A research hub on the outskirt of Rome to develop a domestic hydrogen supply chain
Creating the first Italian Hydrogen Valley to develop a national supply chain for production, transport, storage and use of hydrogen, focusing on research, technologies, infrastructures and innovative services. The project, conceived by ENEA, kicks off with a 14 million euro investment (Mission Innovation funds) to set up the first Italian technological incubator for the development of an hydrogen supply chain, in collaboration with universities, research institutes, associations and companies, to boost the energy transition and decarbonisation.
“In this multifunctional, comprehensive hub all the potentials of hydrogen to accelerate research and innovation and make hi-tech infrastructures available to bridge the gap between the lab and industry will be explored”, explained Giorgio Graditi, Head of the ENEA Department of Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources and ENEA representative in the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance.
The project provides for the construction – at the ENEA Casaccia Research Center, on the outskirt of Rome – of an ensemble of hi-tech infrastructures for research and experimentation in the hydrogen supply chain, ranging from production to distribution, from storage to use as a raw material for clean fuels production and as an energy carrier, to CO2 emissions reduction in the industry, mobility, power generation and residential sectors.
“These are just some of the potentials embedded in an all-Italian project that could provide companies the opportunity of producing innovation, experimenting and validating their technologies in a dedicated environment, supported by qualified personnel and laboratories”, Graditi pointed out.
“In order to create the first large-scale demonstrator of the actual feasibility of an hydrogen-based green economy, we will fully exploit the potential of our Casaccia Research Center -over 100 hectares in area- hosting approximately 1000 researchers, important infrastructures and research laboratories, near 200 buildings, an autonomous gas and electricity network, roads and services ”, Graditi said.
Today green hydrogen can be obtained from various renewable energy sources, like photovoltaics and wind power. The ENEA hub will also make it possible to experiment with new technologies for hydrogen generation, for example by using waste (residual biomass) and medium-high temperature renewable heat produced by concentrated solar plants.
Inside the incubator, electricty will be generated using pure hydrogen and natural gas/hydrogen mixtures; to this aim, hydrogen-methane blends will be studied, to be injected into the internal gas distribution network and a local “hydrogen pipeline” built to transmit pure hydrogen under pressure, with a capillary distribution according to end users demand.
An hydrogen refueling station will be installed to power the goods movement vehicles, buses and cars in use at the ENEA Research Center, to help showing how this fuel can contribute to decarbonise the mobility sector.
Among the most interesting applications that will be studied at the Hydrogen Valley is power-to-gas, a process converting renewable energy into hydrogen through electrolysis.
The hydrogen produced can be converted into methane or fed into the internal natural gas grid, making it possible to store the energy produced from renewable sources, helping “stabilize” the power grid and acting as a connecting element between power and gas grid, in anticipation of a strong growth of renewables.
The ENEA hydrogen strategy plans for the implementation of industry decarbonisation projects, particularly the energy-intensive one, and of heavy road and rail transport still diesel powered.
“Today’s growing interest in the use of hydrogen rests on some of its characteristics: it’s a light gas with a high energy content per unit of mass, it can be produced on an industrial scale and it’s easier to store in the long term than electricity ”, Giulia Monteleone, head of the ENEA Laboratory for Energy Storage, Batteries and Technologies for Production and Use of Hydrogen, explained
“But above all it can be used to generate ‘clean’ power, since its combustion does not produce carbon dioxide and can be conducted through an electrochemical reaction in fuel cells, with overall efficiencies higher than thermal combustion and with no emission of nitrogen oxides ”, Monteleone said.
Due to its characteristics, green hydrogen could play a significant role in meeting the 2050 climate neutrality goal, as outlined by the Hydrogen Strategy for a climate-neutral Europe, launched by the European Commission on 8 July 2020; the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, the European Union’s hydrogen platform that brings together industry, research, public institutions and civil society, will concretely implement the EU strategy.
This body counts over 30 Italian members, including two ENEA representatives: Giorgio Graditi as high level representative and Stephen McPhail as sherpa. “This initiative will help recognize and strengthen ENEA’s role and position at European level in the sectors of reference of the hydrogen supply chain”, Graditi concluded.
Furthermore, ENEA and the Ministry of Economic Development signed a collaboration agreement to jointly develop activities and initiatives for coordinating industry, national research and PA in the effort to create an Italian hydrogen supply chain, seizing the great opportunity offered by the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI).
In particular, ENEA will contribute by providing technical-scientific studies, analyses, consultancy and assistance to support the MiSE start-up, manage and complete the IPCEI, also through participation in working groups, commissions, national and European committees and round tables, preparation of technical-scientific opinions for the implementation of the IPCEI regulation and support in the preparation of annual reports.
Source: ENEA, Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development