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The future lies in hydrogen

The European taxonomy or closer energetic-climatic policy forces us to seek alternative solutions and sources of cheap electric energy. The introduction of RES policy and the resulting legal regulations run effectively whereas owing to the recent political decisions the hydrogen revolution (although being still ineffective) has a chance to develop dynamically, including also the stabilisation of the situation in respect of energy storage (inter alia, in Poland) and to make the pre-ecological activities real.

Constantly increasing participation of hydrogen in the energetic sector, especially in the global aspect, makes the leading producers of electric energy increase the additional financing of the mentioned research areas.

The most intensive studies on the properties of hydrogen are implemented, first of all, in the United States, Germany and France. Poland has also the achievements in this field with its project by PKN Orlen and Lotos group, PGE, GAZ-SYSTEM, in cooperation with higher education schools, inter alia, AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, Łódź Technical University, Warsaw University of Technology and the Silesian University of Technology.

A wide popularisation of the discussed element in the cosmos and the simple, though very expensive methods for its obtaining, have resulted in the development of energetics and rendering it a name of ecological (organic) fuel. Why, therefore, the process of replacing the universally employed petroleum or ground gas with hydrogen is inhibited?

The so-far existing costs of hydrogen production have been lower than the energy obtained from its combustion which decided on the unprofitability of the process. Let’s pay attention, therefore, to the advantages, speaking for the increase of hydrogen participation in the global and national production of electric energy.

Its ecological nature, connected with the production of water (water vapour) in the combustion process should be confronted with sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide, being the by-products of fossil fuel combustion. Moreover, hydrogen has a low ignition temperature and relatively very high combustion temperature in relation to the mass of the discussed element. The cars, driven by hydrogen or even ammonia ships are becoming more and more popular; their performance and the application of “clean fuel” convince the users to bear higher expenses and overcome the difficulties connected with the lack of fuelling stations.

Aspects of storage and transfer of hydrogen on the industrial scale and the optimization of the mentioned process of its production seem to be a priority.

PKN Orlen has just announced a new hydrogen strategy until 2030 that is aligned with its business strategy ORLEN 2030. The document sets out goals for the Group until the end of the decade and long-term ambitions across four key areas: mobility, refining and petrochemicals, research and development and industry and energy. The 2030 hydrogen strategy defines the investments that will allow the company to become the leader of the hydrogen market in Central Europe.

New investments will translate into the decarbonisation of the existing ones and the construction of new low- and zero-emission assets. Hydrogen refuelling and logistics networks will also be developed. This will enable the ORLEN Group to become the market leader in the region and bring it closer to the implementation of the ORLEN2030 strategy.

Hydrogen is one of two gas products, generated during the water hydrolysis process. Electric energy breaks the relatively strong links between oxygen and hydrogen atoms in a water molecule, transforming both elements into a gas form. The excess of electric energy, resulting from RES is the first stage of the process of “entrapping the energy in hydrogen molecule”.

The period of demand on electric current during the year or even 24h varies and therefore, the storage of energy is necessary to make a buffer and ensure the energetic stabilisation of the network in a given country. During the process of hydrolysis, platinum is a catalyst of reactions on the anode (where hydrogen is released); it is cheap and rare in nature. The scientists have found also here the application for graphene. The catalyst based upon the mentioned materials is derived from Texas. It reaches not only high efficiency but also is a cheap material in comparison to platinum. Signed Co-NH complex is cobalt, distributed in graphene matrix with the participation of gas ammonia. The obvious aim is to lower the cost of hydrolysis and, consequently, to lower the price of the obtained hydrogen, lower the cost of the hydrogen logistics (transport).

When speaking about electrolysis, we cannot forget about PEM (Polymer Electrolyte Membrane) method which is the alternative to a less effective but cheaper method (Alkaline Water Electrolysis). The only one but the deciding disadvantage of PEM is its high cost. We might try to lower the costs of the mentioned method by replacement of platinum with graphene as a catalyst.

We know what hydrogen is, we know its properties, we are able to accumulate it and transform it into electric energy. The ideas of its storage are dynamically developing.

We hope that after the lecture of this editorial, the reader will have a question: when the “outburst of the hydrogen era” will take place. In our opinion, the mentioned period was commenced in the second decade of the 21st century. Hundreds of articles concerning the possibilities of utilising hydrogen-driven mechanical vehicles, planned hydrogen refuelling stations, or construction of underground storehouses for H2 in salt caverns are the premise of this trend. Perhaps it is enough that some would lie down under the apple tree or enter the tub with water and cry: “Eureka”!! (From my perspective the motto for today is: to introduce graphene revolution and RES into the era of hydrogen!).

Economic aspects in such an approach include optimisation of manufacturing processes, storage and transmission of hydrogen on the industrial scale. The key may be the so-called wax foundation – the “leaven” of chemical honey plaster – graphene. And perhaps the future belongs to sorbents with a high capacity!

Michio Kaku wrote and said: “in this century, we will harness the power of the stars, a source of the energy of Gods. In a short perspective, it will be the introduction of the era of solar-hydrogen energy, which would replace fossil fuels; and in a longer time perspective –control of nuclear synthesis and even solar energy from the outer space.”

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