That is the beauty of REFHYNE, an EU-funded project which aims to lay the foundation for the sustainable, green recovery Europe needs.
Meet Dr Marco Richrath
Dr Marco Richrath © EbS
He’s the director of Shell’s Rhineland Refinery in Wesseling, Germany. The company is one of a coalition of 7 expert partners in Germany, Norway and the UK who all specialise in producing hydrogen for fuel on an industrial scale. Backed by the EU, they joined forces to build one of the world’s largest electrolysers - a plant producing hydrogen from renewable electricity - at the Shell Rhineland Refinery.
Today, hydrogen represents a modest fraction of the global and EU energy mix, and is still largely produced from fossil fuels, notably from natural gas or from coal. Clean hydrogen, obtained from renewable energy sources, can help decarbonise heavy industry or road freight transport, which otherwise burn a lot of fossil fuels.
Energy tank © European Union, 2020
Hydrogen can also be stored in fuel cells - essentially huge batteries - and used in a flexible way across industry, transport, power and buildings sectors, without the fluctuation of supply we experience with weather-dependent sources like wind and solar power. The extended use of hydrogen could be a vital step towards a climate-neutral Europe, an objective that the EU wants to reach by 2050.
Clean hydrogen tomorrow?
Not so fast. There are still many barriers, both technical and commercial, to overcome. For one, the research is so complex that no single company, public research institution or country can carry it alone.
“EU funding provides the opportunity to learn. With this project we can test the operation of the plant and really think about how we scale up the technology for future use. Making hydrogen with the electrolyser would save about 10,000 tons of CO2 per year.”
Cyclist in front of REFHYNE sign © European Union, 2020
Clean hydrogen is just one piece of the puzzle and one part of the European Green Deal, a strategy the EU has adopted to reduce our dependence on dirty, imported fossil fuels. It’s not just good for the planet - it will also create jobs, help us rebuild the economy after the coronavirus crisis and secure a better future for generations to come.
“With EU funding, European companies can play a leading role in the green energy transition.”
Dr Marco Richrath © EbS