12 October 2021

Top 5 takeaways from our green hydrogen deep dive

Green hydrogen — hydrogen that isn’t derived from fossil fuels — is rapidly gaining global interest. Germany is looking at green hydrogen imports from Turkey, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the country will become a new global hub of green hydrogen, and Australia is shooting to be a major global player in hydrogen. It is already powering short-haul flights for Elemental portfolio company ZeroAvia (Cohort 9) and Dimensional Energy (Cohort 10) is using it to create a drop-in replacement for aviation fuel.

At our recent Hydrogen Deep Dive, Elemental’s Director of Energy Innovation Gabriel Scheer was joined by Jason Salfi, CEO of Dimensional Energy, Katya Akulinicheva, CFO of ZeroAvia, and Dr. Arfa Karani, Investor at Elemental Navigator member Equinor Ventures, to discuss what climate-tech companies are learning about the nascent green hydrogen market, and how to scale it.

You can catch a replay of the discussion below. Needless to say, there was a lot to take in and we probably could have extended the conversation for another few hours. But to recap, here are Gabriel’s top 5 takeaways:

  1. The designation of “green” hydrogen is determined by how it’s produced — specifically, neither the inputs nor the energy that powers its production come from fossil fuels.
  2. Price parity with fossil fuels could hit as early as 2030.
  3. Over 30 countries have hydrogen strategies ($75B of government funding allocated), with particular focus in Europe. Japan is a global leader in installed refueling stations and Korea is leading on building infrastructure. US policy took a big leap forward in June 2021 when they announced the Hydrogen Energy Earthshot to accelerate clean hydrogen innovation.
  4. The hardest sectors to decarbonize are the most attractive target markets for green hydrogen — shipping, aviation, and heavy industry like steelmaking — given the lack of alternatives.
  5. Availability of water and renewable energy could impact the scalability of green hydrogen, but biohydrogen, desalination and other areas of innovation present significant growth opportunities.

🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏾‍♂️ Follow Up Q&A

With such great audience participation and an abundance of questions, we ran out of time! Below are some answers to questions we didn’t get a chance to address:

❓ Where are there commercial fusion power plants or test reactors producing over zero energy?

There are no commercial plants up yet, though there are plans aiming to be online by the 2030s. Test reactors producing ‘net fusion’ or more energy than the heat required to make the energy are aiming to be deployed by the mid-2020s.

❓ Have you seen much interest in existing brown H2 producers converting to green H2 by utilizing renewable energy?

In Europe there is significant interest, and policymakers are doing a great job to incentivize grey/brown to green transition. In the US, it seems to be a bit more challenging. Other major economies, like China andSouth Korea for instance, are also seeing a policy-driven transition.

❓ What is India doing regarding Hydrogen, given there is such heavy people and mobility volume?

Like China, we hope India becomes a force in the transition to clean hydrogen. Over the summer, India’s PM Modi announced the National Hydrogen Mission with a goal of becoming a major global hub for green hydrogen production and export. India has also set ambitious targets of 175GW renewable energy generation by 2022; 450GW by 2030; and complete energy independence by 2047, which will support its clean H2 efforts. Read more here.

India is also starting to see the government encouraging young businesses and also the established ones to adapt hydrogen as ‘the fuel of future’. A number of projects have been announced in India, both from the public and private sectors. Some examples:

  • JSW Energy is partnering with Australia-based Fortescue Future Industries on green hydrogen for steelmaking and hydrogen mobility.
  • Indian Oil has announced plans to build the country’s first green hydrogen plant at its Mathura refinery.
  • BGR Energy has launched a new partnership with Ireland’s Fusion Fuel Green on a demonstrator plant for cost-competitive green hydrogen.

In addition, a number of companies have set up the India Hydrogen Alliance, led by Reliance Industries. ACME Group recently commissioned the world’s first integrated commercial-scale pilot plant for green hydrogen production in Rajasthan. Green hydrogen at the plant will be produced using a 5 MW solar array, which is an integral part of the project. The green ammonia plant, once commissioned, will produce 5 tons per day of green ammonia, with an annual output of 1,750 tons to 1,800 tons of green fuel.

❓ What are the panelists’ thoughts on hydrogen in the mining industry?

We are somewhat unclear as to the intention of this question. However, assuming it is asking about utilizing hydrogen as a fuel for the mining industry, there is no clear consensus or ‘one-size fits all’ solution for all of the mining industry as the fuel source will depend heavily on the geography of the mines. Today, the majority of remotely operated mines use diesel and they will likely need to switch that fuel to a more sustainable fuel sooner rather than later. However, transporting hydrogen or even ammonia as a fuel to such difficult-to-reach regions where mines are established is a challenging task from a safety perspective. We don’t currently have economic solutions to replace diesel in such scenarios. It seems likely that electrification, where possible, will be the first option as mining operations can simply put a small renewable power generation plant near a mine and then use electricity as is, instead of converting it to hydrogen. However, if there are convenient locations with large-scale green hydrogen production capacity near the mines, then hydrogen could be an interesting replacement – perhaps as synthetic fuel/e-fuel or ammonia rather than hydrogen itself.

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