Hydrogen is used worldwide as a raw material in industries such as oil refining and the manufacture of fertilisers and chemicals. Global hydrogen consumption is about 70 million tonnes per year, according to the latest IEA Report (International Energy Association).
At present, almost all hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, which means that large amounts of CO2 are emitted in the process. But there is a way to produce hydrogen without emissions: obtaining it by electrolysing water.
Electricity is needed to carry out electrolysis, which separates oxygen from hydrogen. If this electricity is produced from renewable sources, what we get is "green hydrogen", an element that can be used as a raw material in many areas and that allows those industrial and transport sectors to be decarbonised where electrification is technically or economically unfeasible.
An ally for decarbonisation
Green hydrogen is the perfect ally for the decarbonisation of the sectors where electrification is not feasible to reduce emissions and thus combat climate change. This is the case for some chemical sectors that use hydrogen as a raw material, industrial sectors that need large heat inputs in their processes and where electrification is not economically or technically possible (steel and cement), aviation and shipping.
In addition, renewable hydrogen produced through electrolysis can contribute to the proper regulation of a 100% renewable electricity system, providing greater flexibility and improving security of supply.
At present, large-scale green hydrogen production plants are not yet economically competitive. However, in the expected context of decreasing renewable generation costs, rising CO2 prices, the improved efficiency of electrolysers, reduced investment in electrolysers and the need for seasonal energy storage, renewable hydrogen production technologies could become competitive in industrial uses in the coming years.
At the present time, there is still a need for support mechanisms to make the use of hydrogen competitive with other alternatives to demonstrate its viability.
A Spanish green hydrogen industry
The Enel Group, of which Endesa is a member, is planning to undertake green hydrogen production projects based on installing renewable energy-powered electrolysers and placed near the points of consumption. This activity will initially be implemented in the United States, Chile, Italy and Spain.
In line with this approach, Endesa has presented to the Ministry of Ecological Transition our interest in undertaking up to 23 renewable hydrogen projects in Spain. These projects, with an associated investment of more than 2.9 billion euros, comprise the entire value chain of this energy vector, thus contributing to the creation of a Spanish electrolyser and capital goods manufacturing industry.
"We would like to emphasise our clear commitment to green hydrogen as a key to the energy transition and decarbonisation of the economy" process, explains Endesa's General Manager for Generation, Rafael González. "We have been working on these objectives for years and they have marked our strategy of progressively replacing thermal generation with renewable generation".
The 23 green hydrogen projects that we want to undertake are associated with a power capacity of almost 2,000 MW of renewables.
Various uses and locations
The projects that we have submitted to the Ministry of Ecological Transition include different end uses of green hydrogen, from production to consumption.
The most ambitious projects to be carried out within mainland Spain are located in the areas where the company is closing thermal plants: Andorra (Teruel), Compostilla (León), As Pontes (A Coruña), Litoral (Almería) and Alcudia (Mallorca).
Our plans include transforming former coal-fired power plants into modern, hydrogen-producing facilities powered by green energy.
"These are special areas where we have been operating for many years and we want to continue to be present. There is now an opportunity to transform these coal-based generation facilities and we want to build plants with innovative technologies such as photovoltaics, wind power and hydrogen production. The combination of these technologies can make it a modern and sustainable complex", explains Endesa's General Manager for Generation, Rafael González.
Overall, the 23 projects we propose are diversified in terms of hydrogen end-uses and locations:
- they would be undertaken in areas of decarbonisation and fair transition and also in island power generation systems.
- applications would be obtained in the chemical industry, replacing thermal consumption.
- in some cases these are hybrid projects, combining wind and photovoltaic energy or one of these technologies with storage. It is about pilot projects, where innovation will prevail.
The total production of all projects, once commissioned, would amount to 26,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year.
The most advanced project to date is the one undertaken in As Pontes (A Coruña). It will have a 100 MW electrolyser and six partner wind farms, with a combined capacity of 611 MW. Constructing this site would lead to the creation of around 1,600 jobs during the 18 months of construction.
The construction of the electrolyser, which would take about 24 months from start-up, would employ about 120 people. Its operation and maintenance, over some 20 years, would require the work of around 100 people. The total investment of the As Pontes project will reach 738.2 million euros and, once in operation, it would have 10,000 tonnes of green hydrogen production and would provide employment for around 130 professionals in operation and maintenance (100 in the electrolyser and another 30 in the wind farms).
The aim of this initial project is to show that a facility of this size can be built, operated and maintained economically, technically and environmentally.
The rest of the mainland proposals will take place in Huelva, Teruel, Almería, Tarragona, Valle del Ebro and El Bierzo (León). All together, they will have an associated electrolyser capacity of 215 MW, more than 500 jobs will be created in the construction phase and around 220 more in the subsequent operation and maintenance phases.
In total, the projects to be undertake n in mainland Spain bring together 2 billion euros in investment and electrolysers with an aggregate capacity of 315 MW.
In the case of non-mainland projects, options range from energy production with green hydrogen in new generation plants (Barranco de Tirajana, Granadilla and Alcudia, which will add electrolysers for a total of 25MW), the switch from operational plants to bi-fuel and replacing power from other operating plants with hydrogen/gas.
The initiatives presented in Canarias, Baleares and Melilla add up to an investment of 900 million euros.