If anyone still doubts that green hydrogen has a leading role to play in the sustainable economy of the future, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister’s Special Representative for Economic Diplomacy just told them to wake up and smell the coffee. Even as Russia continues its murderous rampage, Ukraine has concocted a green hydrogen plan to make the case for EU membership. Game on, skeptics.
Ukraine makes the case for green hydrogen
Ukraine’s green hydrogen plan goes hand in hand with its efforts to show that it can join the European Union not as a nation in need of rescue, but as a nation that can stand up and bring key contributions to the EU economy.
Special Representative Oleksandr Riepkin exposed the case in an editorial published in Euro news on June 17, citing a green hydrogen plan that was in the works months before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked attack on the nation.
“Ukraine has what it takes to become a successful European player in the hydrogen market – and major EU energy supplier,” he wrote.
Obviously, the plan is to take advantage of Ukraine’s solar energy resources to run electrolysis systems, which push hydrogen gas out of water with an electric current. Wind energy is another emerging path.
“The cities of Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv, Odessa and Kherson all receive as much or more sunshine than central Italy,” Riepkin added. “Thanks to these regions alone, Ukraine would be able to supply enough green hydrogen for domestic needs and the needs of Europe.
Ukraine already has green hydrogen up its sleeve
Regardless of the lingering skepticism in the green hydrogen market, Ukraine has already set the wheels in motion.
“Potential assessment studies have been carried out, and we can already say with certainty that the Odessa region could generate up to 3 GW of green hydrogen. The ‘Danub; project, which was planned before the war, will build several hydrogen production facilities for export to the EU in Lviv and Odessa,” Riepkin noted.
Riepkin’s case is based in part on the “Ukraine Hydrogen Valley” project, which was described in a report in 2020. “The Black Sea Hydrogen Valley project represents the renewable energy potential of southern Ukrainewhich, together with the gas transport infrastructure, will ensure the economically successful export of “green” hydrogen to the European Union and Germany in 2022 – 2050,” the report predicted.
A green hydrogen roadmap produced last year also noted that “the development of renewable hydrogen projects could represent a significant investment opportunity in Ukraine. Not only does Ukraine enjoy some of the most abundant renewable resources in Europe, but it is also the country that most needs new and clean forms of energy to support economic development.“
More recently, earlier this spring, our friends at global MS noted that “Ukraine figured prominently in the EU’s hydrogen import plans prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, with the EU citing Ukraine as a “priority partner” in its hydrogen strategy published in 2020.”
global MS describes two cross-border projects among those already in preparation: “the Green Hydrogen @ Blue Danube programme, which envisages the production and transport of hydrogen along the river, with imports to Germany, and the Central European Hydrogen Corridor (CEHC ), which would send hydrogen from Ukraine to Germany through dedicated pipelines via Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
But what does that mean?
All of this activity sheds yet another light on the motivation behind Russia’s bloody rampage through Ukraine.
As some have speculated, it is reasonable to assume that Putin aims to lock in the plentiful untapped fossil gas reserves beneath the surface of the Donbass region, while tightening Russia’s control over the world’s food supply.
The invasion could be aimed at crippling Ukraine’s ability to follow through on its green hydrogen plans, thus maintaining the EU’s dependence on Russian gas while making it more difficult for the Ukraine to advocate for EU membership.
And this is a very good case. It is no secret that the EU has relied on green hydrogen as an effective route to decarbonisation. Over the past few years, the EU has become a hotspot for green hydrogen activity, with Shell and other global oil and gas players leading the way.
If Putin and his planners are aware of the EU’s interest in Ukraine’s renewable resources, it stands to reason that they would want to crush Ukraine’s green hydrogen industry before it has a chance to take off.
More green hydrogen for the EU
The war in Ukraine is far from over, but it looks like Putin has bitten off more than he can chew. Riepkin’s op-ed says green hydrogen planners in the EU and Ukraine are determined to pick up where they left off.
It might take a while as the war drags on, but other stakeholders might step in to take over until Ukraine gets up to speed.
Sustainable H2 hubs are being proposed all over the United States, from the seemingly unlikely state of Texas to an ambitious tri-state project involving two old rivals in the field – New York and New Jersey – as well as Connecticut. All things being equal, green hydrogen activity in the US could help free up more natural gas for export to the EU. This isn’t particularly good news from a climate action perspective, but it could help the EU get rid of Russian gas until enough renewables hit the market.
Let’s talk about “clean” H2
Despite all the activity brewing in the area of renewable hydrogen, fossil fuel players are determined to carve out a place for themselves as global hydrogen demand increases, and they still have key decision makers to their sides.
Here in the United States, for example, the Department of Energy’s new hydrogen hub initiative includes an exclusion for natural gaswhich remains the main source of global hydrogen supply (coal and biomass/biogas replace it to a lesser extent, as well as hydrogen recovered from industrial waste gases).
Nevertheless, pressure from green hydrogen players could undermine these plans. After all, the whole point of producing hydrogen is to sell it, and if no one is buying what you’re selling, you’re in trouble. The hydrogen market is now dominated by fossil sources, but green hydrogen offers steel mills and other H2 buyers an alternative supply that appeals to customers and customers looking for the best value for money.
In the last example of the sustainable H2 trend At work last month, energy leader Ibderola celebrated the commissioning of a new green hydrogen hub in Spain, which deploys a water electrolysis system powered by renewable energy.
“It is the largest installation of this type for industrial use in Europe, and it is also the largest factory currently in operation in the world,” enthused Ibderola, adding that “This installation could make Spain a benchmark in the production and development of this new energy”. vector, which would make a decisive contribution to the decarbonisation of sectors that are difficult to electrify, such as fertilizers, high-temperature industry and heavy transport.
For the record, the Green Hydrogen @ Blue Danube project is under the wing of the Austrian firm Verbund. The two-phase project is designed to start with the production of green hydrogen in Austria and Bavaria, presumably taking advantage of the company’s hydroelectric assets, before expanding to southeastern Europe, taking advantage of of the Danube transport corridor for overcome transmission bottlenecks in Austria and Germany.
The Ukrainian Hydrogen Council website was updated on June 20 with more details on the Blue Danube and sustainable H2 projects.
follow me on twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: courtesy of Verbund.
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