Today, the transition to carbon-free energy is considered to be a resolved issue. The general trend to improve the environmental friendliness of the economic activity of entire countries of the world has become the subject of numerous disputes, discussions and development of strategies for the transition to a new energy structure.
Europe (and the whole world as a whole) has chosen the transition to hydrogen energy as the most economically and energetically effective means of achieving climate neutrality in its countries by 2050.
In the energy strategies presented by Japan, South Korea, Russia and European countries, hydrogen is a universal energy carrier. It is intended to replace hydrocarbon fuels (oil, gas, coal) with an environmentally friendly and neutral gas with a high calorific value.
However, hydrogen energy has a significant problem (in addition to storage and transportation). The lack of free hydrogen deposits. Therefore, hydrogen is required to be produced. That is, to convert primary energy and primary resources into the production of hydrogen.
In other words, we must artificially create this energy carrier, moreover spending more energy on its production than we will receive from its use. And this, in turn, imposes a lot of restrictions on the use of primary energy. Firstly, it must be carbon-neutral, and secondly, powerful enough to provide not only the energy needs of mankind in primary energy, but also have a large reserve for the production of hydrogen and the transition to a hydrogen economy (as seen in Germany). Or to the hydrogen society (according to the Japanese version).
Primary energy can be obtained in several ways:
- burning traditional hydrocarbon raw materials (oil, gas, coal);
- by using the physical processes of fission of an atomic nucleus (atomic energy);
- using the potential of water masses in places of elevation differences (hydropower);
- or using wind and solar energy (wind and solar energy);
- using the thermal energy of the bowels of our planet (geothermal energy);
- in the future, it is possible to use physical processes of fusion of nuclei of light elements (thermonuclear energy).
Since the hydrogen concept provides for the abandonment of hydrocarbon resources, it is impossible to use gas or coal to produce hydrogen – this will break the entire hydrogen concept.
However, new gas-fired power plants under construction in Germany have practically zero CO2 emissions into the atmosphere due to the technology of capturing associated greenhouse gases with their subsequent utilization. For example, the energy company “Uniper” in Germany has already built the world’s first coal-fired power plant that meets all European environmental standards.
Moreover, in spite of Germany’s policy of not using coal, a brand new 1100 MW Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant was launched in 2020, whose emissions are at the level of the most modern gas-fired power plants operating in Germany. The cost of this project amounted to almost 1.5 billion euros.
Yes, as amazing as it is, Germany has donated € 1.5 billion to a coal plant! Coal! But an environmentally friendly coal-fired power plant. And this is different – you need to understand.
Obviously, in the next 10 years, gas and even coal-fired power plants will become climate neutral, without harmful emissions into the atmosphere. And this is a fact.
The production of hydrogen as an energy carrier implies the use of renewable environmentally friendly raw materials – water, as well as renewable environmentally friendly sources of energy in the form of the sun, wind and the same hydropower.
The production of hydrogen by this method will be as natural for the Earth’s ecosystem as the water cycle in nature. This type of hydrogen has received the designation – “green”.
Today it is too expensive to mass-produce “green” hydrogen using solar and wind power plants. This trend will only get worse in the future. The thing is that the cost of raw materials in the form of rare earth metals, and just all other non-ferrous metals (for example, copper) is already breaking records due to high demand. Without them it is impossible to build a modern SPP and wind turbine.
Thus, spot prices for polycrystalline silicon increased by more than 20%. And the cost of producing polysilicon panels has grown exponentially since the beginning of 2021!
Therefore, conversations about the mass production of “green” hydrogen, faced with the harsh reality, began to subside on the sly. Simply because producing electricity at the same solar power plants is 3 times more profitable than producing the same amount of “green” hydrogen in energy equivalent.
Today, the production of “blue” hydrogen is 3-4 times more profitable than the production of “green”, even taking into account the carbon tax
Realizing this, many would-be hydrogen producers have simply abandoned the mass production of green hydrogen. For example, Australia in its hydrogen strategy focuses on the production of “gray” hydrogen from coal with associated storage of CO2. Japan is already interested in the project.
The United Arab Emirates and Qatar will invest in the production of blue hydrogen.
And in the hydrogen strategies of Japan, South Korea and European countries, the point of self-sufficiency of their economies with the necessary amount of hydrogen is generally omitted.
In Germany, it is generally stated that Russia should supply them with hydrogen, so there should be no problems with the transition to a hydrogen economy by 2050 (see paragraph 38 of Germany’s hydrogen strategy).
In Russia, according to the hydrogen strategy, by 2024 the economic model of the hydrogen economy itself, with all its derivatives (production of methane-hydrogen mixtures; production of turbine units capable of operating on hydrogen; production of hydrogen transport) should be developed and substantiated. Gazprom is developing a technology for producing “blue” hydrogen. Rosatom is developing a technology for producing “yellow” hydrogen (electrolysis of water at nuclear power plants and the construction of a nuclear power plant for the direct production of hydrogen by high-temperature electrolysis).
Even old Europe is not so optimistic about green hydrogen anymore. Europe suddenly equated the ecological footprint of nuclear power plants in her 387-page study posted on the European Commission’s JRC SCIENCE FOR POLICY REPORT to the ecological footprint of wind and solar power plants.
This is because there is no other way to realize the mass and, most importantly, cheap production of “green” hydrogen, on which Europe relies heavily. Well, this somehow saves the very concept of environmentally friendly hydrogen.
However, in Russia, quite recently, the development of a project began, which is still able to revive the original concept of precisely “green” hydrogen. As the use of water and a renewable environmentally friendly source of energy. This project, worth more than $ 300 billion, will pay off in just 5 years. It will fully provide Europe with the necessary amount of “green” hydrogen. At the same time, Russia itself by 2050 will become the world’s largest producer of hydrogen of all “colors”. And 85% of the total world production of “green” hydrogen will be generated by Russian power plants.