Spain, France and Portugal agreed to promote the first major hydrogen corridor in the European Union and have now added Germany to the initiative. A pharaonic project, called H2Med, which aims to be key to underpin the hydrogen revolution to replace natural gas in economic sectors that are difficult or impossible to electrify.
The original plan agreed between Madrid, Paris and Lisbon was to link the three countries with a corridor with two sections that are expected to be operational between 2028 and 2030. One section will link Spain with Portugal (between Celorico da Beira and Zamora) and the other with France (between Barcelona and Marseille, with a submarine tube). After adding Berlin, the network of tubes will be extended through French soil until it reaches Germany and the intention is to end up deploying them to other countries in northern and central Europe.
Already during the presentation of the project last month in Alicante by the leaders of the three countries -Pedro Sánchez, Emmanuel Macron and Antonio Costa- there was friction between Moncloa and the Elysée regarding what type (or types) of hydrogen would be transported by the future hydroproduct. Macron took the opportunity to slip that the infrastructure would be used not only to carry green hydrogen (produced with electricity from renewable energies) but also what is known as pink hydrogen (generated with energy from nuclear reactors).
The French president's comment shocked the Spanish government. Moncloa hastened to clarify its intention that the Portugal-Spain-France corridor be used to transport exclusively green hydrogen, the one produced with electricity generated by renewable energies. And, in fact, Spain did guarantee that H2Med until it reaches Marseille will be used only to transport renewable hydrogen. Only as far as Marseille. But once the tubes begin to rise towards northern Europe, France will be able to inject its own hydrogen produced by electricity generated by its huge fleet of nuclear power plants.
"Naturally, H2Med will circulate hydrogen which, in the case of France, can come from nuclear energy," official sources at the French Embassy in Madrid told EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA, part of the Prensa Ibérica group. "Each country will do so according to its energy mix." In fact, French diplomatic sources emphasize that this was confirmed at the Spanish-French summit in Barcelona on January 19.
And in the joint declaration of both governments after the summit chaired by Sanchez and Macron, it is stressed that "Spain and France recognize the importance of the production, transport and consumption of clean hydrogen as produced from renewable and low-carbon energy sources". That is, not only green hydrogen, also the one produced with French nuclear.
Only green until it reaches France
The three countries submitted last month to the European Commission the H2Med candidacy to be considered a project of common interest (PCI) and to obtain aid for up to half of the 2.85 billion euros needed to build the two stretches of hydrogen pipeline to connect Portugal, Spain and France.
The technical project sent to Brussels contemplates that the H2Med will only be used to transport green hydrogen and that it will only serve to export renewable gas from the Iberian Peninsula to France, with no provision for the reverse direction in the flow, according to several official sources familiar with the contents of the proposal. "H2Med has been submitted to the Commission as a green hydrogen-only project," they state.
The documentation submitted to the European Commission to obtain European funding clearly states that it is not planned to use the hydro-product in any case for Spain to import hydrogen from France - which could be produced with electricity from the Gallic nuclear plants - and the facilities designed do not include a compressor in Marseille that would make it possible to reverse the flow, government sources explain. But once the hydrogen network is extended beyond Marseille, the hydrogen to be transported need not be exclusively renewable.
Electricity is needed to produce hydrogen as an energy source. This is used for the electrolysis of water, which separates hydrogen (H2) from oxygen (O). Green hydrogen" is considered to be hydrogen in which the necessary electricity is obtained from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power. Pink hydrogen" is one in which the electrolysis is done with energy from nuclear power plants and, as France is a nuclear powerhouse, the hydrogen it produces will use this type of energy.