Russia Backs Low-Carbon Hydrogen From Gas

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Russia has approved a concept for hydrogen development until 2035, setting an export target and confirming the country’s focus on low-carbon hydrogen produced from natural gas. Keeping a role for gas in the nascent hydrogen industry is a key task for Russia, which risks losing the crucial European market to “green” hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water using power from renewable energy. Russia is targeting a 20% share of the global hydrogen market, although it is not clear what size the market will be in the long run. The concept, approved by the government last week and published on Aug. 9, says Russia may export up to 200,000 metric tons per year by 2024, between 2 million-12 million tons/yr by 2035 and 15 million-50 million tons/yr by 2050, depending on the pace of development of the global low-carbon economy and the growth in hydrogen demand. That is higher than previous targets (NC Apr.22'21). Russia will focus on hydrogen production from gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce its carbon footprint, as well as on the electrolysis of water using nuclear power and, where it is cost-competitive, renewable energy, the concept says. It will develop new technologies to reduce costs and carbon footprints, with priority given to pyrolysis of methane, the key component of natural gas, and various methods utilizing nuclear power plants’ capacities, the document says. State-run gas giant Gazprom, which took part in drafting the concept and which exports around 40% of its gas production to Europe, particularly believes in pyrolysis, or so-called “turquoise” hydrogen produced as a result, although it is also studying steam methane reforming (SMR) options coupled with CCS (“blue” hydrogen) and production of methane-hydrogen blends. Minimal Carbon Footprint “The European strategy doesn’t mention the words 'green' or 'blue' hydrogen, there is only 'low-carbon' and 'renewable' hydrogen. That is why our task is to make sure we have the minimal carbon footprint and promote low-carbon hydrogen,” Konstantin Romanov, CEO of the Gazprom Hydrogen company, said at a recent webinar. “If emissions are the same along the entire value chain, why put green and blue labels? The impact on climate will be the same,” he said. Pyrolysis has yet to be developed into a commercial technology, but Gazprom believes it can produce the cheapest hydrogen at $1.4/kg while also meeting the low-carbon criterion of below 4.4 kg of CO2 equivalent per kg of hydrogen set by the CertifHy initiative, Romanov said. SMR with CCS cost is estimated at $2.2/kg but the carbon footprint is even lower, making it also compliant with EU taxonomy. Gazprom says producing hydrogen via pyrolysis in Central Europe, closer to consumers, can reduce the carbon footprint, compared with traditional gas exports, by 55% if powered by grid electricity and by 80% if using renewable energy. For comparison, producing hydrogen in Russia and exporting it in a 10% blend with gas via the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines to Germany will only reduce the carbon footprint by 1% while producing hydrogen at the end of the pipes, and shipping it further in a 10% blend via the German gas grid will reduce it by 2%, Romanov said. Romanov did not say how much hydrogen Gazprom expects to produce and export. It is in discussions with potential buyers, including German metals companies who say that they will need large hydrogen supplies after 2029, he said. Gazprom now produces 360,000 tons/yr of hydrogen, of which only 10,000 tons/yr is produced via pyrolysis and the rest via the carbon-intensive SMR (without CCS) and oil reforming. Vitaly Sokolov, Moscow

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