Hydrogen investments cannot wait

Luc Williams

These are the conclusions from the debate “Hydrogen and the hydrogen economy”, which took place during the European Economic Congress.

Ryszard Pawlik, parliamentary advisor to Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister and President of the European Parliament, currently an MEP, pointed out that hydrogen is one of the key issues that EU institutions have been working on over the last five years.

– In order to implement ambitious plans related to reducing emissions, the amount of renewable energy in the system will have to be significantly increased. In this situation, the role of hydrogen as a system stabilizer increases, he said during the debate. Hydrogen is to be treated not only as a stabilizer, but also as a way to decarbonize some sectors of the economy, including energy-intensive industries, including steel, fertilizers and heavy transport.

The EU plan assumes the production of 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen in the European Union and the import of 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030. The EU strategy calls for 40 GW of power in electrolysers powered by renewable energy sources, while Poland sets a target of 2 GW. Our country is currently the third largest hydrogen producer in the EU and the fifth in the world. However, it is mainly gray hydrogen, produced in the steam reforming process of methane. Therefore, we face many challenges related to building a new market.

Orlen adopted the hydrogen strategy two years ago. By 2030, the company plans to achieve 1 GW of installed capacity in low- and zero-emission hydrogen production installations, including the use of renewable energy-powered water electrolysis technology and municipal waste processing.

– By the end of this decade we intend to produce 130,000. tons of renewable hydrogen and 70 thousand t synthetic fuels, also based on renewable energy – said Grzegorz Jóźwiak, director of the hydrogen technologies and synthetic fuels office in Orlen. Hydrogen is to be used in transport and industry. It will serve, among others, to decarbonize refining or petrochemical assets.

– We have obtained notification from the European Commission for financial support for key projects, Hydrogen Eagle and Green H2. It is necessary for these notifications to translate into real actions at the national level, to launch programs enabling co-financing of projects, said Grzegorz Jóźwiak. The condition for the implementation of the tasks indicated in the notification is the appearance of these programs this year.

The representative of Orlen emphasized not to overregulate the hydrogen market. He also emphasized that it is necessary to quickly prepare a plan for the transport of this raw material. Renewable sources will often be located at a considerable distance from industry, so fuel transfer is crucial to decarbonizing Poland. This is a condition for maintaining the competitiveness of, for example, the steel and fertilizer industries.

By the end of 2030, Orlen wants to have over 100 hydrogen refueling stations in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Of this, our country will account for 57.

The group builds stations where there is demand for fuel. Public transport came first. At the beginning of the year, the station in Poznań was launched. 25 buses are refueled there a day, consumption is over 500 kg of hydrogen per day. Further investments are underway. The Clean Cities – Hydrogen mobility in Poland project received non-refundable funding of EUR 62 million. EU support covers the construction of 16 publicly available hydrogen refueling stations located in various regions of Poland, as well as the construction of a green renewable hydrogen production installation in Szczecin, based on the electrolysis of water powered by renewable energy sources. In addition, the subsidiary company, Orlen Laboratorium, has obtained accreditation conditions for testing the quality of hydrogen for the automotive sector. This is the third such accreditation in the world, after the United States and Great Britain.

Polenergia also plans to build a large-scale green hydrogen factory in Upper Silesia with a capacity of 105 MW. It will be able to produce approx. 13 thousand. tons of raw material per year. The EC's notification decision confirms funding of up to EUR 143 million.

– This is a notification, now we are waiting for financing at the national level, which will enable the actual implementation of this project. We hope that the Ministry of Climate will sign an agreement with BGK by June and provide the first phase of financing by June next year. We have very little time if we are talking about spending EUR 143 million. The total value of the entire project is over EUR 200 million, said Emilia Makarewicz, member of the management board of Polenergia. The company is in talks with customers. It assumes that its investments will support the decarbonization of Silesia.

– We hope that this project will not end our investment in the region – added Emilia Makarewicz.

In turn, Hynfra decided to transform Sanok's energy system with the use of renewable energy sources and renewable hydrogen. The project will include the construction of its own electricity generation sources (photovoltaic panels), an energy and heat storage facility, the construction of a hydrogen electrolysis installation, as well as the creation of a hydrogen refueling station and fast charging of electric vehicles. The city will also invest in a modern heat pump that reduces carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other auxiliary installations.

Grzegorz Jóźwiak emphasized that, taking into account the ambitious goals imposed on the industry, it is necessary to think about the development of large-scale hydrogen production. And this requires a lot of renewable energy. Therefore, rapid development of renewable energy is necessary. It is also worth taking into account the use of other low-emission energy sources, such as nuclear energy, for hydrogen production.

– Without large-scale investments, it will be difficult for Poland to achieve the goal of even 2 GW, which we are already dissatisfied with, because the real needs are much greater – he concluded.

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