By: Editorial Team

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Green gas combats green­house gas effect

Green hydrogen is a key element for climate protection. Messer has extensive experience with handling this eco-friendly gas. Green energy business initiatives in Germany and elsewhere benefit from that expertise.

Hydrogen (H₂) is an ideal energy carrier. When burned in a turbine or consumed in an industrial process, it supplies about the same amount of energy as a fossil fuel. By weight, the energy density of hydrogen is actually higher – about three times greater than diesel or natural gas – because it is as light as a feather. The only waste gas produced is harmless water vapor. In a fuel cell, it can be converted with high efficiency directly into electric power. In the future, the natural gas network will be able to transport it in large quantities. Above all, it can be produced from plain water by electrolysis. When the electric power used to drive that electrolysis comes from renewable sources, it is known as “green” or “clean” or “renewable” hydrogen.

But the production of green hydrogen is expensive today, as a document published by the German parliament shows: in 2019, in Germany, it cost about three to four times as much as “gray hydrogen.”

However, gray hydrogen is expensive for the climate and unsustainable. It is produced from natural gas and emits large quantities of CO₂: worldwide some 120 million metric tons of gray hydrogen are consumed annually – mainly in refineries, the chemical industry, heat treatment and the food industry. That quantity releases 830 million metric tons of CO₂, which represents 2.3 percent of total CO₂ emissions.

The EU currently aims to reduce CO₂ emissions in Europe by 55 percent by 2030 as compared to 1990: the previous goal was a 40 percent reduction. In this context, green hydrogen holds tremendous potential.

Lower costs and technical development

In some places, renewable energy forms – primarily solar and wind – are already less expensive than fossil energy and favored by investors as a result. Wherever sun, wind or waterpower is abundant, the cost of renewable hydrogen is already significantly lower than that of gray hydrogen.

For that reason, the cost of green H₂ will also fall in countries like Germany in the medium term. At the same time, fossil energy prices will rise, because the supply of CO₂ emission rights will decline, thereby, making them more expensive. The use of clean and decarbonized hydrogen is being explicitly promoted and favored in many countries the world over. More and more stakeholders are also demanding that business leaders pay attention to their activities’ climate balance sheet and that they lower their CO₂ emissions.

Currently available hydrogen technology, including both electrolysis and application engineering, cannot meet the forecast demand. To shore it up for large-scale operation while reducing the capex intensity at the same time, major investments in technology and infrastructure are needed. The good news is more and more governments, institutions and companies the world over are committed to achieving a green hydrogen economy.

Messer actively supports several such initiatives, as well. “We’ve specialized in the production, distribution and use of gases for more than 120 years now,” explains Tim Evison, Senior Vice President Clean Hydrogen. “Moreover, Messer was already involved in developing the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier in the 1990s. That’s why we’re obviously familiar with the handling of liquid and gaseous hydrogen.”

Wide-ranging initiatives

Messer is a member of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance. It is an association of companies and public and private institutions. Its work will make a significant contribution towards helping the EU achieve its objective of climate neutrality by 2050. By 2030, Europe will create 40 gigawatts of capacity for electrolysis, which will be able to produce up to four million metric tons of green hydrogen per year. Moreover, the EU wants to create the required H₂ infrastructure to permit widespread use of the eco-friendly gas, especially in industry and in the mobility sector.

In Germany, Messer is part of a collaboration called GET H2. As its first sub-project, it has undertaken the establishment of a local hydrogen infrastructure combining the energy, industry, transport and heating sectors along the entire value chain. A real-world laboratory in Lingen, Germany, will use up to 100 MW of electric power generated from renewable energies to produce green hydrogen and supply it via a pipeline to the chemical industry in the Ruhr area.

Practical H₂ applications in real-world laboratories

In Wyhlen, in the southwest corner of Germany, Messer is a partner in another real-world laboratory project. In this small town near where Germany borders France and Switzerland, the hydroelectric power plant already operates a 1 MW electrolysis unit for green hydrogen. Now this project will expand that unit significantly. In the future, it will create a complete H₂ infrastructure, supplying local energy and raw material for the facility management, transport and industrial sectors. Messer’s participation includes, among other things, collaboration on the development of the distribution infrastructure,

as well as the development of concepts for marketing green hydrogen to industry and for mobility. “Green H₂ is a high-quality product that requires quality assurance and a certificate of origin to garner a justifiable price,” adds Tim Evison. “And the electrolysis of water also generates green oxygen as a saleable by-product with a positive effect on the overall economic impact. The handling, transport and marketing of both gases are all part of our core competence.”

Green H₂ is a high-quality product that requires quality assurance and a certificate of origin to garner a justifiable price.

Tim Evison, responsible for the hydrogen area at Messer

Safe and reliable supply

At Messer, we also know how the use of green hydrogen can help companies achieve their objectives. Take the operation of emission-free bus fleets, for example: in California, Messer is ensuring that H₂-powered buses are reliably resupplied with hydrogen in four cities. The same applies at a major automotive plant in South Carolina, where a large number of forklift trucks are also driven by hydrogen.

One important element in this context is the hydrogen filling station. The vehicle stores the hydrogen at up to 700 bar in a pressurized tank. At a filling station, either the cryogenic, liquefied gas is pumped at high pressure and then stored in the vehicle as a gas,

or if the hydrogen is stored at the filling station in gaseous form – it can be transferred to the vehicle’s tank using a high-performance compressor. Alternatively, the hydrogen can also be chemically sorbed onto a metal hydride and stored. Warming releases the gas, which silently builds up high pressure. Messer is developing one such innovative H₂ filling station in Switzerland, the first of which will supply local taxis and forklift trucks at the Messer site in Lenzburg.

“A green hydrogen economy takes a lot of gases expertise,” insists Tim Evison. “With the ongoing development of this sector, Messer’s contribution will also keep growing continuously.”