Spain pioneers the global economy based on hydrogen

About 50 experts in renewable energies from around the world met in Spain from 23th to 26th October.
Greece, Japan, United Kingdom, USA, many European and not European countries gathered at the two plants for the production of green hydrogen, which were recently opened in Pozo Izquierdo (Canary Islands).
All of them agreed to consider this gas as the future alternative, which will replace the fossil fuels, as the main engine of the world economy.

En la imagen (de izquierda a derecha).- Juan Pedro Sánchez (Viceconsejero de Industria y Energía del Gobierno de Canarias y Miembro del Consejo del ITC (Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias) y Gonzalo Piernavieja (Director de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico del ITC). Sede del ITC (abajo).
Juan Pedro Sánchez (Vicecounsel of Industry and Energy of the Government of the Canary Islands and Member of the Board of the ITC ( Technological Institute of the Canary Islands) and Gonzalo Piernavieja (Director of Technological I+D at ITC) -right-. ITC headquarters -below-.

The pioneering and unique plants at Pozo Izquierdo, which have been launched by ITC (Technological Institute of the Canary Islands), produce and store green hydrogen, or what is the same, hydrogen obtained from inexhaustible and 100% clean energies. They both have costed 300,000 euros, entirely provided by the Government of the Canary Islands, and were opened on 25th October.

Not only cheap, but also relatively easy to produce energy, which not pollutes and easy to store once obtained, hydrogen (H2) seems a clear bet on clean energies as foundation for a sustainable economic growth in the future.
“It is natural looking at hydrogen as a solid and inexhaustible energy basis, because this gas is at the origin of the universe and the most basic form of energy”, said Antonio González García Conde, Director of Aerodynamics of the National Institute for Aerospace Technology and chairman of the Spanish Association of Hydrogen.

Hydrogen bateries for automotive, domestic use and electronic devices
Not everybody sees the hydrogen as the panacea for a clean energy future in the long-term. This people emphasize its disadvantages, in particular its highly explosive nature. Yet, the experts gathered in the Canary Islands ensure that the H2 “is not more dangerous than other gases. It simply has other properties: It can´t be seen, it can’t be smelled, etc.

The security conditions are, therefore, very similar “….” It is true that H2 is very explosive, but, for example, in case of a car crash, it goes up. It doesn’t generate puddles as it would do gasoline, may be, exploding “.

Energy storage, whatever the source, is another great challenge.There are already hydrogen batteries, which are expected to replace in the future those made of heavy metals, that are generally used today.These devices, able to generate electricity with hydrogen or other fuels, which are rich in this gas (eg. methanol), are considered as a key engine for a future society of production and consumption based on the H2.
The mentioned kind of batteries uses oxygen in the air together with the hydrogen getting both water and electricity. They are a 50% more efficient than the combustion engin es fed with hidrogen fuel, which are employed up today by the aerospace industry. Two types of applications are envisaged for the H2 in future: Mobile applications (automotion) and stationary applications (video cameras, photographic as well as any other electronic devices, and also energy supply at home).

Many private companies lead their futures towards hydrogen

It is an actual fact, that goverments and companies are very interested in H2. Just an example: The 45 Japanese multinationals, which visited Zaragoza (visit arranged by The Japanese Businessmen Association in Madrid -Suiyokay Madrid-member of Jetro-) expressed its interest in knowing the developments of the Hidrogen Foundation. According to the information published on www.redadearagon.com, this wish could become true along November. This time not in Zaragoza, but in Madrid.

The support of public institutions and governments is fundamental, as recognized Luis Correas ( Aragonese Hydrogen Association): “There are many ongoing projects in many places in the world. What it is actually needed is an investment in education and training in order to make energy savings and the use of renewable energies come true as soon as possible”.

Left to right: Sam Myashita (Association of Advanced Energy from Japan), Luis Correas (Foundation for the Development of the New Technologies of the Hydrogen from Aragon) and Kevin Harrison (National US Laboratory of Renewable Energies).
Left to right: Sam Myashita (Association of Advanced Energy from Japan), Luis Correas (Foundation for the Development of the New Technologies of the Hydrogen from Aragon) and Kevin Harrison (National US Laboratory of Renewable Energies).

But leaving aside the initiatives of the goverment and some public institutions, the development of this kind of renewable energies starts from the very beginning with a clear business and company signature in Spain.

