Day one of gasworld’s Europe Conference 2018 has drawn to a close here in Amsterdam, dedicated to tackling the evolving Hydrogen Economy in Europe and what that means in 2018 – and beyond.

More than 150 delegates from 23 countries gathered at the Beurs van Berlage Conference Centre in the heart of the city today to discuss and debate the status of the European Hydrogen Economy and address the current national governmental and EU supported initiatives.

Delegates heard not only about the development of green hydrogen production and regional hydrogen fuelling networks, but also the latest developments behind the technologies, the hydrogen gas supply chain and where the Hydrogen Economy is heading.

Setting the scene

After a successful and extremely well attended welcome reception last night, and a first look at the promotional booths on show at the event, the conference began in earnest today and saw 11 industry experts take to the stage throughout the morning to engage in thought-provoking panel debate and discussion.

gasworld founder and CEO John Raquet opened the conference and said, “Welcome everyone to this spectacular venue and thank you for your participation. I hope you not only enjoy the conference and the Amsterdam hospitality but return home richer in knowledge, new contacts, friendships and business opportunities.”

“This conference is a departure from our normal agenda and subject matter. Firstly, it is the first time that we’ve actually held the event outside of a hotel and secondly, we are addressing subjects that are at the periphery of the industrial gas sector. The hydrogen economy and distributive LNG side of the business share many common factors and technologies and we thought it was appropriate, particularly in Europe, to focus on those two sectors.”

Pierre etienne amsterdam 2018

It was then left to the esteemed Pierre-Etienne Franc, Vice-President of Air Liquide Hydrogen Energy WBU, and Secretary of the Hydrogen Council, to officially open the conference with his keenly anticipated keynote. He said, “The Hydrogen Economy is on the periphery of the industry gas industry. The key issue we see at Air Liquide and so many other companies is that the Hydrogen Economy should be at the core of the gases industry – the question is, how and when? I want to share with you how Air Liquide is trying to shape this business and help it become a reality.”

“The Hydrogen Council was created one year ago and it was created as an initiative to show the world that amongst the wave of next generation technologies, there is going to be a key energy player and that player is hydrogen.”

“It was the first time that we managed to get a consensus between the oil and gas, utility, industrial gas and many other sectors, across one initiative, and if we can truly create that unity then hydrogen might be able to fully succeed as a key part of the energy transition.”

In giving a rousing call to action, he urged, “All industries are being faced with the need to decarbonise their sectors…It is possible to make out of hydrogen, the energy vector of the future.”

“We think as Air Liquide that everything is in place for an acceleration in moving to scale. There is a systemic need; there is strong technology potential; the early markets are starting up; we have many growing support policies.”

“The shift to a low-carbon economy is nothing scientifically evident. Every technology has pros and cons – if you don’t move into the debate with conviction, if we don’t do it, nobody will do it for us. We are - all of us - we are all the market shaper’s, and if we do it now it will work.”

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Session one

Under the theme Positioning Today for Tomorrow’s Opportunities, session one looked at how the Hydrogen Economy is being redefined.

The day’s first presentation came courtesy of the European Hydrogen Association’s (EHA) Chairman Ian Williamson, who also chaired the first session, discussing The State of Play.

He said fuelling station infrastructure for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) is now ready with sales doubling in 2017. However, vehicles are in short supply with only 6,475 sold globally at the end of 2017. Williamson said 50% of these vehicles are in California where the fuelling network is beginning to work and large numbers are in Japan ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

“In Europe we have idle stations and very few cars – EU and US car companies have been slow to bring new vehicles to market. Electric vehicle success has confirmed hydrogen’s place in the large car size range upwards and growth is coming, quickly on the back of the electric vehicle roll-out and various governments policy.”

“In the heavier vehicle end, in the heavier transport passenger car end and in the heavier fleet type vehicles and trains we see hydrogen coming to the table as really the only significant alternative to provide sustainable low carb transportation, and that is really the key that we are looking for.”

”Hydrogen enables a future sustainable world. The tehnology is ready and scale is in development. Change brings both opportunities for those which can adapt and threatens to those who want to maintain their existing business models. Regions/countries are demanding change and the industry has to be ready to deliver.”

Hinicio’s Europe Director Wouter Vanhoudt then described Green Hydrogen in Refineries. He told delegates Hinicio, a strategy consultancy specialising in hydrogen and fuel cells, knows refineries are big hydrogen users and that the company has been working for a long time already on finding business cases for green hydrogen in refineries. Vanhoudt presented Hinicio’s work via two public studies it has performed, both taking a different angle to make a business case.

Up next, Dr. Thijs De Groot, Innovation Technologist for AkzoNobel Industrial Chemicals, outlined Green Hydrogen and told delegates there is significant potential for green hydrogen production in five to 10 years. 

“Why now? We are seeing certain trends that make us believe now is the moment for large-scale green hydrogen production. Firstly, the decreasing cost of renewables in this area, we are based in the Netherlands and have a strong position here and in Germany. Secondly, the costs of carbon are increasing. Hydrogen is considered a required energy carrier.”

He then explained hydrogen can play seven roles in the energy transition: enable large-scale renwable integration and power generation, distribute energy across sectors and regions, act as a buffer to increase system resilence, help decarbonise transportation, help decarbonise industrial energy use, help decarbonise building heat and power and serve as renewable feedstock.

Jan Burdinski, Head of European Government Relations at Hyundai, and Anne Kleczka, Head of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Department for BMW, gave an automotive industry update and emphasised both its significance at the event and the gravitas in the Hydrogen Economy from an end-user perspective.

Speaking first, Burdinski said Hyundai is number one in FCEV sales in Europe, number two in hybrid sales and number three in eco-friendly vehicles, and was also the first company to commercialise a fuel cell car. He revealed to delegates that in 2020 Hyundai will release a second fuel cell vehicle and sister company Kia will have its first fuel cell car on the market. “The infrastructure is there, we just need the cars.”

Burdinski compared the hydrogen infrastructure and product to the chicken and egg theory, saying that he honestly couldn’t tell if the hydrogen car was the chicken or the egg.

Reassuring delegates, he said hydrogen is safe for mobility applications, even safer than other technologies which are on our roads already. “We have videos to show we’ve shot at and set the vehicles on fire and it is safe. We have to educate the people, we have to make the public see it is safe.”

Giving an update of where BMW is today, Kleczka said batteries and fuel cells will be the main technology for cars by 2050. She said, “Direct use of renewable electricity with BEV is preferred to minimise investment in power generation. An additional option is hydrogen as a fuel for larger vehicles, long distances or customers who have limited access to charging stations. Also, hydrogen utilisation is beneficial to grid stability.

“Deep de-carbonisation seems possible whilst maintaining social wealth, economic growth and quality of life if the economic framework gives support. Electricity and hydrogen will become the main energy sources for passenger cars in the long term. Hydrogen allows to stablise the grid, to store surplus renewable electricity and to provide fuel for mobility whilst maintaining today’s customer habits, flexibility and infrastructure business models.”

She concluded, “A framework must be established that encourages companies to invest into a Hydrogen Economy System and enables viable models along the value chain.”

Rounding off the first session, ITM Power’s Compliance Team Lead Dr. Nick Hart, presented Hydrogen Safety. Hart, who is also an active member of the British Compressed Gas Association (BCGA) TSC1 and the Secretary of BCGA TSC9 (hydrogen and other alternative gaseous fuels), explained, ”There is no longer reason to question the safety side of the Hydrogen Economy.”

Session 2 lastest technologies h2 economy

Latest technologies to support the Hydrogen Economy

Opening session two was Denis Thomas, EU Regulatory Affairs & Business Development Manager for Renewable Hydrogen at Hydrogenics, covering The Scaling Up and Down of Renewable Hydrogen.

He said, “Let’s start with why today there are so many people in this room? We believe it is because there are things that have changed over the last two/three years. The first thing is COP 21. All governments they signed papers they didn’t know what they were signing. Just after COP 21 they asked their ministries to say how are we going to make COP 21? All large industries have made the same exercise and they all came to the same conclusion – they cannot do it without hydrogen and it’s what is happening right now. What we are seeing is a tsunami of people coming to us and to all these people here because people want to understand hydrogen technologies.”

