Italy-based Snam, a global energy infrastructure company, and RINA, a global testing, inspection, certification and engineering consultancy services firm, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in the hydrogen sector, in order to realize the significant potential of hydrogen as a fundamental energy carrier.
From a presentation given by Faith Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency, on hydrogen’s role in tackling energy and climate challenges.
The two companies have formed a joint working group to study and test the compatibility of industrial burners and other existing infrastructure already in operation with hydrogen. The group will also begin experiments, analysis and technology scouting in various areas involving hydrogen including production, storage and distribution.
This agreement will combine the skills of Snam and RINA to accelerate the introduction of hydrogen as a new clean energy carrier and give further impetus to create an Italian hydrogen value chain. The use of green hydrogen in existing infrastructure will play a key role in enabling the energy transition and achieving climate objectives, whilst also creating new opportunities for economic development, which are now more important than ever. Italy and its companies have the opportunity to pioneer this approach at an international level.—Snam CEO Marco Alverà
We are proud to collaborate with Snam to promote the sustainable progress of the energy sector. We believe that hydrogen is currently one of the best options for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. We are delighted to contribute our research and certification skills on hydrogen-compatible materials and our expertise in the field of analysis, studies and tests for storage to this partnership. This agreement demonstrates Snam and RINA’s joint commitment to the common goal of curbing global warming.—RINA CEO Ugo Salerno
Introducing hydrogen into energy networks represents the first step for spreading and developing green hydrogen from renewable sources, while reducing its costs. Green hydrogen generated by water electrolysis, a process that takes place without CO2 emissions, has the advantage of being able to use the existing capillary gas infrastructure. In 2019, Snam became the first European company to successfully test the introduction of hydrogen blends into its gas transmission network with a percentage volume of up to 10%.
RINA offers specific and unique engineering skills in Italy to support industries in the transition to a wider use of hydrogen. Most notably, it co-owns the first laboratory in Italy (one of the very few in the world) with the University of Calabria, which is capable of performing tests at high pressures (up to 1000 bar) for the storage of gases including hydrogen.
According to a recent study (‘Hydrogen Challenge: The potential of hydrogen in Italy’) commissioned by Snam, hydrogen could cover almost a quarter (23%) of national energy demand by 2050 under a deep decarbonization scenario. The biggest potential is in transport, buildings and industrial applications where some players use grey hydrogen today (e.g., refining, high-heat processes).
Other key findings of the report include:
Long-haul trucking should become one of the first segments to make hydrogen economic. Hydrogen will achieve Total Cost of Ownership parity with diesel by 2030, even without additional incentives.
Blending hydrogen in the grid (up to a 10-20% mix) for building heating is another area of wide possible adoption that could take place in the short- to mid-term.
Hydrogen will also integrate renewables into the electricity grid: it can provide flexibility, seasonal storage—in collaboration with other storage solution covering shorter balance need (e.g., batteries for intraday balancing)—and alternative energy transportation solutions to the grid.
Low-cost hydrogen to break-even before 2030—earlier than other European markets. Given Italy’s strong renewables endowment, “green hydrogen” from them will break even with “grey hydrogen” from natural gas 5-10 years earlier than in many other countries, including Germany. This makes Italy the ideal place to begin the deployment and scale-up of electrolysis for industrial and other uses (especially in cases where breakeven should occur in the next decade).
Italy could import hydrogen from North Africa, at cost 14% below domestic production. Italy could employ its existing pipelines to Northern Africa to put solar panels “where the sun shines” more, produce hydrogen locally, and then transport the hydrogen to Italy through the pipes. This could also provide hydrogen exports through Italy into Europe.
Italian gas infrastructure supports hydrogen’s potential: Its wide-ranging infrastructure can connect the renewables-rich South with the demand centers in the North, and make possible highly independent, fully-renewable energy systems on Italy’s islands.
Hydrogen in Sicily is a cost-competitive way to start decarbonize industry that is hard to decarbonize in other way. 50MW of electrolyzer capacity could initially be built to produce renewable hydrogen leveraging wind and solar lower production costs, which could be transported in (existing) pipelines, used in a local refinery as well as for a hydrogen-fueled train and as part of the local gas grid for household heating. Future expansion could increase the scale of the project to include a 2 GW electrolyzer, the supply of two refineries and the replacement of a significant share of 10-20% of natural gas in household heating.
To start the deployment of hydrogen in Italy, industry and policymakers should work together to put a supporting regulatory framework in place and begin deployment. International co-operation will accelerate the uptake of hydrogen across the EU and create a single unified European hydrogen market in the future. Snam is ready and willing to support this transition leveraging its assets, experience, and capabilities to deliver the transition to a sustainable and competitive energy future in Italy.