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Russia is about to make 5 billion euros through development of hydrogen energetics

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Russian and German scientists are planning to work together on improvement of the technologies of hydrogen production, storage and transportation, as well as on the issue of its subsequent generation into electricity. According to many experts, in the future hydrogen will become a serious competitor for traditional hydrocarbons and renewable energy sources. The main reasons are high efficiency of this gas and its environmental friendliness.

Nowadays, one of the uses of hydrogen is as a transport fuel - starting from cars and trains and ending with airplanes and missiles. Numerous automobile concerns have already launched some models operating on pure hydrogen fuel. Moreover, the transition to a new type of fuel did not result in the lesser comfortability, safety or dynamics of the cars, but allowed to dispose of carbon dioxide emissions as well as other automotive pollutants originating from exhaust pipes.

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A reasonable question is why such a useful and environmentally-friendly "know-how" did not get introduced into mass production? These are the main causes: the high cost of hydrogen cells which either contain palladium or platinum, the lack of a clear understanding of how to generate electricity from gas in an efficient way and what material should be used for the storage containers to keep the hydrogen inside them. It should be noted that the gas is able to permeate the smallest gaps, has a negative impact on metals, and evaporates completely in case of the slightest depressurisation.

According to Yuri Zhukovskiy, the Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Saint-Petersburg Mining University, scientific research in this area will likely change the situation already in the next decade. Increase of reliability and decrease of manufacturing costs at all stages of hydrogen production will undoubtedly lead to adoption of best practices at a commercial scale.

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The researcher cites liquefied natural gas as an analogy. These days, its global supplies are growing by 8- to 10% per year, and at the moment there are no prerequisites for a change of trend. However, Qatar, the world's leading LNG exporter, entered the market only 20 years ago when few people could have imagined that LNG industry would turn out to be so gainful.

As Yuri Zhukovskiy says, ”By 2030, the hydrogen market will be worth 125 billion euros, and Russia can potentially increase its market share to tangible 4-5 billion euros. However, what we do not know is how to raise export volumes to these figures.”

Vladimir Bazhin, Vice Rector for Science and Innovation at the Mining University, believes that gasification of low-quality hydrocarbon materials is one of the possible solutions. These technologies are in use in Germany and have been recently mastered by Chinese enterprises. These countries, though, are mainly aiming for methane or methanol as the output. Russian scientists, on the other hand, offer another final product - hydrogen subsequently generated into energy.

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The possibility of joint work in this area was the main topic of the meeting, which took place between the representatives of Saint-Petersburg Mining University and Freiberg University of Mining and Technology. The researchers from the German university are quite confident about the possibility of adapting prototype units producing synthesis gas and synthetic gasoline from coal to the new task.

As per Felix Baitalov, Head of Group Process Chain Development at the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology "We are interested in this cooperation, because this area looks very promising. Hydrogen production, storage and transportation is the future, and we are bound to make it a reality as soon as possible.”

Both German and Russian sides decided to have a more detailed discussion on the topic as a part of the Russian-German Raw Materials Dialogue, which takes place in Saint-Petersburg at the end of November. One of the central topics of the Dialogue will be actually devoted to hydrogen energy and its role in the global energy balance, and leading scientists from both countries will participate in the discussion.

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In Vladimir Bazhin’s opinion, ”The efficiency of wind turbines and solar panels in Europe leaves much to be desired. In connection with this, a phase-out of coal, which was set by many EU countries to 2030, does not seem to be realistic. Therefore, Europeans start looking for other solutions, such as development of clean but much more efficient hydrogen energy. For Russia, hydrogen energetics is a future-oriented area of focus, since the largest deposit of hydrogen-containing compounds (mainly hydrogen sulfides) on Earth is located near the Crimean coast.”

Vice Rector for Science and Innovation also noted that the Mining University has plans to establish, with support of the German partners, several prototype units in order to produce hydrogen from coal and processed household waste. These units will be supposedly built at one of the venues of the University, situated in the Leningrad Region.