Hydrogen 2021: The Beginning of a new era in Energy


2020 has spoken, (Mandalorian expression) and here are some of our reflections of the year that's pasted from some different perspective.

Our micro perspective from H&O Development, the small start-up business has been unexpectedly good, with a result well over budget. We are very much humble for this and appreciates the trust we gained from customers so far.

The consultancy services that we provide have been gaining shares of the local market despite an index for the business overall dropping low. Our biggest issue has been that we had to decline several offers due to that we still are too few.

Our project development is in progress but since the overall situation for green investment have been postponed on many horizons. Meanwhile concept development have reached basic design for our solutions and we are ready for a 2021 with hopefully a first project to be launched.

Setbacks, well of course we had them too. Must affecting our work is the lack of funding for our two projects that made the longest in the pipe-line. However after discussions during the end of the year we are tough hopeful for the possibilities to gain EU and governmental subsidiaries for green hydrogen 2021.

2020 have given us hope, in the middle of a global pandemic, we as humans have proven the capability to change our behavior due to the crisis.

This have of course also been a great reason to the energy price on a global scale due to decrease in travels also other sectors such as for us the most interesting natural gas market in Europe have been showing low prices and as a result giving delayed green investments. However, as we came to the end of the year carbon dioxide taxes in Europe is close to a record high level and the issue of stranded assets is more current then ever, as we see rather new plants in both Germany and Holland that struggles.

2020 was a year of radical shifts in energy markets. The first, but not the most important one, was the deliberate failure of the OPEC+ deal in March. This was largely predetermined by the reallocation of standings of the major players in the oil market. In 2016, when the first OPEC+ deal was announced, the share of OPEC in global oil and liquid hydrocarbon production was 37.8%, but in 2019 it was only 34.4% according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The share of the United States in the same period increased from 15.2% to 19.3%, while that of the OECD (Organization of Co-operation and Development) countries combined increased from 27.5% to 31.4%.

The dissent within the cartel and the loss of market share forced OPEC to tighten its output reduction policy, which increasingly threatened economic feasibility and the national interests of its own members.

It was Russia, who managed to cut the Gordian knot. Moscow promptly understood the meaninglessness of the 'reduction race' when output outside OPEC countries was growing chaotically, and Western Europe and North America are taking up major steps in the transition to low-carbon economies. The general geopolitical situation, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, prompted Russia to resume participation in a new deal. However, this was only a tactical retreat and a temporary trade-off that cannot reverse long-term global trends.

The main postulate of Russia is: if everyone is reducing drastically and in addition shifting simultaneously away from fossil fuels and hydrocarbons, who can sustainably cover market demand at least in the short and mid-term?

The Path to Global Decarbonization

The most important of these trends is the decarbonization of the global economy, spurred by the rapid development of renewable energy resources. Despite COVID-19, the renewable energy sector has demonstrated a higher growth rate compared to all previous years.

According to the EIA, electricity generation from renewable sources (not counting hydropower) in the United States increased by 5% in 2019, while in the first nine months of 2020 the growth was already 12% per annum. This growth accelerated from 9.1% to 9.5% in the European Union according to Ember Research Center.

Of no less importance is the fact that investments in the renewable energies proved to be very resilient to the pandemic: the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates global investment in oil, gas and coal production in 2020 to decrease by 29% (to $689 billion), while in alternative energy by only 3% (to $301 billion). While the share of investments in renewable energies in the electricity generation sector increased to 67% (versus 65% in 2019). This is partly why the IEA improved its long-term forecast for average growth in global renewable energies demand in its latest World Energy Outlook (from 7.1% to 7.4% per annum).

Far from being newcomers

The future of hydrogen energy also became clearer at the end of 2020. In June, Germany published a national hydrogen strategy consisting of 38 steps with a total cost of €9 billion focused mainly on the production of hydrogen from renewable energy resources. The example of Germany was followed not only by the European Union, which presented its own hydrogen strategy in July, but also by Russia, which approved the Hydrogen Energy Development Plan. This is not a coincidence, but a very clear sign that cooperation in the energy sector remains a priority for both countries despite deep political differences. Moreover, the German hydrogen strategy recognizes cooperation with other market players: the document, which consists of 32 pages, makes use of the word 'international' 49 times. Russian and Eurasian companies are far from being newcomers to the hydrogen industry:

Hydrogen is already part of the process cycle of dozens of Russian and Eurasian refineries and petrochemical facilities, not to mention LNG and ammonia plants

  • Rosatom and Gazprom are going to start up their own hydrogen plants in 2024, which will use nuclear energy (yellow hydrogen) to reduce CO2 emissions, or steam methane reforming (blue hydrogen)
  • Another project is going to be implemented by RusHydro that will build a hydrogen plant in the Magadan Region by the mid-2020s together with the Japanese giant Kawasaki Heavy Industries
  • Growth points for the industry will also be the Sakhalin region, where local authorities intend to create a hydrogen cluster, and the cluster in the Arctic areas, where hydrogen technologies can solve the longstanding problem of heat and power supplies.
  • Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are investing more and more in solar and wind farms and will be soon suppliers of various types of Hydrogen.

Eurasia in general and Russia in particular, has a huge platform for capital-intensive 'green' hydrogen projects, which require a broad international cooperation as clearly demonstrated by the European NortH2 Project (which involves RWE, a German electricity producer, and Groningen Seaports, a Dutch operator of seaports, along with Shell, Gasunie and Equinor). Such projects in Russia can be supported by a very impressive wind-farms fleet, which is owned by the Russian subsidiary of Fortum, Rosnano and dedicated companies of Rosatom, such as NovaWind. Several other major companies can claim the role of initiators and investors, such as Novatek (already showed interest in the hydrogen supplies); Inter RAO (assumed investments in renewable energies in its new medium-term strategy), and, finally, the Russian Railways RZD, that became the first issuer of "green bonds'' in Russia.

Related: The Countries Set To Win Big On The Lithium Boom

Therefore, Eurasian companies must not be misunderstood to be fresh newcomers to the hydrogen industry.

Together Towards a Green Future

The results of the 2020 environmental transparency rating (organized by WWF and Creon Group) clearly demonstrate the increasing achievements of Russian and Eurasian oil & gas companies in non-financial reporting and reduction of the environmental footprint. If in 2014, when the first rating was published, the average final score for Russian companies was 0.8, then this year it reached 1.2 (on a two-point scale).

However, the decisive factor will be the return of investments on 'green' hydrogen, which today is questionable for businesses, it is similar to the Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) technologies in the 1950s. In order to achieve progress in this area, all stakeholders need close interstate communications and an off-take Roadmap that would not be burdened with neither restrictions nor sanctions. In particular, in the construction of pipelines, which can be used in the future to exports of hydrogen or its feedstock.

As conclusion we may see as the global trend is moving for a Hydrogen society to become, there are a great issue concerning green wash with black or grey Hydrogen, when large assets become stranded. 

So for 2021, stay safe, stay healthy and stay with Green Hydrogen for a sustainable future.

This material is written by Christoffer Carlsson with materials and influence from the following sites: