The green hydrogen “oxygen” of development: the Greek projects

By | May 9, 2023

Investments 3-4 billion euros by 2030, creation of up to 4,000 jobs and an increase in GDP of up to 1,100 million. euros per year could be “unlocked” by the development of the “green” hydrogen industry in Greece by 2030. This is foreseen in the draft National Hydrogen Strategy which is expected to be delivered soon for public consultation and whose elements key are included in the report of the International Energy Agency (IEA) for Greece, which has recently been made public. The plan sets a target for the development of 750 MW of electrolysis capacity in Greece and the production of 3500 Gigawatt hours of hydrogen using green energy by the end of the decade, which will require the development of RES stations (80% photovoltaic – 20% solar) with a total capacity of 3 GW. If the targets are met, this would “translate” to a 0.75 metric ton reduction in CO2 emissions and a 10% reduction in imports of natural gas and oil.

The creation of a green hydrogen economy with use in transport (heavy vehicles, maritime transport, aviation), in industry and in power generation conditions is one of the main axes of the revised National Energy and Climate Plan. Pending the new ESEK and the National Hydrogen Strategy, in its “background” the greater emphasis that the European Commission places on green hydrogen to achieve its climate objectives (which translates, among other things, into financing of hydrogen projects from various “tools”, such as REPower EU, the Innovation Fund and the Connecting Europe Facility, among others), significant mobility is already observed in the sector with the gradual maturation of the first pilot projects of the refineries (Motor Oil, Helleniq Energy) that are the largest consumers of “grey” hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, the Operators of the Natural Gas Transportation and Distribution Networks (DESFA and DEPA Infrastructure), in the logic that their networks They are critically important in the transition from natural gas to renewable gases, as well as heavy industry.

Explaining the government’s roadmap for the development of the hydrogen industry in Greece, the General Secretary for Energy and Mineral Raw Materials of the Ministry of Energy, Alexandra Sdoukou, points out speaking to “N” that “The vision of total independence from fossil fuels by 2050 cannot be achieved only with renewable energy sources and the electrification of the economy, because there are also sectors where this is not technically possible, such as certain sectors of heavy industry, as well as sectors of the heavy trucking, shipping and aviation.In these sectors, decarbonisation will be achieved with “green” hydrogen, i.e. hydrogen produced from RES using electrolysis.The technology to produce hydrogen in this way is already mature, while research to address technical and economic issues in the fields of hydrogen use is also evolving.It is estimated that the period up to 2030 will be critical for the maturation of hydrogen use technologies in these “difficult to electrify” sectors, while after 2030 the rapid development of hydrogen will manifest itself, more or less as it happened with RES. In any case, we recognize the future importance of hydrogen, but also the current state of technology that does not allow us to make hasty decisions. We also look forward to the manifestation of initiatives at the EU level. which will make it possible to finance investment projects in the field of hydrogen since the funds that will be required are large. Our priority remains the development of RES (where the technology has matured), taking into account that the production of green hydrogen requires the existence of surplus electricity production from RES.”

The coordinator of the National Hydrogen Strategy, Konstantinos Papaloukas, for his part, highlights that until 2027, the hydrogen market in Greece will be in its infancy, due to uncertainties, lack of infrastructure and high costs. As a catalyst to “move forward” in this critical phase, state aid will act to implement the first integrated pilot projects/applications (such as “Hydrogen Valleys”) and to create the first critical infrastructure, with the conversion to “hydrogen ready” pipelines in natural gas transportation and distribution networks. These projects will also bring to the surface all the issues that regulatory authorities will be asked to address. The period 2027-2035 is identified as the market creation phase, where the main objective will be the creation of economies of scale to reduce the -still high- cost, while during the period 2035-2050- the development phase is considered. and market maturation. expected, with private initiative gaining the upper hand, as costs will be rationalized, commercial maturity will exist, and infrastructure will support cross-border trade. As key parameters for the development of the renewable hydrogen market, it identifies the cost, still high, of electrolysis devices, the lowest possible marginal cost of electricity production, the adequacy of the electrical network, the availability of water and access to value. chains of critical raw materials.

