The current situation and prospects for hydrogen energy development.

 Tuesday, 08 September 2020  Back

The next 10-20 years will usher in a period of significant opportunity for rapid development.

Recently, hydrogen energy as a feasible technology route to promote the global energy transformation, has gradually become the world's energy field hot topic, from the European and American governments to the International Energy Agency and other important international organizations, have high hopes for the hydrogen energy economy. China also proposed for the first time in the main tasks of this year's National Economic and Social Development Plan to formulate a strategic plan for the development of the national hydrogen energy industry.

The global hydrogen energy industry is in the early stage of rapid development, and it is expected that with the continuous investment of technology research and development and industrial capital, the global hydrogen energy industry will usher in a period of great opportunity for rapid development in the next 10 to 20 years.

Hydrogen energy development potential has gained international attention.

Since the 1970s, countries have focused on hydrogen energy research and development and applications, as a result of the oil price shock. Since the beginning of the 21st century, due to global climate change and environmental problems, energy conservation and emission reduction and energy clean-up have accelerated, hydrogen energy in the energy transition potential has once again gained attention. Hydrogen energy is the ideal clean secondary energy, hydrogen production with renewable energy, hydrogen storage material spent on hydrogen storage materials, hydrogen fuel cell power generation, will constitute a "net zero emissions" sustainable use of hydrogen energy system, become a renewable energy outside the realization of "deep decarbonization" an important path.

Hydrogen energy development potential is increasingly recognized internationally, Europe, the United States, Japan and South Korea and other regions and countries actively formulate policies to support hydrogen energy investment. To date, 18 countries, accounting for 70% of the world's GDP, have developed hydrogen energy development strategies, with a total of about 50 policies to directly support hydrogen energy deployments worldwide. Since 2010, the United States has provided $100 million to $280 million in annual support for hydrogen energy and fuel cells. The European Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Consortium released the European Hydrogen Energy Road map: A Sustainable Path to Energy Transformation in Europe in February 2019, presenting the EU's Road Map for Hydrogen Energy Development in2030 and 2050, and the European Commission announced the establishment of the Clean Hydrogen Energy Alliance on 10 March 2020. Japan has incorporated the "hydrogen energy society" into its national development strategy,and since2014 has formulated the Fourth Energy Basic Plan, the Hydrogen Energy Basic Plan, the Fifth Energy Basic Plan, the Hydrogen Energy And Fuel Cell Roadmap, and plans to have 200,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2025, 800,000 by 2030, and 900 fuel supply networks. hydrogenation stations are about 9 times the current number.

While promoting the development of hydrogen energy, europe, Japan and South Korea and other regions and countries have a strong willingness to cooperate with each other, the United States, Japan and Europe signed a Joint Statement on Future Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cell Technology Cooperation during the 2019 G20(Osaka) Summit, committed to the comprehensive cooperation of hydrogen energy and fuel cell technologies in the future, and guided the transition of the energy system to hydrogen energy. Recently, Canada is developing a national hydrogen energy strategy to accelerate the clean transformation of the energy industry, while Germany, together with France, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg, called on the European Union to legislate on hydrogen energy technology as soon as possible and increase funding.

Although the potential of hydrogen in the energy transition is of renewed concern, the most important raw material for hydrogen production worldwide is fossil fuel. Currently, the world produces about 70 million tons of hydrogen per year, of which 76% is based on natural gas, the remainder(23%)is almost all coal-based, and electrolytic hydrogen is only 1%. Hydrogen production consumes about 205 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year (6 percent of global natural gas consumption) and 107 million tons ofcoal (2 percent of global coal consumption). Although fossil energy hydrogen technology is relatively mature, there is a carbon emissions problem, and the addition of carbon capture and storage device(CCS)is a measure to reduce carbon emissions. With the rapid decline of renewable energy generation costs in recent years, direct use of renewable electricity electrolytic water hydrogen production has become the focus of attention.

