Inicio FCEV China strives to «refuel» economy with green hydrogen energy

China strives to «refuel» economy with green hydrogen energy

(Xinhua) 10:39, March 28, 2024

A hydrogen-powered urban train runs on a test track in Changchun, northeast China’s Jilin Province, March 21, 2024. (CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd./Handout via Xinhua)

BEIJING, March 28 (Xinhua) — China has recently established the largest green hydrogen production and refueling station in Changsha Economic Development Zone, central China’s Hunan Province, and initiated refueling tests for hydrogen-powered heavy trucks in the station.

The station, constructed by Sany Group, boasts a hydrogen production capacity of 2,000 standard cubic meters per hour and a refueling capacity of 2,000 kg per day. Operating at full capacity, it can refuel over 100 hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles a day.

China is beefing up efforts to boost the research and development of the hydrogen energy industry to develop new quality productive forces, aiming to establish a growth model that prizes quality over quantity.

Hydrogen energy has emerged as a prominent topic during China’s annual «two sessions» held earlier this month. It was also highlighted in the government’s work report for the first time as a crucial emerging industry.

According to a report by Sinopec Group, China’s major oil refiner, the country’s hydrogen energy consumption is projected to reach nearly 86 million tonnes by 2060, with an industry scale of 4.6 trillion yuan (about 637 billion U.S. dollars).

As a key element in the global energy transformation, hydrogen energy plays a promising role in energy production and consumption revolution. It is expected to help build a clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient energy system, aligning with China’s carbon peaking and carbon neutrality goals.

Local governments of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Jilin and other places are emphasizing the integration of renewable energy and hydrogen energy, bolstering policy support for green hydrogen production.

Green hydrogen, produced with renewable energies like wind and solar power, is believed to be a prospective clean energy source for decarbonization efforts in various industries such as agriculture, chemical engineering and transportation.

This photo taken on Dec. 3, 2021 shows a photovoltaic power station in Wulanhua Town, Baicheng City of northeast China’s Jilin Province. (Photo by Zhang Yubo/Xinhua)

The report also indicates that the country’s hydrogen source structure is expected to undergo significant changes in the next four decades. The proportion of non-fossil energy in the country’s hydrogen production structure will rise from one percent in 2022 to 93 percent by 2060, with wind and solar energy accounting for two-thirds.

China’s hydrogen energy resources are mainly distributed in northwest, northeast, and central and western regions, where refining and chemical industries are concentrated, and renewable energy is abundant. However, the hydrogen energy consumption market is primarily in eastern regions, leading to high demands for medium- and long-distance hydrogen storage and transportation in the future, said Li Guohui, an official with China National Petroleum Corporation.

In a pioneering move, China launched a project last year to channel hydrogen from Ulanqab, Inner Mongolia, to Beijing through a 400-km hydrogen pipeline, the country’s first trans-regional, long-distance channel, said Ma Yongsheng, chairman of Sinopec, the operator of the pipeline.

This pipeline will be able to handle about 100,000 tonnes of hydrogen annually when its first phase is completed, and has the potential to increase the capacity by 500,000 tonnes in the long run.

Shi Yixiang, a professor at Tsinghua University, noted that China is trying to establish a comprehensive industrial system for hydrogen production, storage, transportation and application, incorporating key technologies and equipment.

During the 2023 Chengdu Universiade, nine hydrogen-powered cold-chain logistics vehicles were used to transport food for over 100,000 athletes and staff. They helped reduce more than 3,500 kg of carbon emissions compared to fuel vehicles.

The fleet was equipped with fuel cells developed by a hydrogen energy technology enterprise under the State Power Investment Corporation. The novel fuel cells could support a 350-km range after a five-minute charge, emitting only water during operation. The enterprise’s advanced hydrogen products are also applied in passenger cars, locomotives, emergency power supply vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Recently, the world’s first hydrogen-powered urban train, independently developed by CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd., successfully completed its inaugural test run at a speed of 160 kph in northeast China’s Jilin Province. The train boasts a maximum range of over 1,000 km on a single charge.

«Compared to traditional internal combustion urban vehicles, our train consumes only five kWhs of electricity per km on average. Over its entire lifespan, it can reduce 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to the emissions from 50,000 cars each traveling 5,000 km,» said Shi Lei, a designer at the company.

Currently, the utilization costs of fuel cells and hydrogen energy remain relatively high, and there still exists practical situations where the power units are expensive to purchase and operate, said Chen Wenmiao, a chief scientist at the National Center of Technology Innovation for Fuel Cell.

Zhang Jinhua, an official with the China Society of Automotive Engineers, noted that there is still a considerable gap between China’s fuel cell vehicle technologies and the global leading level, especially in crucial core components and materials such as carbon paper, catalysts, carbon fiber materials, hydrogenation equipment, and related valves, which rely heavily on imports.

The application of hydrogen energy is expanding beyond transportation to sectors like energy, industry and construction.

China’s efforts to develop hydrogen energy not only foster domestic growth but also offer opportunities for international enterprises, making them a witness and participant in the development of new quality productive forces.

Air Products, a leading hydrogen supplier based in the United States, established an Asia hydrogen application technology center in east China’s Zhejiang province last year, aiming to develop technologies for hydrogen transportation, fuel and metallurgy.

The company is also building China’s first large-scale commercial liquid hydrogen plant in Zhejiang, with a daily production capacity of 30 tonnes. The plant will serve high-end manufacturing enterprises and support the growing hydrogen energy transportation market in the region.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)