As global energy consumption continues to rise, it is imperative to develop new alternatives to fossil fuels, whose use is now ubiquitous throughout the world. Impending greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions growth related to this enduring dependency presents a strong motivation to switch to new alternatives and to encourage industry players to invest in different technologies, in order to reduce their CO2 emissions. Within this context, the EU is looking at cost efficient and innovative ways to achieve at least 40% cuts in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80-95% cuts by 2050.
One of the best ways to decarbonize has been identified to be via the use of green or low-carbon (blue) hydrogen both in existing industries such as steel, ammonia, oil refining and chemicals; and as an outright fuel replacement within both the transport and power generation sectors, where hydrogen can replace petrol, diesel or natural gas.
The Motivation for a Guarantee of Origin Scheme
From a commercial perspective, these industries require a legal motivation in order to make the changes necessary to reduce emissions, as well as the technical and administrative levers in order to make these changes possible. It is in this way that a certification system for the Guarantee of Origin for green or blue hydrogen is a fundamental component of both the development of policy and for the practical ability of many industries to implement emissions mitigation strategies.
During the process of creating the CertifHy Guarantee of Origin (GO) system financed by FCH JU, Hinicio and CertifHy partners TNO, Grexel, LBST and TUV SUD looked at a comprehensive cross-section of data and reports regarding the existing market for hydrogen, and the many existing or potential policy drivers which may be pertinent to a guarantee of origin system, such as those that might make a requirement for low- or zero-carbon hydrogen binding or in some way relate to a GO scheme.
Two polices identified as being important drivers in necessitating green hydrogen include the Fuel Quality Directive where refineries might benefit from the use of blue hydrogen as feedstock to process fuels and comply with the regulation’s target of 6% reduction in fuel carbon intensity. The Renewable Energy Directive is another policy driver that could take advantage of a renewable origin hydrogen system (green hydrogen) as this would allow refineries to meet the 10% renewable energy target through the use of lower-CO2 vehicle fuel, where hydrogen is used in the refining process. Similarly, other industrial players such as glass or ammonia producers could benefit from the use of green hydrogen as a market strategy (green labelling) or to respond to increasing pressure from environmental regulations.
In practical use, the green hydrogen certification scheme works in the way that existing hydrogen producers can continue using their production facilities (for example steam methane reformers), while allowing green hydrogen to be used where infrastructure and conditions are optimal and used in these locations as grey hydrogen, such as in industry or injected into the gas grid. This allows those that those that wish to decarbonize faster due to regulations to do so, with an accounting system that cancels the ‘green’ status of hydrogen at the point of use, and is legally verifiable for the consumer in order to meet EU laws. In this way, the ideal system will eventually not need a certification of origin as all hydrogen will eventually be green.
In developing the certification system, Hinicio wanted to develop a scheme to be as elaborate as possible from the early beginning in order to serve a variety of applications and users (operating in different regulatory frameworks), and be able to deal with the different implementation of existing GO schemes in various Member States (after all, a renewable electricity GO needs to be cancelled when an electrolyser wants to produce green hydrogen (GOs)). Thus it was thought ultimately to be essential to have a Europe-wide scheme to ensure harmonization and minimise the system costs of a GO scheme in a potentially limited initial market for green hydrogen.
Further issues included the interaction between existing GO schemes (such as for electricity and biomethane) and the green hydrogen GO. Thus extensive stakeholder interaction was required in order to identify areas of contention and agree to a common framework between relevant parties.
Reaching the Goal
With the overall objective of the CertifHy project to develop an EU-wide framework for GO for Green and Blue hydrogen based on a widely accepted definition, a roadmap was proposed to implement the initiative throughout the EU. This roadmap aims to communicate the direction and progress of high-level initiatives and actions in implementing the certification system.
On the basis of the outcomes of the project, Hinicio aims to have a full-blown GO scheme operational by 2020, dependent on endorsement by all relevant stakeholders. Conceding that this is relatively early for a hydrogen market in transport – as it will take until perhaps 2030 until hydrogen fuel cell vehicles play a significant role – the market both for existing hydrogen production (e.g. refineries and other chemical companies) and for early adopters in transport, is already there. Accordingly, it was recognised as important to have a GO scheme in place within a relatively short timeframe. Currently, CertifHy is in pilot phase defining the scheme’s governance, as well as its processes and procedures over the entire GO life cycle: from auditing hydrogen production plants, certification of green or low carbon hydrogen production batches, through issuing, trading to “usage” of GOs. “Whereas the first phase of CertifHy built a solid foundation with 14 industries and already more than 500 followers; I am greatly satisfied we can take up the discussions for the roll out with more than 700 stakeholders therefore creating a de facto European harmonised system.”, states CertifHy’s project coordinator Wouter Vanhoudt.
The four pilot projects showcase different hydrogen production pathways and are testing the first GO scheme for Green Hydrogen at four hydrogen production plants located throughout Europe. The industrial gas company Air Liquide demonstrates a hydrogen production plant using steam methane reforming with CCS/CCU unit in France. The chemical companies Akzo Nobel and Air Products present hydrogen production using a chlor alkali process in the Netherlands. As a retailer Colruyt demonstrates on-site hydrogen production for its fleet in Belgium and the German energy storage company Uniper shows hydrogen production from water electrolysis.
In order to develop the first EU-wide Green and Low Carbon Hydrogen scheme, the CertifHy stakeholder platform brings together all European stakeholders interested in green and low carbon hydrogen GOs. It is a forum of discussion on the issue of green hydrogen GOs and the channel to shape the ongoing CertifHy project.
Over the approaching months CertifHy is creating the path forward for a concrete and actionable GO scheme together with leading international companies and organizations and moving one step ahead to a new energy market.
This article was co-authored by Daniel Williams and the Hinicio team