At present, more and more countries and institutions are involved in the research and development of hydrogen production in large-scale renewable energy. Recently, the Green Hydrogen Making: Europe 2 x 40 million kilowatts initiative, jointly launched by the European Hydrogen Energy Organization, the Desert Project, the African Hydrogen Energy Partnership, the Hydrogen Energy Commission of Ukraine and other institutions, proposed the construction of 40 million kilowatts of clean photovoltaic / electrolytic hydrogen equipment and interconnect pipeline facilities in North Africa and Europe, and is expected to reduce the cost of hydrogen production to 1.62 to 2.16 u.s kg by 2025. The scale of the renewable energy hydrogen projects in progress around the world has expanded rapidly, from 3.2 million kilowatts in October 2019 to 8.2 million kilowatts at the end of March 2020, with a single capacity of more than 100,000 kilowatts of recent new projects under construction, mainly in Australia, France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and Paraguay.

Five challenges are faced.

In recent years, hydrogen energy, as a potential emerging energy source, has gradually entered the medium- and long-term planning horizons of central and local governments. In the "China Made in China 2025""China Made in TheEnergy Technology Revolution Innovation Action Plan(2016-2030)," "New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan(2021-2035)," "13th Five-Year Plan for National Strategic Emerging Industries Development", and other national plans, clearly put "hydrogen energy and fuel cells" as a strategic focus, the Energy Law (draft for comments) for the first time to include hydrogen energy in the energy category. Hydrogen energy will be included in the State Department's government work report in 2019 and2020. At the local government level, in 2019 alone, more than 70 hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle incentives have been introduced in several provinces and cities, including Shandong.

In fact, our country is already the world's largest producer and consumer of hydrogen energy. There are 130 coal gasification plants operating worldwide, 80% of which are located in our country. The National Energy Group has 80 gasification furnaces with an annual output of 8 million tons of hydrogen, accounting for about 12% of the world's total hydrogen production. Since 2017, China's hydrogen energy and fuel cell automotive industry has developed rapidly, with more than 130 hydrogenation stations under construction and construction by the end of 2019, 61 of which have been completed and 52 have been put into operation. At present, China has formed Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, Central China, Northwest China, Southwest, Northeast 7 hydrogen energy industry clusters, related industrial support and commercial application system is also gradually explored and improved, in the demonstration operation area of the operation of various types of vehicles nearly 4000, fuel cell commercial vehicle production and sales and commercial demonstration applicationscale in the forefront of the international.

Although the development of hydrogen energy industry in China already has a certain foundation, but to crack the difficult problem of China's energy development, to play the huge potential of hydrogen energy in China's energy transformation, there are still many practical problems and challenges to be solved.

The first is public perception. The chemical properties of hydrogen are lively, for a long time, China has been hydrogen as a dangerous chemical management, the application field is limited to chemicals, hydrogen energy as energy management, the public awareness level is low. In fact, various experimental data show that the risk factor of hydrogen is lower than that of oil and gas. As long as there is strong technical support and safe operation management capabilities, in accordance with the specifications of operation and use, hydrogen security is controllable.

The second is the top-level design problem. Whether from the production of hydrogen energy, storage and transportation, or technical requirements and other links, the current national support for hydrogen energy only appears in new energy development policies, there is no special hydrogen energy policy, has not yet formulated a special hydrogen energy industry development plan, nor the introduction of a development road map that can boost market expectations, the upstream and downstream industries are more prominent, the long-term sustainable development of the hydrogen energy industry will be severely restricted.

The third is the problem of technical equipment. Fuel cell and other hydrogen energy equipment key components more, more complex system, special materials, production process is cumbersome, but China's related core technology and equipment autonomy is insufficient, core components and key materials still rely on imports. Hydrogen from chemicals to energy, in production, storage and transportation, terminal facilities and application product development and other industry chain needs innovative technology as a long-term support and leadership.

The fourth is infrastructure. The construction layout of hydrogen energy infrastructure, especially hydrogenation station, has greatly restricted the scale of hydrogen energy economy and restricted the market development of hydrogen energy vehicles. Up to now, China's hydrogenation stations are only a few dozen, distributed to the relevant provinces and cities is a few, hydrogenation station construction subject slot, lack of national co-ordination and policy supporting measures. Whether the layout of the hydrogenation station and related infrastructure can start quickly depends on the rate of decline in hydrogen costs and the level of government subsidies in the operation of the hydrogenation station.

