Hydrogen, a strategic resource becoming essential on the European market to decarbonise industries.
In a context of energy and ecological transition, hydrogen is a resource for the future, with ever-increasing needs.
What is hydrogen?
Its is the most widespread element in the universe, main constituent of the sun and most of the stars.
It is created naturally by the planet – called natural hydrogen – but can also be produced industrially.
It is most often associated with other elements to form molecules (water, methane, starch, sugar, alcohol, etc.).
Its pure form, di-hydrogen is invisible, odorless and non-toxic.
It is the smallest and lightest element – 14 times lighter than air – making it highly volatile.
Natural hydrogen contains 3 times more energy than gasoline.
The main ways of producing hydrogen
Vaporeforming of hydrocarbons
Most of the hydrogen consumed today is produced from natural gas (CH4). The “steam reforming” process breaks down the methane molecule to recover the hydrogen that makes it up using steam. But this process also generates carbon dioxide.
We speak then of grey hydrogen when the generated CO2 is rejected in the atmosphere without valorisation and of blue hydrogen in the case where the produced carbon dioxide is captured and enhanced.
Electrolysis of water
As part of the European strategy for the development of low-carbon hydrogen, initiatives to create hydrogen from water are multiplying. This electrochemical reaction, called “water electrolysis”, splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using a large amount of electricity.
We talk about green hydrogen when the electricity used for this process comes from renewable energies, and pink hydrogen when it comes from nuclear energy.
This process is the oldest used to produce hydrogen on an industrial scale. Gasification converts the carbonaceous elements present in coal, organic or fossil, into hydrogen, carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2), thanks to a thermochemical treatment using steam. The hydrogen is then separated from the other elements using specific absorbers or membranes.
We speak then of hydrogen either black or brown, depending on the type of coal used. This technique is extremely polluting since the CO2 and CO generated cannot be reused and are released into the atmosphere.
Recovery from the subsoil
The planet naturally produces hydrogen, which is the most abundant element on Earth. We qualify as white hydrogen or natural hydrogen, the hydrogen extracted from the subsoil.
This process differs from all the production methods previously mentioned by the fact that it allows us to benefit from a low-carbon hydrogen, at very competitive costs, which requires neither water, nor anthropic energy, nor critical raw material to be produced.
45-8 ENERGY intention
Driling and testing conducted so far in the Guhlen area have proven and delineated a nitrogen rich gas accumulation, associated with helium and a natural gas fraction. 45-8 ENERGY intends therefore to develop an innovative helium and local blue hydrogen production facility.
The limited fraction of natural gas had been so far an economical challenge, seen as an opportunity for innovation by 45-8 ENERGY. As designed now, project considers producing hydrogen onsite through a steam methane reforming (SMR) process.
The generated associated carbon dioxide will be captured and converted to supply local industries requiring purified CO2 (breweries, cryogenics, firefighting), another tense market currently importing resource over long distances.
Hydrogen in figures
Source: Opportunities for Hydrogen Energy Technologies considering the National Energy & Climate Plans, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen, 2020
The hydrogen market in Europe
H₂ production sources in Europe
No Data Found
Source: economie.gouv.fr, France Hydrogèene (AFHYPAC), IHS Markit, Les Echos
Used as a chemical compound:
It is very reactive and therefore combines very easily with other elements to create compounds (associated with nitrogen for the creation of ammonia, base of fertilizers or even used for the creation of nylon and various plastics).
Hydrogen is used to remove sulfur when refining gasoline to prevent sulfur oxides (SOx) from being released during combustion. These oxides participate in atmospheric pollution and are responsible for certain respiratory diseases.
When dihydrogen is combined with CO2, methane is generated (natural gas). This process, called methanation, has particularly emerged with the development of wind and solar energy, which requires the ability to store the excess electricity produced. This conversion of electricity into gas (“power to gas”), can contribute to the energy transition and to a reduction in overall CO2 emissions.
Used as an energy vector:
Powered by hydrogen, a fuel cell produces electricity and emits heat and water. In addition to a vector of mobility, this electricity can supply isolated sites, industrial units or even sensitive sites requiring emergency alternative energy.
Solar and wind power have the disadvantage of being intermittent and sometimes more electricity is produced than the network can accommodate. This excess electricity can then be used to produce hydrogen, via an electrolyzer, which will then be converted back into power via a fuel cell.
The hydrogen used in a fuel cell makes it possible to produce electricty directly in a vehicle powered by an electric motor (car, train, truck, etc.). These “zero emission” vehicles then emit only water.
Used as fuel:
From the begining of the space industry, hydrogen immediately played an important role as rocket fuel. It is the fuel that concentrates the most energy, a criterion of primary importance as a space launcher must be as light as possible.
Hydrogen is used in metallurgy for heat treatment atmospheres that make it possible to produce mechanical parts or modify their properties.