France announces hydrogen strategy – maritime absent

In concert with the EU’s € 759 billion Green Deal and Germany’s €9 billion support for investment in hydrogen, France has launched its own hydrogen strategy.

The Government has announced €7.2 billion of investment by 2030 leading to a hydrogen production capacity of 6.5 gigaWatts. €1.5 billion will be spent on the construction of electrolysis plants, which will later be powered by renewable energy. Almost one billion euros is blocked until 2023 for the development of hydrogen-powered heavy trucks. Further funds are to flow into the development of the industrial sector and the mobilisation of economic actors.

The French Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economy have published a joint strategy paper focusing on the decarbonisation of hydrogen production and the design of a hydrogen industry. The development of hydrogen-powered vehicles such as trucks, garbage trucks, trains and – in the long term – aeroplanes is to be promoted.

‘Hydrogen is a strategic opportunity to intensify and accelerate the decarbonisation of the most difficult to decarbonise sectors…especially in industry and transport”, said Environment Minister Barbara Pompili, presenting the plans.  Yet maritime applications of hydrogen fuel are conspicuous by their absence from the strategy paper.

The European Commission promotes Europe as a leader in developing hydrogen applications for marine propulsion.  EU bodies such as Horizon Europe, InvestEU and the Connecting Europe Facility make funds available for developing new technologies in the maritime and other spaces. Connecting Europe Facility alone has earmarked €23.7 billion for transport infrastructure investment since January 2014.

The European hydrogen strategy envisages such a technological lead for Europe that hydrogen transactions world-wide will be priced in euros, as oil is priced in US dollars. The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance was set up in March 2020 with the aim of deployment of clean hydrogen technology by 2030. It has reportedly over 200 corporate and government members, though we understand that the organisation is not yet operational.

In fact, the EU and its member states lag behind a Nordic neighbour in hydrogen marine fuels. Norway is home to some of the most advanced non-hydrocarbon transport networks. The Nordic nation published its hydrogen strategy in June 2020.  It is one of the few countries to specify the maritime sector in its energy and climate policy work. In the transport sector, Norway’s National Transport Plan aims for zero emission targets with a strong drive to decarbonise passenger vehicles (both cars and buses), heavy-duty vehicles (trucks), car ferries and high-speed passenger ferries. Current projects include the Small Ships hydrogen-powered crew transport vessel and the Free CO2ast hydrogen fuel cell Havila Coastal route ferry project.

The Norwegian government Pilot-e program funds several hydrogen marine fuel production and infrastructure projects. Wilhelmsen and NorSea have key roles in a large-scale project to offer environmentally friendly liquid hydrogen to commercial shipping, by Q1 of 2024. The project, which also involves Equinor, Viking Cruises and Air Liquide, has been awarded a grant of NOK 33.5 million (USD 3.8 million) from the Pilot-e scheme.

As we reported last week, Norwegian company TECO 2030 ASA announced its partnership with Austrian engineering company AFL List GmbH to develop the TECO Marine Fuel Cell, a heavy duty fuel cell specifically designed for marine applications.

On 14th and 15th October, the fifth International Conference on Maritime Hydrogen and Marine Energy will go ahead digitally, under the theme “Making Green Waves – Solutions for the Future”. The conference was originally planned to take place at Florø in Norway.

Mark Williams

Mark Williams