Supporting the Hydrogen: An innovative opportunity for the growth of the sector

ONE OF THE “COUNTRY OBJECTIVES” FOR 2030 IS THE CONTINUOUS USE OF HYDROGEN-POWERED TRAINS ON AT LEAST TWO COMMERCIAL MEDIUM AND LONG DISTANCE LINES ON TRACKS THAT ARE NOT CURRENTLY ELECTRIFIED.

The green and digital transformation of the growth model that it has been designed in Europe is committed to the promotion of renewable energies.

The ecological transition in which we are working is especially important in sectors with high rates of CO2 emissions, such as transport. The need to act to achieve this change is also included in the Spanish Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, where clean sources have a great weight. Among them, the deployment of green hydrogen – as an energy vector – is considered key to achieving climate neutrality.

The Component 1 focuses on the demand and the aid is intended to boost the electric vehicle and the deployment of the charging infrastructure, while component number 9 “Roadmap of renewable hydrogen and its sectoral integration” is dedicated to supply. In other words, to how to expand its generation and make it available to the different consumer sectors, including mobility. In addition, the objective pursued is to position Spain as a technological benchmark in its production and use considering that it is a sector with great prospects for the future. More specifically, there is a wish to define a strategic framework for action for its take-off, as well as to develop pioneering projects in initiatives associated with the transport sector and in isolated energy systems.

One of the “country objectives” for 2030 that this component includes is the continuous use of hydrogen-powered trains on at least two commercial medium and long-distance lines on tracks that are not currently electrified. Likewise, it wants to create a cluster for sectoral integration that spatially concentrates large-scale production, transformation, and consumption displacing fossil materials. Among its commitments would be to promote innovative solutions of transport, hydrogen storage and final supply that minimize the environmental impact, as well as the development of unique and pioneering projects that allow the introduction of renewable hydrogen, among others, in other industrial poles other than those included in the cluster and in transport.

Both components will contribute to achieving the transport objectives set out in the “Hydrogen Roadmap”, a guide document proposed by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO).

This document is the key pillar on which investment plans and measures to boost their deployment are based, as it is considered an essential element to achieve climate neutrality, with a 100% renewable electricity system by 2050. In addition, it is considered that its development will encourage the creation of innovative industrial value chains, a great technological knowledge of high added value and the generation of employment associated with a sustainable economy.

“Green hydrogen has its own “Roadmap” in Spain, and it opens the doors to innovation in the railway transport sector”.

OPPORTUNITY FOR THE RAILWAY SECTOR

Although much of the funding is focused on the electric vehicle, there are also great development options in the railway sector. Support for the automotive industry to promote the production of this type of vehicles – both in the roadmap and with European. d – will have a driving effect on the sector. These developments and the technological know-how acquired are to be used to direct all these industrial capacities towards various modes of public transport such as the bus, the tram systems, and the general renewable hydrogen rail network.

Likewise, as stated in the roadmap, it is committed to promoting studies and feasibility tests of the replacement of diesel trains by fuel cell trains for their circulation on partially or non-electrified lines. They contemplate both the transformation of existing rolling stock and the acquisition of new units. In addition, other measures may be put in place for the development of a national hydrogen refueling railway infrastructure. In this sense, it is contemplated to include its financing within the future MOVES Plans and in community calls for proposals such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

A TECHNOLOGY THAT TAKES OFF

This path of integrating hydrogen into the railway is already underway. There are already some very significant samples. For example, the National Center for Experimentation of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (CNH2), in Puertollano, is working on the prototype of a Talgo hybrid train that will use hydrogen batteries and fuel cells and is expected to be operational before the end of 2021. In Huesca, another industrial-scale project for the production of renewable hydrogen is being developed for its subsequent application in road mobility, both by road and by rail.

On the other hand, Renfe Operadora wants to renew its fleet of regional trains under the criteria of sustainability and decarbonization so necessary in railway transport. In this tender for the acquisition of 72 new units, it will be especially valued that they can circulate in electrified sections and in those without catenary. Green hydrogen technology is presented as an ideal alternative for this or other projects related to emission-free rolling stock.