Hydrogen: enhanced flexibility of energy supply chains

Marianne Julien, Air Liquide (FR)

Energy supply chains are undergoing a profound transformation under a number of long term societal and geopolitical drivers. Beyond the effort to gain in efficiencies at the point of use, investments in renewable energies as a substitute to combustion of fossil fuels have built up capacities that require “smart energy grid” management, as well as energy storage capacities.

The transition towards energy supply chains to lower impact of modern life on natural resources, air quality and GHG concentration in the atmosphere is among top political and industrial priorities.

In this complex and constrained context, the use of hydrogen as an energy vector opens an additional degree of freedom by:
– Providing an alternative to electricity batteries to store energy.  The electricity is produced from hydrogen on board by a fuel cell.  5 kg of hydrogen is stored in a high pressure tank, allowing a family car to run a distance up to 700 km.
– Currently produced from natural gas, hydrogen can also be produced from biomethane and electricity.
– The conversion of methane to hydrogen in large steam methane reforming plants in highly efficient. 3 to 3.2 kg of CH4 is used to produce 1 kg of H2, however this process is releasing CO2

– Converting the excess electricity produced by photovoltaic panels and wind turbines during periods of low electricity demand.   Since electricity storage capacities in water reservoirs are limited. 55 – 60 kWh, electricity can be turned into 1 kg of hydrogen at 700 bar with a water electrolyzer.

– Hydrogen can be mixed with natural gas and biomethane in existing natural gas distribution networks to decrease the carbon intensity of heat production for building and industries, as well as that of CNG vehicles.

However hydrogen, although used in refineries and some other industries for more than 40 years, is an energy vector that requires new technologies and new skills to be used as an energy vector. Ensuring the quality of hydrogen delivered to the fuel cells used to power the car is among the factor of success, both from a technical and economic point of view.


Pen Profile

Marianne Julien, MS, graduated from Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris with a major in Chemical Engineering. After a first experience in academic research as visiting scholar at the University of California in Berkeley (USA) as part of a partnership with the Rhodia Company, she joined Air Liquide where she occupied a variety of positions in R&D, business operations, innovation& strategy. She has developed expertise on Air Separation Processes, Industrial IT, Energy markets,  Hydrogen Energy technology and regulations & policies around industrial gases.  From 2010 to 2012, she was heading the French Association for Hydrogen & Fuel Cells (AFHYPAC).
She is currently in charge of developing & animating internal & external Scientific Ecosystems to support Air Liquide innovation activities.

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