Hydrogen: "Air Liquide is one of the world champions"
This article comes from the management magazine
For the industrial giant Air Liquide, hydrogen will play a major role in the energy transition.The group therefore intends to occupy the field today, on a market which could represent 2.500 billion euros in 2050, at least as much as the current oil market.Already, this chemical element represents 10% of the group's activity, which also produces oxygen and nitrogen intended for industry and health sectors and employs 67.000 employees, in 80 countries.For management, Pierre-Etienne Franc, the "hydrogen Mr. Air Liquide, reveals the way in which the French group, an active member of the Hydrogen Council, plans the future of transport, industry and the sector of the sector'energy.With the production of a 100% decarbon hydrogen in line.
Management.How long has it been producing hydrogen?
Pierre-Etienne Franc: at Air Liquide, production started with space conquest, in the 1960s.Hydrogen is, with oxygen, the fuel used by rockets, because it allows very powerful propels.Subsequently, Air Liquide developed hydrogen production for refining and petrochemical markets, where the physicochemical properties of the dihydrogen molecule make it possible to trap sulfur and lighten the essences, which, chemically, areNothing other than long chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms.New uses are also developing in industry, especially for steel production.Today, it is coal that acts as a reducing agent to extract iron from his ore.Tomorrow, hydrogen could replace it in this role, according to a process that we have developed with the German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp.But the challenge of the years to come is above all to promote hydrogen as a source of clean energy to roll cars and steal planes, or to meet the challenges posed by the development of renewable energies.
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How is hydrogen a clean energy?
Used as a source of energy, hydrogen only produces electricity, heat and water.There is therefore no rejection of particles, pollutants or greenhouse gases at the place of use.In the hydrogen car, for example, the engine is powered by electricity by a fuel cell: electrodes and a catalyst, generally platinum, allow hydrogen stored in the tank to react with oxygen of airto generate electricity and water vapor)...And that's all.
If its use does not give off CO2, the same cannot be said of its production ....
Hydrogen is very abundant in the universe, but it rarely finds itself alone in its natural state.It is always combined with other elements such as carbon or oxygen.To recover it in the form of dihydrogen, that is to say in the gaseous state, the most common method consists in extracting it from methane, causing a chemical reaction called "reforming".This poses a double problem: not only does the operation mobilize a fossil resource, methane, but it also gives off carbon dioxide, 10 kilos of CO2 for 1 kilo of dihydrogen.I want to specify that if we take into account the entire cycle, by going from production to consumption, roll in a hydrogen car with a gas produced by reforming emits 20% of CO2 less thangasoline car.But we obviously cannot be satisfied with it.
Are there other solutions?
Another greener method produces hydrogen: water electrolysis.An electric current circulates in water and decomposes it in hydrogen and oxygen, and nothing more.If electrolysis uses renewable electricity or from nuclear, the gas obtained is 100 % decarboné.This process, more greedy in energy, is also more expensive, which explains that it is still underdeveloped: out of the 70 million tonnes of hydrogen produced annually in the world, only 2% are by electrolysis.Decarbonier the production of hydrogen, this is the site that we have gotten down for years already.
Where are you from the production of this “green” hydrogen?
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Besides the fifty large production units that liquid air uses, mainly for the petrochemical and refining sectors, we already have around fifty small units of electrolysis in the world.But these factories still have a limited capacity, no more than a hundred kilowatt hours.We must go further.Progress of the fuel cell - which is nothing more than inverted electrolysis - have made it possible to develop a more effective, cheaper and less consuming technology of precious metals.Thanks to this battery, we have just started in Bécancour, in Quebec, the exploitation of our first big unit of electrolysis, with a power of 20 megawatts - 200 times more than current standards - and other units of100 megawatts are already planned in northern Europe, Germany and France.
We also continue to innovate to improve the performance of methane reforming, either by capturing carbon dioxide directly out of the factory, as our Le Havre factory has done for five years already, which has made the process neutralshows ;either using biogas issued by the fermentation of household or agricultural waste.In total, 500 million euros have been invested by Air Liquide in the past five years in these new professions of production and uses of hydrogen decarboné.
We have been talking about it for a long time, but hydrogen has not yet entered our daily life.We are still waiting for hydrogen cars, for example.Where we are ?
The transport sector, still very dependent on fossil resources and very CO2 transmitter, is the one that should benefit the most from the hydrogen revolution.Some 20.000 hydrogen vehicles already drive in South Korea, Japan and California, where we have just started the construction of a liquid hydrogen production unit to supply the fleet.We are also at the initiative of the deployment of a network of more than 100 hydrogen stations in Germany, with our partners Shell, Total, Daimler and Hyundai.Without forgetting the rail sector, where future hydrogen trains will offer an ideal alternative to diesel locomotives.The potential is enormous: 70% of the European rail network is not electrified!
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What about the energy sector?
It is the other large sector that should benefit from hydrogen.As part of the energy transition, to be able to continue to develop the share of renewable energies - solar, wind ... - it is necessary to solve the problem of their intermittency, by managing to store and to circulate the electricity they produce.However, by transforming this electricity into hydrogen, its storage becomes much simpler, but also its transport, for example, of a country with strong potential in renewable energies like Morocco, Qatar or Australia, to countries inRenewable energy deficit.Hydrogen, with the fuel cell, is also a way to provide heat, electricity and hot water in individuals: 300.000 households in Japan and South Korea already benefit from this technology.
What about in France?The plans of New Industrial France, in 2016, announced one hundred hydrogen stations by 2018 ... We seem far from the account.
It is true that France has been late, especially because the hexagonal car manufacturers have focused on battery electric vehicles and have been slow to offer a hydrogen vehicle offer.It is estimated that a few hundred vehicles, mainly belonging to business fleets, drive hydrogen in France.And today there are about twenty hydrogen stations on the territory, including four in Ile-de-France-in Orly, Roissy, Loges-en-Josas and at the Alma bridge, in the heart ofParis.In the capital, the Hype hydrogen taxis fleet, of which we are partners, rolls 130 vehicles, and we aim 600 at the end of this year.But only a strong commitment to the public authorities will make it possible to take off the uses.
The announcement, last September, by Bruno Le Maire and Barbara Pompili, the Ministers of Economy and the Ecological Transition, a plan for decarbon hydrogen with 7 billion euros, is a real blow'Accelerator and puts us in tune with other European countries.It should be remembered that among the world champions of hydrogen, several are French: Alstom for the railway, of course, Engie and EDF, but also Airbus, which announced last summer its desire to have hydrogen planes fly2035.
Air liquid is a member of the Hydrogen Council.What is it about ?
It was a global hydrogen advice, which we launched in 2017 and started with thirteen large bosses, who wanted to defend the cause of hydrogen as a pillar of the energy of tomorrow.Today, the Council has nearly 100 members, including Total, BP, Michelin, CMA CGM, Honda, Hyundai, Siemens, Alstom, BNP Paribas, Engie, EDF, Faurecia, Airbus...When a hundred bosses are aligned and defend the same ambition, policies and think tanks have no choice but to listen to what they have to say.