From train to nuclear power station. Russia develops hydrogen technology
Russia is working on the development, application and production of hydrogen technology in energy in rail and road transport as well as in other areas of industry – according to a plan or schedule of events entitled “Development of hydrogen energy in the Russian Federation – from now to 2024” approved by the government on 23rd October.

One of the key tasks of the plan is the elaboration of pilot technology on producing hydrogen by 2024 with no carbon dioxide emissions. In order to do that, Russia needs special areas at gas deposits and at oil and gas refineries where tests will be conducted on producing low-carbon hydrogen.

At the same time, a pilot project will get underway to produce hydrogen using Russian nuclear power stations. That will require the setting up of a purely Russian energy-efficient system of transporting and storing hydrogen.

Any pilot system to produce hydrogen has to be accompanied by actions to stimulate domestic demand for hydrogen. Proposals include proceeding with tests of gas turbines for methane-hydrogen fuel and tests on using hydrogen and methane-hydrogen fuel in gas installations (gas turbine engines, gas boilers). Also proposed are tests on using hydrogen as motor fuel for different forms of transport.

And a separate project for the plan involves the creation of a tried and tested model of rail transport fuelled by hydrogen.

Special engineering centres will oversee the technology for using hydrogen in Industry. Their purpose will be to work towards the necessary high-tech scientific-technical decisions required in the sector. And centres of scientific research over the course of a year will work out ways of examining and assessing the various phases of hydrogen production and conduct research into the use of hydrogen released by thermal and plasma-chemical reactions.

The various institutions will draw up proposals in 2021 about creating “clusters” and testing centres dealing with this technology, create special registers for projects and hydrogen technology and work out rules for selecting those to be considered the top priorities. Ministries during this period will draft proposals on creating systems to certify carbon-free hydrogen.

The government is to propose a system to support and favour exports of Russian hydrogen. State institutions are to come up with proposals to boost Russia’s reputation in other countries as a supplier of environmentally-friendly hydrogen produced with no carbon dioxide emissions. They are also to propose ways of advancing Russian technology in terms of hydrogen energy.

The principal means of boosting exports will be to develop bilateral cooperation with countries that both produce and consume hydrogen – including Germany, Japan, Denmark, Italy, Australia, the Netherlands and South Korea. Work will also proceed within international organisations devoted to advances in hydrogen energy.

Developing hydrogen energy will involve updating norms and the legal foundations, standards and rules to meet safety and security standards for producing, storing, transporting and using hydrogen. Separate efforts will be needed to govern safe production and storage of hydrogen at nuclear power stations.

The prime movers in developing and advancing hydrogen energy will be major gas producer Gazprom and Rosatom, the state nuclear power authority. The government has called for proposals to introduce changes in the programmes involving innovations and development of state companies.

These measures will be laid out in official conceptions of developing hydrogen energy in Russia – to be readied for the first quarter of 2021. More detailed proposals will be elaborated by a specially created project office.
For Yuri Dobrovolsky, professor at the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Chemical Physics and laboratory head, hydrogen for the moment remains a “secondary” energy source derived from methane.

“Hydrogen is still considered one of the secondary sources of energy – essentially a transmitter. Primary sources are our standard hydrocarbons or nuclear or, if we abandon those over time, renewable sources: wind, solar, tidal and others,” he told the Global Energy Association observer.

“We should keep in mind that even according to the most optimistic forecasts the share of ‘green’ hydrogen – derived from renewable energy sources – will not exceed 50 % of the total. And that means that the remainder will be produced from hydrocarbon raw materials. But if we are talking about hydrogen as a fuel, then European specialists believe that it will practically take over from all hydrocarbons by 2050.”

Dobrovolsky said he believed Russia would have no problems creating the necessary infrastructure for storing and transporting hydrogen.

“Russia has most of the ground-based infrastructure needed for this. This includes, for example, the network of pipelines. For the purpose of ensuring that hydrogen can be sent through this network, tests will be needed to establish that the material used to build the pipelines is suitable for this task,” he said.

“This is essentially a political matter for Russia. Several years will be needed to determine whether the pipelines are suitable or whether they need modification. For transport by sea, methods are established for shipping LNG and these are similar to what is needed for hydrogen. And these methods – including for transport over land – will continue to be actively examined and improved.”

For Dobrovolsky, the most favourable markets for hydrogen are Japan, South Korea, France and Germany.

“At the moment,  four countries are actively involved in questions of hydrogen energy. In Europe, that’s France and Germany, which have already adopted hydrogen programmes. And that means that they will be the main consumers of hydrogen to be supplied,” he said.

“There are similar programmes in Asia – in Japan and Korea. These countries already use hydrogen actively and will continue to do so more and more, particularly as they started earlier. Japan, for example, was prepared to stage the postponed Olympic Games using primarily energy from hydrogen.”

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