Mobility: “Offering low-carbon hydrogen is the whole challenge of the sector”

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[EN VIDÉO] Blue, grey, yellow and green hydrogen: what’s the difference?
Hydrogen is often equated with a color, which depends on how it is produced.

In the context of global warming anthropogenic, many willingly present thehydrogen as the combustible of our future. Indeed, injected into a Fuel cell, it produces clean electricity. understand, without emission of greenhouse gas. With for alone waste» — co-products, almost –, water and heat . The problem is that the hydrogen used is not found in a pure state in nature. It has to be made.

“This is the challenge of the hydrogen mobility sector”, confirms Camille-Léa Passerin, the development director of HYSETCO. With more than 7 tons of hydrogen distributed each month in four charging stations installed in the Paris region, the start-up is one of the European leaders in hydrogen mobility. But seven tons produced, even today, by steam reforming. Understand, from a methane (CH4) which, in contact with the steam (H2O), rearranges to hydrogen (H2)… and in carbon dioxide(CO2). Too bad for the climate .

“The hydrogen that we sell today in our stations is produced by Air Liquid which applies to capture CO2 emitted during steam reforming. We are talking about blue hydrogen”, says Camille-Léa Passerin. It’s already better. “But our ambition is quite different. We plan, in the near future, to supply our stations with hydrogen at least low carbon and, if possible, green hydrogen”.

The new open hydrogen station Porte de Saint-Cloud is equipped with an electrolyser that produces low-carbon hydrogen on site.  © HYSETCO

From low-carbon hydrogen to green hydrogen

What a difference ? Low-carbon hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis . That is, by breaking down water (H2O) through nuclear electricity. Low-carbon electricity. This is what HYSETCO has implemented for its recently opened station, gate of Saint Cloud. It includes a hydrogen production unit connected to the electrical network French. A low carbon network. “Eventually, we would like to be able to supply ourselves with green hydrogen produced by one of the major projects currently under development in France. » Hydrogen produced from 100% renewable electricity.

The trouble is that even then the hydrogen will be transported by truck. “It would have to come to us by trucks… with hydrogen”, smiles Camille-Léa Passerin. Or that HYSETCO produces it directly in its stations. As it is, Porte de Saint-Cloud. But from, this time, renewable electricity. To prepare the ground, the start-up already plans to install four new stations equipped with electrolyzers by 2024.

More precise studies will have to be carried out to determine exactly the impact that hydrogen leaks could have on the climate.  And propose concrete solutions to avoid them.  © Fokussiert, Adobe Stock

Hydrogen, neutral for the climate?

The other problem with hydrogen is that it too is potentially one of the gases that have an impact on the climate. First because its duration of life in our atmosphereis tall. It is thus likely to join the upper layers of the atmosphere and, through chemical interactions, to slow down the reconstruction of the ozone layer . Then, because hydrogen, if it accumulates in our atmosphere, can extend the life of certain powerful greenhouse gassuch as, in particular, methane. From this point of view, the researchers estimate that the warming power of hydrogen over 100 years is around 5 to 10 times that of CO2. But it increases when the time interval considered decreases: it reaches almost 33 times that of CO2 over 20 years and even 200 times that of CO2 over 2 years.

However, hydrogen is a particularly volatile gas. And for good reason. It is the smallest element of the periodic table . He creeps everywhere. Leaks can therefore be numerous on a charging station. There is reason to be vigilant. But “everything has an impact and it is the comparison and the perspective with what hydrogen comes to replace, which must serve as compasses in our technological choices to succeed in the low-carbon transition”specifies France Hydrogène in a decryption note released in early 2022.

Nobody has an interest in there being leaks

“As in all pipes, there can be leaks. But our goal is to design stations that are as airtight as possible. We take care in the choice and treatment of fittings and in the way of operating the stations. We organize regular maintenance rounds to check the good sealingfittings. We are also working to limit the vents at the end of the full. No one has an interest in leaks. They are not only bad for the climate. They are also important for our economic model”Camille-Léa Passerin points out.

And that’s not to mention the risk generated by hydrogen leaks at charging stations. ” On the cars , the problem is mastered by the manufacturers. They have designed specific tanks to limit the risks. The charging stations are subject to declaration as installations classified for the protection of the environment (ICPE)”, tells us the director of development of HYSETCO. As at conventional service stations. But with different risks.

“All precautions are taken. Our stations are, for example, equipped with sensors capable of securing the system if a problem is detected. And thevolatilityhydrogen, for example, requires that our stations be ventilated. To prevent the gas from concentrating and allowing it to disperse quickly. »

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