The growing interest in hydrogen as a clean and renewable energy source is no accident: it is a key vector for achieving a carbon-free future with greater security and efficiency.
For this to become a reality, the entire value chain needs to be covered. In other words, to develop the entire process, from production to application in different uses.
Hydrogen can be produced in different ways and from different energy sources. However, in view of the climate neutrality targets set in Europe for 2050, we must focus primarily on renewable hydrogen production.
The process to produce green hydrogen, commonly done through electrolysis of water, uses electricity from renewable sources (such as solar or wind) to split water into its basic components (hydrogen and oxygen). The result is totally clean and renewable hydrogen.
To produce green hydrogen, therefore, it is necessary to have:
1. Water as a raw material from which to obtain hydrogen.
2. Renewable facilities that supply the electrical power necessary for the process.
3. Appropriate technology for the production and maintenance of electrolysers (devices that separate water into hydrogen and oxygen).
With these conditions covered, Spain is one of the European countries with the greatest real possibilities of becoming a major producer of renewable hydrogen. The normative and regulatory framework also helps Spain, as it has a Road Map to promote its production and consumption. Similarly, in Spain, several major hydrogen projects have arisen, for example the different hydrogen valleys or various alliances in autonomous communities such as Extremadura, Galicia or the Valencian Community that wish to promote the hydrogen economy.
Hydrogen production can be carried out in different ways and from different sources
Once produced, hydrogen must be transported and distributed safely and efficiently from production points to demand centres.
For long distances, hydrogen pipeline transportation is positioned as a more efficient and competitive alternative (2 to 4 times more) than transporting electricity through high-voltage grids to produce hydrogen at destination.
Progress is already being made in the development of hydrogen transport infrastructures which can, in part, take advantage of the existing natural gas transmission network. According to the European Hydrogen Backbone, around 70% of the existing infrastructure in Europe could be used for this purpose.
Hydrogen must be transported and distributed safely and efficiently from production points to demand centres
In the case of Spain, the gas transmission network has more than 11,000 km of gas pipelines. Some 30% of this route, which could be increased to 70%, would be ready for the transport of renewable hydrogen. This is a clear advantage for Spain, which aims to become one of the European epicentres of the hydrogen economy, producing and exporting to neighbouring countries.
In December Enagás, the Spanish TSO, together with its counterparts in Portugal and France, submitted H2MED to the call for European Projects of Common Interest (PCIs). This corridor, which will connect Spain, Portugal and France, will be the EU’s first to transport green hydrogen. Projects such as this will be of great significance in promoting the production and use of hydrogen across the continent.
Hydrogen is easy to store for long periods of time and, with the right infrastructure, can be made in large quantities. This provides such important benefits as:
Hydrogen is easy to store for long periods of time and, with the right infrastructure, can be produced in large quantities
Several projects already exist and different ways of storing hydrogen are being explored. One of these options is underground storage, which, according to experts, is the best alternative to be able to do this on a large scale.
Because of its attributes: 100% renewable, its capacity to generate electricity and heat, its ability to be stored and its ease of transport, hydrogen can be used in different sectors and/or applications:
The hydrogen value chain is a complex process involving many players and processes. The efforts being made in Europe, and specifically in Spain, will provide the impetus needed to make renewable hydrogen a real option for a sustainable future.