Hydrogen has usage and storage properties that open up a range of possibilities as part of the energy transition. Injected into the natural gas distribution grid it could – if its production is decarbonised – increase the proportion of renewable gases in overall gas consumption. It can also supply fuel cells in hydrogen cars. Hydrogen fuel cells only give off water vapour, meaning this gas is a considerable ally in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
Today, hydrogen is generally produced close to where it is used, but that state of affairs is set to change with an increase in the volumes being produced. In that regard, the transport of hydrogen between a production centre and a place of use is one of the top challenges in the getting hydrogen industry off the ground. There are currently three forms of hydrogen transport:
transport by dedicated pipelines;
road or rail transport in steel cylinders (racks) or trailer tanks,
As a gas infrastructure operator, we are looking at the best solutions for transporting hydrogen by pipeline, either through a dedicated grid, or by injection into the gas grid.
Western Europe already has a network of hydrogen pipelines totalling 2000 km, the main users of which are France, Germany and Benelux. Other small networks exist elsewhere, such as in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Italy. In North America, the network of pipelines dedicated to hydrogen, operated chiefly in the United States, covers approximately 1150 km, compared with nearly 2 million km for natural gas.
The development of hydrogen use and production would require considerable investment in the creation of new pipelines to expand the existing hydrogen grid. That is why other less expensive solutions are also being studied: the injection of hydrogen into the existing natural gas grid, or the conversion of gas pipelines for the dedicated transport of hydrogen.
In 2019, Teréga and other gas infrastructure operators presented a report on “Technical and economic conditions for injection into natural gas grids” to the French Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition. That analytical work shows it would be possible to set a target capacity for the integration of a 10% hydrogen mix into the grid by 2030, then 20% beyond that. Levels recommended by the operators which are attainable with limited adaptations to existing infrastructures.
The transport of a natural gas / hydrogen mix in proportions of 8/1 to 9/1 by volume would therefore be possible without modification to the grid, or with minor modifications. The pipelines can be buried. With that in mind, joint work is under way between European partners.
Teréga and GRTgaz are currently working on mapping the possibilities for hydrogen injection into the French natural gas grid. The aim is to encourage the emergence of hydrogen projects in the regions where that solution is most favourable.
Over the last five years or so, the subject of hydrogen has been gaining ground in Europe. As part of the shared desire to encourage the development of decarbonised, competitive hydrogen, we joined forces with ten other European gas transporters to present a plan for the creation of a hydrogen grid in Europe.
An initial report was presented in 2020, then updated in 2021, on the vision of a European Hydrogen Backbone, or EHB. It foresees a network of nearly 40,000 km linking 21 European countries by 2040, 75% of which will be made up of existing pipelines! Technical and economic conditions which would thus be favourable to a European rollout and which would help in achieving carbon neutrality in 2050.
We are already working on developing the renewable hydrogen value chain between Spain and France. Indeed, in partnership with Enagas, DH2 (a renewable hydrogen producer) and the energy engineering company GazelEnergie, we are playing our part in the Lacq Hydrogen Franco-Spanish project. The aims of the project are:
renewable hydrogen production in Spain,
hydrogen transport from Spain to France,
hydrogen storage and transport on the Teréga grid,
100% dispatchable renewable electricity production via a combined cycle power plant supplied with decarbonised hydrogen.
Power-to-Gas: exploiting renewable energy through hydrogen
In addition to our research work to shape the hydrogen industry, since 2015 we have been involved in the Jupiter 1000 project, the first French industrial Power-to-Gas demonstrator, alongside GRTgaz. Set up at Fos-sur-Mer, this project combines two techniques:
hydrogen production by electrolysis of water, taking advantage of the surplus electricity from renewable energy sources (solar, wind etc.).
the production of synthetic methane by methanation, combining hydrogen with CO2.
The hydrogen produced can then be injected directly into the grid, or transformed into synthetic methane before being introduced into the infrastructures.
Injecting hydrogen into the grid in the form of synthetic methane
Thanks to its similarities with methane, this synthetic methane would enable the existing gas infrastructures to be used in their current state. In addition, it would have no impact on the equipment receiving the supply, avoiding the additional costs of adaptation to a new gas.
By recycling CO2, the process is also notable for its help in combating greenhouse gas emissions. Synergies are thus envisaged with methanisation to increase the carbon performance of biomethane production.
By optimising the production and storage of renewable energies, hydrogen and synthetic methane thus occupy a central place in the construction of multi-energy grids. At Teréga, we are convinced that this is the route to the energy transition. That is why we launched our IMPULSE 2025 project, a demonstrator enabling the design and construction of a smart multi-energy system.