The fifth is the issue of development costs. Hydrogen needs to be secondary, hydrogen transport, hydrogen storage, hydrogen ationing all links of high cost, causing people to question the economic sane hydrogen energy. At this stage, the high cost of hydrogen energy is the technical reason, but also the application of limited scale, the International Energy Agency, the International Hydrogen Energy Commission, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and other institutions have shown that industrial scale is the key to reduce the cost of hydrogen energy. Currently, the cost of making hydrogen from renewable sources is as high as $3 to $7.5/kg, but as the cost of renewable energy decreases and hydrogen production increases, the cost of using renewable energy to make hydrogen by 2030 could be reduced by 30%from the currentlevel. The current cost of hydrogen fuel cells in vehicles is $230/kW, which is expected to drop to $180/kW in the near future and $50 to $75/kW in the future, when high-mileage hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be more cost-efficient than electric vehicles.

The need for multi-party co-ordination force . . .

From a worldperspective, the development of hydrogen energy has been more and more concerned by governments, energy producers, equipment manufacturers and research institutions. The International Hydrogen Energy Commission predicts that the global hydrogen energy industry will account for about 18%of energy by 2050, and the value of the hydrogen energy industry chain will exceed $2.5 trillion. The global hydrogen energy industry is already in the early stage of rapid development, and it is expected that with the continuous investment of technology research and development and industrial capital, the global hydrogen energy industry will usher in a period of great opportunity for rapid development in the next 10 to 20 years. China is the world's largest energy producer and consumer country, energy production and consumption structure are mainly fossil energy, to cope with climate change, protect the ecological environment is facing great pressure and challenges, the huge development potential of hydrogen energy for the difficult problem of China's energy development provides a new possibility. In view of the high demand of hydrogen energy technology, complex industrial chain, investment demand, the need for government, enterprises and industry organizations and other multi-party efforts to seize the future hydrogen energy economic development opportunities.

First, plan first. Speed up the top-level design, formulate and issue a strategic plan for the development of the national hydrogen energy industry as soon as possible, clarify the positioning of hydrogen energy in China's energy system, according to the resources, markets, industries and other characteristics of different regions of china, the overall planning of the hydrogen energy industry key development areas, put forward the development of the hydrogen energy industry road map, the overall planning of hydrogen energy generation, transportation, storage, utilization and other development path. The scale of green hydrogen energy economy urgently needs to be expanded. Overall, in the early stage of the development of the hydrogen energy market, we will continue to develop low-cost industrial by-product hydrogen production, combine clean energy base construction to explore the demonstration of renewable energy electrolytic hydrogen projects, and in the medium term, carbon capture and storage facilities can be allocated on the basis of coal-based hydrogen, and promote the industrialization of hydrogen electrolytic water production of renewable energy; Biohydrogen and other technologies become an effective complement to achieve the overall green economies of scale.

Second, technology leads. Hydrogen energy development can not be separated from the whole industrial chain of technological innovation and breakthrough. Relying on large-scale energy enterprises to set up a national-level joint research and development and promotion and application platform, effectively integrate social resources, promote the broad participation and collaborative efforts of scientific research forces in relevant fields of the whole society, focus on core technology, accelerate the breakthrough of weak links, but also for the promotion and application of new technologies and new products to provide a mature industrial support and trial platform, improve the industrial standard system.

Finally, policy support. The policy mainly solves the problem of "chicken eggs, eggs and chickens" in the hydrogen energy industry. As we all know, Denmark has become the world's leading wind power producer, thanks to strong policy support, and Denmark has spawned the world's leading wind power industry chain, nurturing the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer and the largest offshore wind power developer. China should learn from the experience of policy support in the early stage of new energy development, formulate and formulate financial and fiscal preferential policies to support the sustained and stable development of the hydrogen energy industry, and encourage market participants to actively invest and participate in the hydrogen energy industry, and realize the virtuous circle of policy support - scale expansion - cost reduction - investment gathering from the aspects of basic research and development investment, financial - support for key enterprises and standard norms and demonstration projects.

Source: Energy Review Author.

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