The Greek projects- “signs”

The most mature projects that have already received EU funding under the IPCEI (Projects of Important Common European Interest) “Hydrogen” are the B&T Composites H2CAT project on carbon fiber infrastructure that can be used for the transport or storage of hydrogen and GreenHippo of Advent Technologies. for the construction of a fuel cell and electrolyte production unit for the production of green hydrogen in Western Macedonia. It was followed by the H2CEM project of the TITAN cement industry, which will be subsidized with 60 million euros for the production of green hydrogen through electrolysis through RES stations that will be installed in three of the company’s factories,

Regarding the projects of the large energy groups, as explained to “N” Spyros Kiartzis, Director of New Technologies and Alternative Energy Sources at Helleniq Energy, a pilot project is being planned for the production of green hydrogen by electrolysis, with the installation of a 10 MW unit at the Elefsina refinery. The project is expected to come into operation at the end of 2024, with the prospect of increasing its capacity (scale up) in the second year. The hydrogen that will be produced can be consumed within the refinery or transported, powering the hydrogen refueling stations. He adds that the cost of green hydrogen is directly related to the cost of producing renewable electricity and the goal is to set it as low as possible. At the same time, another CO2 capture and storage project resulting from the production of “grey” hydrogen in Elefsina is being promoted, so that it can be converted into “blue” hydrogen with a much smaller carbon footprint.

From Motor Oil’s point of view, the “flagship” of the projects the group is maturing is Blue Med, which is being developed in phases and is expected to be fully completed by 2027. As the company states in its annual financial statements for 2022, the section under development refers to the creation of a plant with a 30 MW electrolytic cell system for the production of green hydrogen, the construction of five hydrogen recharging units and the creation of a new fleet of high pressure tankers, together with the relevant hydrogen compression equipment for the distribution of hydrogen within Greece. Carbon capture and storage infrastructure is under evaluation. The reason for the IRIS project that seeks to combine the production of hydrogen and methanol extremely low in carbon, through carbon capture (CCS).

However, Motor Oil also cooperates with PPC for the development of the green hydrogen industry in Greece through the Hellenic Hydrogen joint venture. From the Delphi Forum podium, the company’s CEO, Dimitris Triantafyllopoulos, spoke of “investments of several million euros for the production of green hydrogen.” The first project of the joint venture is s-ARTEMIS, which involves the development of a 100 MW electrolysis plant to produce approximately 11,789 tons of renewable hydrogen using wind and solar energy in Amyntaio, in Western Macedonia, and aims to be the project largest commercial electrolysis cell in Greece and one of the largest in Europe. It has been submitted for funding under the EU Innovation Fund’s third call for large-scale projects.

Finally, DESFA together with DESFA Bulgartransgaz from Bulgaria are planning two projects to be included in the next wave of IPCEI “Hydrogen”. The first refers to the improvement of the existing infrastructures of the two Operators so that they can transport hydrogen mixed with natural gas. The second, and more ambitious, refers to the construction of a pipeline network for the transport of pure hydrogen. The Greek section will connect, among other things, Athens with Thessaloniki, ending one of its sections at the Greek-Bulgarian border, while the Bulgarian section will cross the entire country. The aim of the project is the transport of pure hydrogen mainly from the southern part of Greece, to the interconnection point with Bulgaria, as well as in the Kavala area where the high intensity hydrogen industries and future storage facilities are located. In addition, the pipeline will form the first part of the future pan-European hydrogen network (European Hydrogen Backbone) and specifically of the South-Eastern Hydrogen Transport Corridor, taking advantage of Greece’s strategic position and potential for the production of low-cost green hydrogen for the export of clean energy to Central Europe, where high demand is expected.

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