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The hydrogen roadmap in Spain: can we meet the objectives?

Hydrogen is the simplest chemical element that can be found on Earth: its atomic number is 1 and its atomic weight is 1 00784 u. However, hydrogen is never found alone in nature, it is accompanied by forming chemical compounds. Examples of this are water (H₂O) or methane (CH₄). Hydrogen is the fuel that contains the highest energy per unit mass. When compared to other fuels, 1 kg of H₂ is equivalent to 2.78 kg of gasoline or 2.8 kg of diesel. This advantage over other fuels is offset by its low density per unit volume, that is, more space will be needed to store 1 kg of H₂ than 1 kg of gasoline or ethanol. That is why hydrogen is stored at high pressures, reaching 700 bars. A car wheel is at a pressure of between 2 and 3 bars. How is hydrogen produced? There are various ways to produce hydrogen and depending on the method, hydrogen can be classified as gray, blue and green hydrogen. * It is called gray when the hydrocarbon reforming process is used, which generates greenhouse gases such as CO₂ or CO. * If the previous process consists of technology to capture and store these greenhouse gases, avoiding their emission into the atmosphere, it is called blue hydrogen. * Finally, when this hydrogen does not produce any greenhouse gas, it is called green hydrogen. An example is the electrolysis of water. Hydrogen is considered an energy vector (substances that store energy but are not found naturally on Earth) that can help decarbonize those applications where electrification is not possible. For example, heavy or long-distance transport, such as trucks, trains, airplanes, etc. Or the metallurgical industry. Today, Spain produces 500,000 tons of hydrogen. 95% is classified as gray hydrogen. This is due to the low price of gray hydrogen (<€ 1.5 / kg) compared to green hydrogen (€ 3.5-5.5 / kg). This hydrogen is used mainly in refineries and in the production of ammonia. However, the use of hydrogen is expected to become increasingly common in transportation, large-scale electrical power production, and in residential and commercial buildings. Global hydrogen consumption is expected to grow by 400% in 2050 and more than 700% in 2070. Experts from the Catalan Energy Research Institute (IREC) affirm in the book Hydrogen: energy vector of a decarbonized economy that “the Spain's renewable energy production potential is above 3,000 TWh / year. This is an order of magnitude higher than the current consumption of electricity and about 30 times the current production of renewable energy ”. The figures show the great potential of Spain to lead the production of green hydrogen (estimated to reach 1,750 TWh / year), and its export to the rest of Europe and North Africa. European and Spanish hydrogen roadmap The European Union approved in July 2020 the roadmap for hydrogen technology, where it is identified as the essential energy vector to be able to meet the objectives set in the Paris agreement, avoid the increase in the temperature beyond 2 ℃ and try to keep it below 1.5 ℃ in 2100. In October 2020, Spain approves its own roadmap for hydrogen. 60 measures are marked in 4 lines of action (regulatory instruments, sectoral instruments, transversal instruments and promotion of R&D). The main objectives set out in this document for 2030 can be seen in the image that follows this paragraph. Spain will carry out the 10% installed power of electrolyzers (devices that separate oxygen and hydrogen from water) set by the EU for 2030. In addition to these direct objectives, the development of this technology will bring other collateral effects. * Development of a market of 150 billion euros with 55 billion euros in annual sales by 2030. * Creation of one million jobs. Spain, in addition to having the natural resources for the massive production of renewable energy, already has companies throughout the hydrogen value chain to be able to carry out its production, transport and storage and consumption. When these four actions are involved in an energy system, it is called Power-to-Hydrogen-to-X, which involves the production of hydrogen through the electrolysis of water and its subsequent use in various forms of energy. Spanish companies in the hydrogen sector There are many Spanish companies and institutions (or those based in Spain) that have already worked with hydrogen in the past and have extensive experience. There are also others that have recently transferred their knowledge of similar industries to the hydrogen area in order to meet market demands. The following image shows how the Spanish ecosystem is represented throughout the hydrogen technology value chain: These companies are immersed in many projects to reduce costs in the production, storage and transportation of fuel, as well as to make it a reality its daily use for mobility, electric power generation, in industries, etc. Some of the projects that are currently being carried out, with European, national or private funding, can be seen in the following image. Thanks to the greater integration of renewable energies in the electrical system (it is estimated that it will go from 26% in 2018 to 55% in 2030 and 86% in 2050), the possibility of generating green hydrogen that is competitive with energy sources conventional is a reality today. Its role as an energy and non-polluting vector makes it especially attractive. Will Spain manage to become the world's largest power in green hydrogen production? It only remains to work and join forces to achieve a common goal of both the public and private sectors.This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.Antonio Escamilla Perejón participates in the NEXTMGT project funded by the European Union within the Marie Sklodovska Curie subprogram of actions, International Training Network (Horizon 2020 program), with financing agreement No. 861079.David Tomás Sánchez Martínez participates in the NEXTMGT project funded by the European Union within the Marie Sklodovska Curie sub-program of actions, International Training Network (Horizon 2020 program), with funding agreement No. 861079.

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