Germany formally embraced this Sunday the project to promote H2Med, the green hydrogen corridor that connects the Iberian Peninsula with France and that extends to central Europe as a measure to guarantee security and energy autonomy while committing to decarbonization.
There are already four countries that are committed to promoting the first green hydrogen corridor in Europe, which despite being promoted in the midst of the current energy crisis, its effects will not be visible, at least until 2030, as confirmed by the Spanish Executive .
Without being the emergency solution, green hydrogen is gaining more and more strength as the structural solution to energy supply problems for various reasons.
What is green hydrogen?
The attraction of hydrogen compared to energy sources such as oil or gas is, among others, its abundance. It is a chemical element with a wide presence in nature. It is part of the water, of the air we breathe, attached to carbon, forming organic compounds… Although it is never free, so to release it, chemical techniques are needed that, for example, break the water molecules (H₂O) and release hydrogen ( H₂) on the one hand and oxygen (O) on the other.
To carry out this process, which could be called manufacturing or obtaining hydrogen, there are different methods. All of them need a strong contribution of energy and depending on the energy used, hydrogen is more or less polluting.
What types of hydrogen are there?
Currently, the most widely used method to obtain hydrogen is the one that uses natural gas and water to release the hydrogen molecule. It is called gray hydrogen, because the gas used to produce the hydrogen is less polluting than coal. Coal is the energy source that has traditionally been used to obtain this gas, which is mainly used in refineries and industries dedicated to the production of fertilizers, for example.
When the input of energy that is needed to break the water molecule and release the hydrogen comes from nuclear energy, a formula for which France wants to bet strongly and that, without a doubt, will be a source of tension in the process of advancing H2Med , is called pink hydrogen.
Pure green hydrogen is the one that uses renewable energy for production. But in between there is a whole range of possible energy sources such as biofuels of plant origin, or animal waste, such as manure, which can be used for the production of hydrogen.
The theoretical bet is that the H2Med can only carry green hydrogen. Undoubtedly, the debate will be on what is going to be considered as “green”.
What does it bring that makes it so attractive?
Europe sees in green hydrogen the possibility of accessing for the first time in history not to depend on foreign energy. A security of supply that after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine has become strategic. At the same time, it allows it to advance in its decarbonization and zero neutrality project set for 2050. Before, for 2030, the European Union has set the goal of consuming 20 million tons of hydrogen, of which H2Med could supply 2 tons, 20% of European needs.
Why does Spain want to lead this energy change?
Spain has privileged conditions to become a hub hydrogen energy for various reasons. It is clear that the process of electrolysis of water to obtain hydrogen can be done by any industry that needs it. And in fact, experts in the sector insist that the closer the place where hydrogen is obtained and its consumption, the more efficient it is. The cost of transporting hydrogen by tube over long distances is between two and four times lower than transporting the electricity necessary for the process of producing it.
But, along with the distance, there is another variable at play. To produce one megawatt hour (MWh) of hydrogen it takes three gigawatts of renewable energy to produce one gigawatt of hydrogen, and electricity is 50% of the cost of generating hydrogen. Therefore, the cheaper that energy is, the more efficient is the process of obtaining hydrogen. This is where Spain shows its chest. The sun and wind of the Iberian Peninsula have made it the cheapest strategic geographical location in Europe to produce electricity, which also lowers the cost of the hydrogen production process.
What does German support for H2Med imply?
One of the main setbacks that the Midcat project received, which aimed to develop a gas pipeline that crossed the Pyrenees to expand gas connections between Spain and France, was that Europe considered it a project of interest only to interested parties and not strategic for Europe. For this reason, the team from the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition turned to a commitment such as H2Med, which not only supports clean energy, but also involves various European countries, which will make it more difficult for Brussels to refuse to finance it.
In addition, the German factories are the final destination of the hydrogen transported by the H2Med. With the support of Berlin, the promoters of the infrastructure will be able to sign contracts with their final customers even before starting the construction, which facilitates the security of financing. .