Tripartite agreement signed for hydrogen energy development in Russia  

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Russia’s government, the state-run atomic energy corporation Rosatom and the Russian energy giant Gazprom have signed an agreement last month on cooperation in the development of hydrogen energy.  

As per the agreement, Rosatom will put into action a program to develop, by 2030, technologies for producing and processing hydrogen, organise serial production of electrolysis installations with various capacities, and carry out preparations for the construction of a nuclear power plant with high temperature gas-cooled reactors. 

Russia has been into clean hydrogen technology for some years. In 2020, the government launched a Hydrogen Energy Action Plan, and in 2021 it approved the Plan of Action to Develop Hydrogen Energy in the country. 

According to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, “Russia has a wealth of expertise in carrying out initiatives for the advancement of hydrogen energy and the development of portable, potent, contemporary energy storage systems. In addition to its current usage in oil refining, hydrogen will also have uses in energy and transportation in the future.” 

Rosatom plays a leading role in the development of clean hydrogen energy in Russia. It has an R&D program to develop technology for the storage, transportation and application of low-carbon hydrogen in different sectors. It is also in the process of launching a number of pilot hydrogen projects, including production of clean hydrogen for industry use, introduction of hydrogen-­powered vehicles and hydrogen fuelling stations for urban transport systems, and large-­scale production of hydrogen by means of electrolysis using electricity from nuclear power plants or by a steam methane reforming process combined with carbon capture systems. 

Green, or clean, hydrogen is that produced by a process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen – known as electrolysis – using power generated from renewable sources or nuclear energy to achieve this. Besides, steam and oxygen can also be used to convert biomass into green hydrogen.   

Currently, only around one percent of global hydrogen production is low-carbon, which means that most of the hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, releasing carbon into the atmosphere. However, technologies like carbon capture use and storage are now available to reduce the carbon footprint of hydrogen produced this way and make low-carbon hydrogen. 

One of the projects in an active development phase is the Sakhalin Hydrogen Cluster being developed in the Russian Far East at Sakhalin, which is the country’s largest island, separated from mainland Asia by the Strait of Tartary and from Japan’s Hokkaido Island by the La Pérouse Strait. 

Last March, the Russian government approved an extensive decarbonisation program for Sakhalin. With emission quotas and environmental initiatives, the island plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025. The Sakhalin experiment was launched on September 1, 2022.  Rosatom has signed a wide-ranging cooperation agreement with Gazprom and the Sakhalin authorities to produce and distribute hydrogen on the island, aimed at switching consumers to its use as fuel. 

To aid in decarbonisation of the local economy, the Sakhalin Hydrogen Cluster will comprise hydrogen technology projects across industry sectors such as transport, manufacturing, utilities, and power production, a competence center, as well as an export-­oriented low-carbon hydrogen factory.  

Hydrogen production is expected to begin at this planned factory in 2025 with 35,000 tons and increase to 100,000 tons by 2030. The factory will use the steam methane reforming process and carbon capture systems to produce hydrogen. It will be supplied to Sakhalin­based companies and countries in the Asia-Pacific region pursuing a carbon-free hydrogen economy to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Rosatom subsidiary Rusatom Overseas together with French multinational Air Liquide have completed a feasibility study for the construction of the hydrogen production complex, preparatory to the formulation of the front-end engineering design.  

According to the Governor of the Sakhalin Region, Valery Limarenko, “the project for the production of low-carbon hydrogen on Sakhalin Island by steam reforming of methane using environmentally friendly technologies for capturing CO2 emissions is developing successfully. This is a very important project for our region.”  

“We see that many companies from countries of the Asia-Pacific region pay great attention to the development of the hydrogen economy and are interested in importing low-carbon hydrogen from Russia. We are already negotiating with potential partners in Japan and the Republic of Korea to launch an international supply chain for low-carbon hydrogen from 2025,” Rusatom Overseas President Evgeny Pakermanov had earlier said in a statement.   

Rosatom is considering a number of partnership options for the project. A memorandum to this effect has been signed between Rusatom Overseas and China Energy Engineering Corporation at the Eastern Economic Forum held in September 2022.  

“We plan to export liquefied hydrogen to China by sea using container tanks. China has its own large-­scale program for hydrogen production and application. Our partnership is another step towards achieving hydrogen economy goals set by our countries,” Pakermanov said. 

Another ambitious project within the Sakhalin Hydrogen Cluster is a railway service that will use trains running on hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen-­powered trains have a minimal impact on the environment. The pilot series will consist of seven — five two-car and two three-car — trains. Each train is estimated to consume 265 tons of hydrogen per annum at an average daily run of about 300 km. The first train is planned to be launched in 2025. This is a joint project of Rosatom, the Sakhalin government, Russian Railways, and Russia’s leading rolling stock manufacturer, Transmashholding. 

In addition to trains, Russia plans to launch other modes of hydrogen-powered transport, including buses, cars, as well as municipal and commercial vehicles, the fuelling infrastructure for which will also be developed by Rosatom, the company said. 

Several countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan and South Korea, have been proactive in the area of hydrogen policy making. In 2017, Japan formulated its Basic Hydrogen Strategy which sets out the country’s action plan till 2030, including the establishment of an international supply chain. South Korea is operating hydrogen projects and hydrogen fuel cell production units under its Hydrogen Economy Development and Safe Management of Hydrogen Act, 2020. 

Last month, the Indian government launched its National Green Hydrogen Mission designed to substantially increase the use of the clean fuel in its energy mix, and for the development of the country’s green hydrogen ecosystem. The policy, approved by the cabinet with an outlay of Rs.19,744 crore (over $2.4 billion), aims to make India a global hub for green hydrogen production and fuel cell technology. The mission targets setting up green hydrogen capacity of at least 5 million tons per annum by 2030, alongside adding an associated renewable energy capacity of 125 gigawatts (GW).