Prof. Marcus Newborough, Development Director at ITM Power, then explained to delegates ITM Power’s role in establishing a hydrogen infrastructure in the UK.

“We have six stations in the UK and we just opened our latest station in Beaconsfield last month. This one was really interesting because it was under the canopy. So, when the customer drives in they see the petrol pump, they see the diesel pump and they also see the hydrogen dispenser under the canopy. Which hopefully will get them thinking about one day driving with hydrogen fuel.

“If you look at the map you can see the initial roll-out. Yes it’s only a handful of stations but go back two or three years there were no stations and now there are a few. These are enabling people to travel long range and if you use your imagination you can imagine how it will improve in a few years time, there will be many more stations spread across the country which will then fully access the long range capability of fuel cell vehicles and distinguish them from battery vehicles.”

Calls to action from hydrogen stakeholders

Offering an opposing view, Cornelius von der Heydt, Hydrogenious’ Chief Commercial Officer, began by saying hydrogen will play an imminent role in the EU emissions reduction target by 2050, but he said today’s hydrogen transport technologies are not suitable for the roll out of hydrogen as a fuel.

“From our perspective today’s transport technologies work very well for hydrogen as an industrial gas but they don’t work for hydrogen as a fuel. The shift from hydrogen as an industrial gas in the environment of professionals to hydrogen as a fuel, hydrogen in society, hydrogen in the city, we personally don’t believe that compressed hydrogen or liquid hydrogen will be the solution. They will have their very large areas of publication still but for refuelling stations, especially large refuelling stations we don’t believe that that will be a solution,” he explained.

Next to the stage was Oskar Voorsmit, Senior Business Development Manager at Pitpoint Clean Fuels, who discussed the latest hydrogen fuel filling stations, “When we talk about hydrogen we see very large potential, we see it as a very, very strong fuel for future possibilities for several reasons. The main one is that hydrogen gives us the opportunity to decarbonise our energy system and for us that means decarbonise transport. But equally important hydrogen also gives us the opportunity to accomplish our targets regarding clean air.”

The final presentation of day one came from Dr. Andreas Broecker, Head of Technology and Innovation at Linde AG, who highlighted the Hydrogen Gas Supply Chain. He explained Linde is orchestrating the entire hydrogen value chain from production to processing to supplying and also to application. 

Historic setting, progressive discussions

Following a fine dining and networking lunch, sponsored by Cryostar, a leader in both hydrogen and LNG technologies, delegates now have more time to network and explore the dedicated promotional booths this afternoon.

Turning the attention to this evening, a drinks reception will be held in the Grote zaal (Grand hall) at the Beurs van Berlage. The Grote zaal was originally home to the commodity exchange, one of the four exchanges at the Beurs van Berlage. Delegates will then enjoy a Conference Networking Dinner, held in the Graanbeurszaal (grain exchange hall). Grain traders traded large amounts of grain imported from afar. To sell this in the Netherlands, they needed a stock exchange where they were able to negotiate.

The Graanbeurszaal was designed with a glass sawtooth roof so the grain could be checked by the merchants in the northern lights.

Providing an After Dinner speech in this illustrious setting, and insights from his decades working in the clean energies sector, will be Prof. Ad van Wijk. The Sustainable Energy Entrepeneur and part-time Professor of Future Energy Systems at TU Delft founded the company Ecofys, which eventually grew into Econcern. 

Econcern developed many new sustainable energy products, services and projects, including the 120 MW offshore wind farm Princess Amalia in the North Sea, several multi-MW solar farms in Spain and a bio-methanol plant in the Netherlands, which is the largest second-generation biomass plant in the world.

The conference resumes tomorrow morning, with day two focusing on Distributive LNG and where the opportunities are in this business.

LNG on the agenda for gasworld’s Europe Conference 2018 day two

Follow the conference

Stay up-to-date with all the latest news, views and developments at the Europe Conference 2018 via the gasworld website, updated throughout the two-day event.

gasworld will also be tweeting live updates during the conference, which you can follow on Twitter using the hashtag #GWEUROPE18.

A full review of the conference will be published in the upcoming June edition of gasworld magazine.