You are currently viewing Hydrogen, holy grail of the energy transition?

Hydrogen, holy grail of the energy transition?

  • Post category:Economy News
  • Reading time:3 mins read

In this week’s episode of “Déclic – Le Tournant”, we explore the issues related to the development of the hydrogen sector and in particular, green hydrogen. Presented as the cornerstone of the economic future of the European Union by Ursula Von der Leyen herself, where is hydrogen production today? Is it a credible alternative to fossil fuels?

What is hydrogen?

Let’s start with the basics. Hydrogen, ct is one of the most common chemical elements in our universe. The famous “H” of Mendeleïev’s painting. It is also very present on earth but very rarely in its pure state, that is to say in the form of a molecule of dihydrogen “H2”.

To synthesize hydrogen, it is therefore necessary to break molecules that contain it: water, plants or even fossil resources. Moreover, it is the fossil resources that are the most used today to synthesize hydrogen. Aurore Richel, Professor of Chemistry at Uliège explains that “the hydrogen we consume today – mainly in industry – comes from 70% Natural Gas and 20% Coal… with a major drawback: producing hydrogen like this generates hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 in the air“.

What about green hydrogen then?

Green hydrogen is synthesized from water. It involves breaking the molecules of H20 into dihydrogen on one side into oxygen on the other… therefore without CO2 emission. The problem is that to carry out this chemical reaction we need a lot of electricity. “To give an order of magnitudesays Francesco Contino (professor at UCLouvain and specialist in energy transition) we can speak of a yield of 70%. It takes 100 units of electrical energy to produce 70 units of hydrogen energy “.

The idea is therefore, to have a clean and cleanly produced fuel… to synthesize this green hydrogen only via renewable resources, mainly wind power and photovoltaics.

And there, where are we?

In Europe, we are not yet much further than the experimental stage. The European Commission intends to boost the process and has just announced its intention to set up a “hydrogen bank” to boost the sector at the industrial level.

In Belgium, a group a few steps ahead in this area: John Cockerill from Liège, who is launching into the manufacture of industrial electrolysers, intended for Europe. These electrolyzers, in the form of mega-cylinders of metal weighing several tens of tons, will be used to separate hydrogen from oxygen in future hydrogen plants installed near wind farms or photovoltaic panels. But today these projects, in Europe, are still in the pipeline.

To learn more about hydrogen, its properties, its role – central or secondary? – in our energy transition… take the time to listen to the 40 minutes of “Click – The Turning Point”, your podcast dedicated to the major societal questions on the turning points that are looming before us.