Solar-Driven Green Hydrogen Generation and Storage - Chapter 14: Challenges in scaling low-carbon hydrogen production in Europe

Elsevier, Solar-Driven Green Hydrogen Generation and Storage, pages 287-319
Carlos Rojas López, Lucia F. Pérez Garcés, Daniela Tepordei, Sebastian Púin Moreno, Biljana Šljukić, Diogo M.F. Santos

Hydrogen (H2) is expected to play a significant role in the world economy's decarbonization. The scenarios presented by the International Energy Agency (IEA) show considerable use of H2 with specific milestones for 2030 and 2050 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in Europe at that point. Thus, the production challenge is sized in section 1 of this chapter: what would be the H2 production requirements in Europe to deliver the expected targets, and what are those targets? IEA states that low-emission H2 production should scale from ca. 0.6 Mt in 2021 (<1% of global H2 production) up to 95 Mt by 2030 toward the net zero scenario. The increased low-emission H2 production must be accompanied by the development of the required infrastructures for H2 and carbon dioxide (CO2) transport and storage.

With the macro-goals for H2 consumption in Europe, Section 2 addresses the practical aspect of prioritizing H2 uses that maximize the return on investment. Those consider the applications’ affinity to H2 use, cost threshold for adoption, and H2 consumption by the specific application. Furthermore, the aspect of centralized or decentralized production is explored, leading to the introduction of the Hydrogen Valleys concept. Large industrial complexes may be used to generate blue H2 from steam methane reforming of imported natural gas using underground CO2 capture. The more favorable option is to move to green H2 by water electrolysis involving renewable energy; this option would be more expensive in the short term, but would allow accelerating decarbonization. Sections 3 and 4 discuss the two options, looking at the basic principles of the technologies and their state of the art. The most significant challenges for each technology to deliver H2 production at the scale described in the first part of the study are analyzed. This chapter intends to make an overview to the reader of the current prospects and challenges involved in scaling low-carbon H2 production in Europe.