Decarbonisation of transport: on the road to hydrogen!

By ENGIE - 01 December 2021 - 17:22

In France, transport accounts for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions and is the highest emitting sector in the country. Green hydrogen offers real opportunities for tomorrow's zero-carbon mobility solutions because it does not emit pollutants or cause noise pollution. Quentin Nouvelot and Sécil Torun, experts at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN, share their experience in this strategic field and explain the progress needed for it to be rolled out across the transport sector.


How is ENGIE helping regions and industry develop hydrogen-powered transport?


A multi-level support...

ENGIE supports regions on several levels, by developing hydrogen-based mobility solutions, by helping regions introduce them (ENGIE already operates about fifteen stations and aims to reach 100 stations by 2030), and by working on Research & Development projects needed to make hydrogen accessible to as many people as possible. With the Industry Lab, for example, we are researching solutions for decarbonising industrial systems. Meanwhile, with the Cities & Regions Lab, we are working on a 100% hydrogen district capable of generating electricity and heat on a neighbourhood scale. 


...throughout the value chain

The aim is to address the entire hydrogen value chain – production, transport, storage, distribution, and development of its different applications, as well as safety and standardisation – to find all existing hydrogen production systems and reduce costs enough for hydrogen to penetrate certain industry sectors. We adopt a partnership approach with all players in our ecosystem, encouraging a ship-owner, for example, to make investments over a period of thirty years in a ship that must comply with requirements to cut CO2 emissions. The ship-owner wants a guarantee that they will be able to refuel safely in all the ports the ship is due to dock in. And yet, today, one of the main obstacles to widespread rollout of hydrogen lies in the necessary development of networks to enable large-scale, competitively-priced production of the fuel.



What technological progress is needed to make hydrogen-powered transport more accessible? How is ENGIE involved?


Hydrogen-powered trains

Il nous faut démocratiser l’usage de l’hydrogène là où il a le plus besoin : dans les véhicules lourds, l’aérien et le maritime : camions, trains, avions et bateaux. 

We need to make the use of hydrogen more accessible where it is needed the most: in heavy-duty vehicles, in aviation and in shipping (trucks, trains, aeroplanes and ships). ENGIE Lab CRIGEN worked on using renewable hydrogen to power a passenger train in the north of the Netherlands, the first project of its kind in the world. Its models helped to establish the required loading time and to fully understand each operation, such as identifying the right temperature or pressure conditions under safe conditions.   ENGIE Lab CRIGEN's renowned excellence enables us to work alongside a large ecosystem of partners and start-ups, focusing on operational and safety factors, with a view to rolling out this type of hydrogen-powered train in the Netherlands, Germany, France and the rest of Europe. 


Aviation and shipping

Our researchers are also currently working on two other sectors: aviation and shipping.  For these industries, they are focusing on liquid hydrogen. Through a partnership with Ariane Group, ENGIE is developing hydrogen liquefaction technology to decarbonise the sector.  Lab CRIGEN is working on the very early stages of the project - developing and commercialising the technology in order to roll out hydrogen-based mobility across the sector. The Group is also involved further downstream with energy supply, network provision, tank loading operations, and the logistics required for supplying these hydrogen stations. It will thus be possible to use hydrogen in either liquid or gas form, depending on its different mobility and logistics applications, in both airports and ports.



The final research focus is e-fuels: converting renewable energy into different types of fuel by producing green hydrogen and combining it with CO2 and nitrogen to form e-methanol or e-kerosene, for example.  Here too, our expertise enables us to address a considerable challenge faced by the aviation industry: finding fuels that emit less CO2 by using a proportion of green hydrogen. This is another line of research that is developing rapidly.  


H2 Factory: a unique testing platform

To address these challenges, we created the H2 Factory, a unique testing platform comprising both an electrolyser to produce hydrogen and storage capacity with a compressor. The aim is to use the platform to run the pilot tests and technology needed for our different European projects.  We hope that our ecosystem of partners will also use it to test their technology. We will then be able to run test campaigns across the entire value chain.


The widespread rollout of hydrogen concerns everyone and will be achieved through collective engagement on the part of energy operators, industry players in the sector, and regions. While technological solutions are mature, scaling up is of strategic importance for reducing costs and thereby enabling the sector to develop through professionalisation and improvements in operational excellence and performance.