“Green Hydrogen Energy”
at the Center of New Renewable Energy
Sep, 2020

▶ Green hydrogen energy produced from renewable energy 

The announcement of the “Europe Green Deal” last December shows Europe’s growth strategies to address climate change and environmental problems through new renewable energy, and to shift to an energy-efficient and competitive economic paradigm. As Korea also announced its “Hydrogen Economy Revitalization Roadmap” in January of last year, and the “Korean Green New Deal” policy in May, public interest in hydrogen-based energy is playing an increasing role in the new renewable energy industry with high expectations for the new renewable energy industry. 

After hydrogen was first discovered in 1766, hydrogen gas was used to fly balloons in 1783. Then hydrogen-fueled cars were first released in 1972, but their use was restricted due to other relatively cheaper energy sources. Because hydrogen exists as combined molecules in nature, unlike other energy sources such as petroleum, coal and natural gas, energy should be input to obtain pure hydrogen, so it is considered an Energy Carrier or secondary energy source, like electricity, that can store and transport energy, rather than a primary energy source like petroleum.

Because hydrogen becomes water after combining with oxygen when it is released into the atmosphere, hydrogen energy is often considered clean energy. However, if fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal are used during its production, it cannot be considered completely clean. It can be considered clean only when it is produced using renewable energy, such as solar, water or wind power. 

There are many ways of generating hydrogen. In general, it is classified into byproduct hydrogen, water electrolyzed hydrogen and extracted(reformed) hydrogen. Byproduct hydrogen is hydrogen that can be obtained in the petrochemical and steel making processes. It has long been used industrially for petrochemical purification and semiconductor cleaning. Water electrolyzed hydrogen is obtained from water using electricity. Due to high production costs, its production is not economical. Extracted hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas. Natural gas-extracted hydrogen currently accounts for the largest percentage. 

As byproduct hydrogen is a secondary byproduct produced in the petrochemical and steel making processes, its supply is limited. As water electrolyzed hydrogen is uneconomical, extracted hydrogen is currently the cheapest way to produce hydrogen in large quantities. As hydrogen energy is obtained from extracted hydrogen through fossil fuels, it is not completely clean but can be considered low carbon energy with less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels when used as fuel cells.

In general, according to production processes, hydrogen is classified as grey hydrogen if it produces CO₂, and blue hydrogen if it captures and stores CO₂with water electrolyzed hydrogen, or imported hydrogen classified as green hydrogen. The European Union has certified hydrogen as eco-friendly through the CertifHy Guarantee of Origin since 2016. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) subdivides hydrogen produced using fossil fuels into Black (coal)/Grey (gas)/Brown (lignite).

Green Hydrogen among these, as hydrogen energy that produces the least carbon emissions, is used for P2G (Power to Gas) technology which electrolyzes water using electricity produced by renewable energy and stores it as hydrogen. This stored hydrogen is transported to where it is needed and used as a fuel cell energy source. 

▶ Status of Hydrogen Economy of Major Countries around the World 

Consulting firm McKinsey forecasts that the global hydrogen market will become a self-reliant market and create more than USD2.5 trillion in profit and about 30 million jobs by 2050. According to the IHS Markit data, global investment in green hydrogen will grow from USD30 million last year to more than USD700 million in 2023. 

The issue of production costs, the biggest problem of this promising green hydrogen market, can be resolved in two ways: first, by economy of scale based on large quantity production and second, by producing hydrogen with highly economical new technology other than water electrolysis technology. 

Source  |  Hydrogen Council,Mirae Asset Daewoo Research Center
The global demand for hydrogen energy is expected to grow from 8EJ in 2015 by roughly 9.8 times to more than 78EJ in 2050, which will account for 18% of the entire energy demand. 
*1EJ(exa Joule) refers to energy required by the entire world for a day (7 million tons of hydrogen gas, about 170 million barrels of petroleum)

In the USA, both government agencies and private enterprises are increasing the supply of hydrogen energy. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the largest power plant operating body among all US local governments, is investing USD19 billion to convert coal-fired electrical power plants located in Utah to utilize hydrogen produced by natural gas, wind power and sunlight. According to California’s carbon-free policy of eliminating electric power supply carbon emissions zero by 2045, they will run plants with hydrogen-based power generation at 30 percent in the early stage right after their completion in 2025 and then convert to 100 percent hydrogen-based power generation within 20 years. Moreover, early this year, NextEra, the largest wind power and solar PV owner in the USA, announced a plan to produce hydrogen, with surplus sunlight to be used for power plants in Florida, by investing USD65 million. 

The ongoing “Wind2H2” is a project to supply hydrogen produced by wind power generation through natural gas pipelines. It is considered a means of both pursuing economic feasibility and eco-friendliness by using electrical energy produced by new renewable energy for green hydrogen production and further utilizing the existing gas pipeline infrastructure. Dominion Energy, a company that supplies electric power and natural gas to 20 states in the US, is planning an attempt on a project of mixing hydrogen by 5 percent into their gas supply network early next year. 