Many private companies, operating within diverse business branches, devote, not only money but also its efforts to produce, use and design of technologies related to hydrogen. Let’s list some examples: EADS-CASA, SENER (aeronautics); AJUSA, ATIPIC, EXPERT, IVECO/IRISBUS, SEAT (automotion); ABENGOA, ARIES, EMPRESARIOS AGRUPADOS(engineering); ABELLO-Linde, AIR LIQUIDE Spain PRAXAIR Spain, CARBUROS-Air Products (industrial gases); ELCOGAS, ENDESA, IBERDROLA (electricity), NATURAL GAS, Gas de Euskadi (gas); BP Spain, CEPSA, REPSOL-YPF (fuels); EHN, ISOFOTÓN (renewable energies) and ACERALIA, AIMPLAST, ARIEMA, BESEL, CLHORIDE-OAR, DAVIDFCC, INDEX, IZAR, TRAMA, TECNOAMBIENTAL and URBASER (other).

Such a great interest by private companies cannot be due only to the quest to combat climate change. ¿Wouldn´t it be due to the fact that companies, like those mentioned, consider the H2 a clear opportunity for sustainable business in a not too far future?.

© Eastwind.
© Eastwind.

Even more, the Spanish Association of Hydrogen was stablished in 2002 with 2 targets: It must, not only encourage the development of technologies for the production of hydrogen, but also must promote an industrial and trade use of the results obtained from its R&D support.
And more again. It is true that 16 research centres, public agencies, non profit organisations and 77 individuals, are now members of the AEH. But it is also true that 38 private companies take part at the AEH.

H2, a global bet

The bet on projects like the one of Pozo Izquierdo is a fact not only in Spain ( eg. Spanish Association of Hydrogen) or at the European Union (eg. European Association of Hydrogen-EAH-, GD RTD European Commission).

In the 15th October week, ITC has launched at Brussels the Hydrogen Initiative in Islands, true. And follows, because 275 million euros have been invested by the European Commission to develop H2 projects between 2002 and 2006. At least that were the data provided by Joaquín Gómez Bermejo (GD RTD unit J-2 of the European Commission) in the Spaniard-Portuguese Seminar on Use of Hydrogen as Automotion Fuel, which held in the Canary Islands in 2005.

But looking back, all this commitment by the H2 began some years ago with the Programme on Production and Use of Hydrogen, promoted by the International Agency for Energy (IAHE), whi ch is a global organization not just Spanish or European.

Today, there are a great number of associations for the promotion of hydrogen technologies throughout the world, not only in the wake of the first initiative IAHE, but also due to the commitments signed at Kyoto (table I shows the links with some of the most well reputed).

Green energies, but not in the short term

Gonzalo Piernavieja, Director of the Technological R&D Division of ITC, assured during the Pozo Izquierdo meeting: “In the society of the future in the Canary Islands, each island will have their central production of renewable energy. We count with marine parks, production systems of energy through the strength of the waves, solar thermal power plants and all the roofs of houses will be covered solar panels”.

The EU has decided to leave aside the production and use of energies based on carbon fuels for the year 2050, although as recognised Piernavieja, the transitions in energy systems are very slow because of a great inertia: “Just remember that it has taken us a great effort to change from gasoline to gasoline without lead. Imagine the effort that it will take us the change from gasoline to hydrogen”.

We cannot forget that green hydrogen represents only a 4% of the total produced at present. “It is very interesting to see what you are doing
in Gran Canaria by using renewable energies for the production of hydrogen, not only for electricity, but also by the desalination of water” indicated Mary Gillie (EA Technology – United Kingdom-).

En la imagen .- Algunos otros participantes en el encuentro de Pozo Izquierdo.
Some other participants in the meeting at Pozo Izquierdo.

Both Kevin Harrison (North American National Laboratory of Renewable Energies) and Sam Myashita (Association of Advanced Energy of Japan) defended during the canary meeting that hydrogen could possibly be marketed in 2020. In fact the EU dares to predict that by that date a 10% of cars will function with the aforementioned gas.
A bit more sceptical, Elli Varkaraki (Centre for Renewable Energy – Greece-) stated: “There will not be an instantaneous change, but it is something that can be achieved some day. Perhaps in 2030 or 2040 “.

Savings, the first clean energy source

The sun and the wind are the main inexhaustible and completely clean energy sources, which are used in the South of Gran Canaria to produce hydrogen. Although, for Juan Pedro Sánchez, Minister of Industry and Energy of the Government of the Canary Islands: “The main things to reach a sustainable development are energy saving and promoting the most renewable energies. But those are not enough, because this kind of energy sources have several constraints. One of them is that they are highly fluctuating”… “In other countries, even a 5 years old child knows that one have to close the tap to avoid water to be wasted, that the lights must be turned off when not required, etc.” … ” Spanish society must be taught to carry out a better energy planning “.

This is the first of the two main conclusions, reached by the 50 national and international experts, who gathered in the global scientific meeting at Pozo Izquierdo.

The second one, but not of secondary importance, is: “In the future, there will be used a combination of clean energies, whose key element is hydrogen” … “Something clear is that there will never be just one source of global energy as oil. In the future we will have a wide range of possibilities, which have to be combined. We must learn how to do it”.

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