Air Liquide relies on hydrogen to decarbonize the economy, Company News

During the press conference, Mathieu Giard, member of Air Liquide’s executive committee in charge of hydrogen activities, was able to elaborate on the group’s development strategy, both in terms of carbon-free production of this gas, as well as issues of its storage and distribution. . The ambition is big for the world leader in gases for industry, which aims to invest 8 billion euros in hydrogen by 2035, four times the turnover it currently achieves every year selling this fuel. However, a project that lives up to its potential because ” 43% of global carbon emissions are linked to the hydrogen revolution “, he clarifies, and in a variety of sectors, from transport to industry.

Produce carbon-free

Thus, Mathieu Giard believes that production in Europe is a serious environmental problem for Air Liquide, which intends to reduce CO2 emissions by a third by 2030, and after the war in Ukraine ” important issue of energy sovereignty The company believes that blue hydrogen will solve “carbon footprint” issues in order to succeed in reducing its environmental impact. efficient and profitable production “Production can take place in its industrial pools in Le Havre or Fos-sur-Mer. And CO2 storage solutions already exist, for example in tanks under the North Sea, which can be stored for tens or even hundreds of years. But in the future Air Liquide , apparently intends to move towards renewable green hydrogen by building at least 200 MW electrolyzer in Normandy by 2025 (the Normand’Hy project).

However, electricity is required upstream and therefore ” produce enough renewable energy Mathieu Giard says This is why Air Liquide is developing partnerships for the construction of wind farms, for example by committing to buy electricity after it is produced. ” Fortunately, there is low-carbon nuclear power. he adds, renewables aren’t really enough because they don’t provide sustainable energy. Once produced, hydrogen must be stored by compressing the gas or liquefying it. The group points out that liquid hydrogen is 853 times denser than at atmospheric pressure and can be transported in large quantities, but the downside is that it remains very expensive in terms of energy.

Comprehensive technology for multiple uses

After the production of hydrogen, Air Liquide wishes to supply ” very dense, easy to transport and low carbon to different sectors. First, transport, which accounts for a quarter of global emissions. Hydrogen in the air may prevail in regional flights “, explains Mathieu Giard, while synthetic fuels will be more suitable for long hauls. So the company is taking the lead as it signed a partnership with Aéroports de Paris this week. The goal is to develop infrastructure in airports, such as nearby manufacturing sites, as well as facilities to refuel aircraft with hydrogen.Some manufacturers are already hard at work, such as Airbus, which could produce a hydrogen aircraft as early as 2035.

While 90% of the world’s imports come from maritime transport, maritime transport is likely to be affected by the hydrogen that provides ” powerful energy for traveling long distances ”, unlike batteries, which are too heavy. The latter is likely to be used more in smaller vehicles, which did not stop Air Liquide from opening a plant in Nevada in May, producing 30 tons of liquid hydrogen every day, with a goal of supplying 40,000 fuel cell vehicles in the region.

In addition to transport, Air Liquide intends to supply low-carbon hydrogen to the industrial sector. Historical applications are indeed numerous, such as in oil refining or the production of hydrogen peroxide. But new applications, and thus opportunities for the group, are emerging in the steel industry, where hydrogen could replace coal in steel production.

Partnership at the heart of development

Technical limitations aside, Air Liquide’s strategy relies heavily on collaboration with players in ” hydrogen ecosystem “, explains Mathieu Giard. Assistance from public authorities will be key to the success of the company’s plan, especially with regard to green hydrogen production costs. Currently, ” its price is about 6 euros per kilo versus 4 euros for blue and 2 euros for gray “, clarifies the curator of the hydrogen strategy. Thus, he advocates an increase in the price of CO2.” currently about 90 euros per ton “, who ” balance production costs “It is still necessary that the political will to follow this subject, while we know how difficult it is to get people to pay in the end, consumer carbon tax.

Air Liquide, which does not want to depend on either this political decision or the investment plans promised by the authorities, intends to build its future strategy on developing partnerships with private players by intensifying their cooperation. This is evidenced by the creation of a €1.5 billion fund (Hy24) to structure the carbon-free hydrogen market, with the participation of companies around the world such as Vinci and TotalEnergies.

Grey, green, yellow or blue hydrogen, what is it?

The production of clean hydrogen is obviously the central issue, since today 95% of this gas is extracted from fossil resources. First of all, it is necessary to clarify the denominations and colors given to hydrogen in accordance with its production method, because sometimes they can be confusing. The first method is the steam reforming process, which converts methane subjected to very high temperature steam to produce hydrogen…but also CO2. If emissions are isolated (for example, in former gas or oil fields), this is blue low-carbon hydrogen. Otherwise, if carbon is left in the open air, it will be gray hydrogen, the most polluting of the environment, but also the most used at the present time. The second method involves the electrolysis of water, which can produce carbon-free hydrogen: yellow if produced from nuclear power and green if produced from renewable energy sources. This process is more environmentally friendly, but also more marginal, as it satisfies less than 5% of global demand.