscow. These are the keys to a project that was born out of the need to transport natural gas across the Pyrenees and has resulted in an infrastructure that will link Barcelona to Marseille.
The kilometer-long route
The final H2Med project will run between the Catalan and French coasts through a 360-kilometer pipeline. It will transport some 2 million tons of green hydrogen per year to France and Portugal via Barcelona and Zamora. The corridor will cost around 2.5 billion euros and could be ready by the end of this decade. It represents the end of the MidCat project, the overland link with France partially completed up to the province of Girona, although it aspired to reach Toulusse.
Renewable hydrogen versus gas
H2Med is an infrastructure designed to transport renewable hydrogen, although it will also temporarily carry gas. Green hydrogen is the result of an electrolysis process (the water molecule is broken down into oxygen and hydrogen) generated by renewable installations. It is this hydrogen (H2) that will then be used as a source of energy, as opposed to gas, which now comes from the decisions of Russia and other foreign countries. This is how Europe intends to strengthen its autonomy.
H2 will serve as a raw material in the chemical industry, in petrochemicals for oil refining and in metallurgy for steel production. It is also intended as a fuel to decarbonize transport, especially long-distance and air transport. It will also be used for electricity and heating in homes. And as storage.
Green, gray, pink, blue...
The most decisive aspect of green hydrogen is that it is produced with renewable energies. But there is also blue hydrogen, based on fossil fuels but capable of capturing and reducing emissions throughout the process. Grey hydrogen is the most polluting, as it uses natural gas as fuel. And in this whole process, France is betting on pink hydrogen, using energy from nuclear power plants.
Although with Germany's position, and the agreement between France and Spain, the road to H2Med is clearer, there are risks involved. The first is the million-dollar financing that will have to come, to a large extent, from EU funds. And the improvement in the efficiency and use of water (fresh or salt) to avoid a solution leading to another major problem.