Total and Engie partner on France’s largest green hydrogen production site

The facility is due to begin producing hydrogen in 2024

The agreement covers the design, development, installation and operation of the project, which will produce five tonnes of green hydrogen every day once it comes online.

The project’s 40MW electrolyser will be located in Total’s La Mede biofuel refinery in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur South region. The refinery plays host to onsite solar PV panels with a combined capacity of more than 100MW, which will be used to power the electrolyser.

Hydrogen produced by the facility will be used to power the biofuel production process. Total estimates that emissions related to production at the facility will be reduced by 15,000 tonnes of CO2e annually due to the transition from fossil fuels to green hydrogen.

Because solar PV systems, like all renewable energy generation systems, generate varying outputs, the facility will also host large-scale hydrogen storage infrastructure.

Total and Engie are aiming for construction to begin in 2022, subject to an advanced engineering study and to planning permissions. This would enable generation to begin in 2024. The firms have already submitted applications for subsidies from the French Government and from the European Union (EU).

Cross-border partnership

The news comes in the same week that the European Commission confirmed a hydrogen pilot project as one of the winners of a new competitive fund for inter-regional partnerships.

Under the project that has received funding, the European Hydrogen Valleys partnership, which represents 12 regions in France and the Netherlands, will merge with a partnership representing four regions in Slovakia. The newly formed body will receive up to €100,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to scale-up and commercialise green hydrogen generation, storage and refuelling infrastructure.  

The EU’s commissioner for cohesion and reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said the project is “especially important in the current coronavirus context, showing how much cohesion policy is committed to contributing to Europe’s prompt response and recovery”. The bloc has notably attached a “do no harm” requirement to its €750bn stimulus package and requires at least one-third to be spent on activities that benefit efforts to combat climate change and nature loss.

On hydrogen specifically, the European Commission’s hydrogen roadmap targets 100% renewable hydrogen by 2050, but permits low-carbon hydrogen derived from nuclear power and gas in the short-term. It was released in 2020 as part of the bloc’s green recovery planning.

By 2050, the EU executive estimates that clean hydrogen could meet 24% of the world’s energy demand, with annual sales in the range of €630 billion. For Europe, that could translate into 1 million jobs in the hydrogen value chain.

But with more than 96% of the hydrogen produced globally in 2020 having relied on fossil fuels, there is a long way to go to scale up infrastructure and bring green hydrogen to price parity with comparable fuels. Some of the world’s largest energy companies are collaborating in an effort to increase the world’s green hydrogen production fifty-fold by 2026 – in a move they claim will halve costs.

Sarah George

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