The concept that a hydrogen economy can help meet ambitious climate change targets is gaining traction worldwide. Japan, Australia, and Germany are increasing investment, with the idea that hydrogen could be produced from cheap solar power generation, which is then liquefied and transported via hydrogen carriers the same way that carriers transport LNG.
In its Basic Hydrogen Strategy published in 2017, Japan compared the cost of hydrogen at a charging station ($10/kg) with the cost of imported natural gas ($1.5/kg). If hydrogen is to become a serious decarbonation solution, cost reduction is critical. To this end, cheap solar power generation (i.e., less than $20/kWh) and a drastic reduction in the cost of electrolyzers through economies of scale is necessary, as is a drop in the price of fuel cells. The announcement that Michelin and Faurecia will jointly build fuel cells is a positive signal in that direction.
Nevertheless, it will be difficult for hydrogen to compete with electric commercial vehicles because of its low energy density and the prohibitive costs to build the distribution network, and due to the earlier development of the batteries industry. Hydrogen could, however, prove to be a valuable option for heavy transportation, such as trains and ships.
Power-to-Hydrogen-to-Liquids is much scrutinized as it would provide a solution for both transportation and industry. Although production costs are higher, transportation and distribution costs would be reduced thanks to the existing midstream infrastructure. Australia, for example, is currently financing research into ammonia and methanol produced from renewable hydrogen.
The question of hydrogen injection in gas networks remains unclear and experts are still debating whether hydrogen could represent 5%, or 50%, or more of the gas distributed in existing networks. This is a crucial question as we are unlikely to see the construction of dedicated hydrogen networks at a nationwide level any time soon.
Capgemini helps companies navigate the hydrogen landscape – from strategic advisory and business model generation, to project engineering and including complex modeling capabilities with our Energy Strategy Lab. To learn more about our hydrogen capabilities contact Andrillon Florent.