01/17/2024 | Hydrogen Innovation

Interview with Jorgo Chatzimarkakis | CEO of Hydrogen Europe

For Hydrogen Europe, recent global events and widely-varied international strategies mean there has been no let-up in activity. But, as CEO Jorgo Chatzimarkakis explains, its mission remains clear.

Achema Inspire: Hydrogen solutions are rapidly on the increase. How pivotal a role are they likely to play in the future of energy systems?

  •  __Jorgo Chatzimarkakis: It is a very pivotal role because we have decided as humankind to reduce CO2 emissions. In order to reduce these, you need to apply certain technologies. One is to get CO2 or carbon out of fossil elements like methane. If you do, you get hydrogen because methane is CH4. If you are successful in reducing the carbon, then hydrogen will be the product. However, the most attractive solution is renewable technology, which will produce electrons.

    The problem is that electrons cannot store energy and must be consumed immediately; that is what you can solve by turning an electron into a molecule and allowing you to store energy in this molecule, which is the hydrogen molecule. You cannot achieve all the zero emissions targets if you don’t store a big part in renewable energy, and in order to store it on a big scale and affordably, you need hydrogen. That is the pivotal role to store and transport the molecule – the hydrogen molecule - and storing it.

Achema Inspire: During the time Hydrogen Europe has been in existence, you must have seen many changes in this field. Which come to mind?

  •  __Jorgo Chatzimarkakis: We have seen two significant boosters; the first was COVID-19, and the other was definitely Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These changes have impacted the role of hydrogen within the energy transition. COVID-19 was an eye-opener for many European politicians because they thought the European green initiative was very cool but took no action, and then the supply chain suddenly stopped.

    People were worried about how to survive, about bread and butter. The big energy idea was turned into realism and paired with industrial approaches. Hydrogen allows you to achieve the green energy transition without losing jobs.

    The other significant boost was the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This helped the hydrogen initiative immediately; for a big country like Germany, which heavily relies on this chain, they realised how risky this strategy was to build on Russia.

    Now, they were trying to find a substitution: short-term LNG and long-term hydrogen and its carriers in any form. While we have seen many changes, our strategy has always been the same. We want to propel the European Hydrogen technology so that global climate is mitigated positively. So, all these things have stayed the same; these two events have just accelerated the strategy.
    The current situation in Israel may also have an effect. Saudi Arabia has been the most crucial producer of green hydrogen to date. They still will be, but the question will be where they sell this to. Europe or China, and very soon, China will become the biggest market for hydrogen.

Achema Inspire: Governments globally are implementing their own initiatives. What role does Hydrogen Europe have in these implementations?

  •  __Jorgo Chatzimarkakis: We are a European Association and have just changed our by-laws in accepting our global partners as we could not scale up our hydrogen industry enough if we only produce in Europe because of the sheer hunger of the German industry, chemical, petrol, trucks and its vast needs to match the capacity to make these enormous volumes in Europe, especially Germany.

    France is an excellent example of a balanced system as they have bigger space. Spain is also an excellent example as they have much access to renewable areas. But Germany isn’t, so we need to import, and this is why Hydrogen Europe plays a role in building up the partnerships of single countries as well as Europe and other geographies. The European Union has a Memorandum of Understanding in place with Egypt, Namibia and Kazakhstan. We need to have better cooperation with South Africa.

    Hydrogen Europe is pushing the policymakers to come together. We see the national plans, and sometimes, we organise webinars and workshops with EU and non-EU member states. We liaise with them or help them understand how to use existing legislation. So, we play a catalytic role here.

Achema Inspire: With it now being seen as key to the infrastructure of many countries, which of them stands out as examples of good practice?

  •  __Jorgo Chatzimarkakis: The best country is the Netherlands because they had earthquakes caused by gas extraction, mainly from the North Sea. The government decided to stop. They needed a replacement and substitution and were the first to replace the low-pressure gas pipelines. So, they have two systems for low and high pressure. And they said OK, since we extract less gas, they were the first to retrofit from gas to hydrogen. It is no big deal, but the compressors need to be replaced.

    Another good example is Germany, which has tested all its existing gas grids and whether they are hydrogen ready. They came up with a significant figure: 96 per cent of the pipeline can be converted for hydrogen but not the compressors. They also have a concrete plan for a core network. So there is a considerable hydrogen backbone in Europe, and then there is a smaller core network which will bring together hubs support and industrial support. There are already hydrogen pipelines worldwide, but they are private B2B, roughly 450 km, mainly between chemical and industrial gas companies. However, the German and Dutch governments are keen to change the system into hydrogen with concrete KPIs and target years to be ready. It’s not a fairytale but a substantial part of several national hydrogen strategies.


ACHEMA Inspire staff

World Show Media


Keywords in this article:

#hydrogen, #energy

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