The European Union has announced its hydrogen strategy leading to 2050: in the first phase, annual green hydrogen production will be increased to up to 1 million tons by 2024 by building 6GW water electrolyzed hydrogen production facilities; in the second phase, annual green hydrogen production will be increased up to 10 million tons by 2030 with additional 40GW water electrolyzed hydrogen production facilities being built; in the third phase, green hydrogen energy will be spread to all renewable energy areas by 2050. The EU has launched the “European Clean Hydrogen Alliance” for this purpose.

Germany is producing green hydrogen using sunlight and wind energy with its new renewable energy dissemination target at 50% until 2030. With the announcement of its hydrogen economy strategy, it stated that they would commit 9 billion euro (about 12 trillion KRW) to R&D for green hydrogen. Furthermore, they were first in the world to introduce hydrogen electric trains in 2018 and established plans to supply 1.8 million hydrogen cars and install 1,000 hydrogen fueling stations until 2030. 

Japan announced the “Hydrogen Fuel Cell Strategy Roadmap” in 2014 and established the basic plans for hydrogen in 2017, with each government department carrying out policies related to regulatory reform, technological development and infrastructure overhaul through integration. Currently, Japan has 140 hydrogen fueling stations, the largest number in the world. Toyota Motor Corporation and Honda Motor Company have successfully mass produced hydrogen electric cars with plans to supply 800,000 hydrogen electric cars and 1,200 hydrogen electric buses with 900 hydrogen fueling stations by 2030. Further, with active supply of residential fuel cells, the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field(FH2R), the world’s largest green hydrogen production facility, was completed in last March. 

China added the new “drive for construction of hydrogen energy facilities and fueling stations” in its March government affairs report last year, with a goal to increase the number of hydrogen fueling stations from about 20 to 100 in 2020 and 1,000 by 2030. The “Made in China 2025” Project unveiled in 2014 includes a hydrogen car expansion plan that will supply 10,000 hydrogen cars in 2020 with a sharp increase of hydrogen cars to 2 million by 2030. 

The Korean government announced the “Hydrogen Economy Revitalization Roadmap” last year. The main content includes: first, securing world-class technology in the areas of hydrogen cars and fuel cells; second, production and supply of hydrogen based on the petrochemical plant industry; third, building infrastructure for hydrogen supply by installing extractors on the LNG supply networks. They established plans to supply 80,000 hydrogen cars by 2022 and 6.2 million by 2040, and 2GW or above residential fuel cells by 2040.

Korea has a significant level of technology in the areas of hydrogen cars and fuel cells, but its water electrolysis technology for green hydrogen production remains at just 60~70% that of advanced countries. Therefore, this deficit must be resolved in order to proliferate green hydrogen energy. 

Source  |  Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy

Source  |  Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy

▶ Application areas of green hydrogen energy 

One of the areas in which green hydrogen technology can be used is ESS (Energy Storage Systems) for storing electricity obtained from solar PV or wind power generation. Currently lithium batteries are used but their recharging is limited to 3,000 times with high energy loss and vulnerability to a fire. Lithium batteries’ energy storage capacity per unit weight falls short of that of hydrogen and dead batteries themselves are pollutants. Hydrogen P2G technology that can replace it enables a large quantity of electricity storage with less loss in the long run and infrastructure construction through the LNG supply networks. It is eco-friendly and causes less pollution. 

Data Centers are another area of application. They are a high energy-consuming industry where energy costs account for 30~50% of the total operational costs. If green hydrogen energy is used, its usefulness will be considered high because stored liquefied hydrogen can be used as a server coolant before being used for energy with eco-friendly effects. 

Apart from application of green hydrogen energy, studies on various methods of mass production are actively ongoing at home and abroad to resolve the issue of water electrolysis technology costs: such as on hydrogen production with a biological method based on photosynthesis and methane fermentation; with a photochemical method using photocatalyst for water electrolysis; nuclear energy-based hydrogen production; hydrogen production through decomposition of hydrogen-combined compounds such as ammonia and Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier(LOHC). According to reduction in green hydrogen production costs, the market will be revitalized in parallel. 

With rapid growth of the new renewable energy and green hydrogen markets around the world and green hydrogen energy at the center of new renewable energy, if Q CELLS makes inroads on green hydrogen energy business with its position as a total energy solutions leader, it will take a lead in global eco-friendly energy development. 

1. Water electrolysis : method of electrolyzing water using electrical energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen
2. Reform : manipulation to improve quality of gasoline by changing the structure of hydrocarbons through thermal or catalytic action

#Energy Insight
#Professional Column
#Renewable Energy
#Green Hydrogen Energy
#Hydrogen Energy Outlook
#Hydrogen Economy
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