Hydrogen power plays important role in curbing pollution, carbon emissions
Shanxi province, China's coal hub, is stepping up efforts to develop hydrogen energy in a bid to curb pollution and speed up its clean energy transition, aligning itself with the country's strong green goals, officials said.
Wang Yixin, vice-governor of Shanxi province, said as China's major coal producer, Shanxi's transition to a low-carbon energy structure is helpful for the country to achieve its goals to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060.
He said hydrogen energy will play an important role in bridging the gap between today's fossil fuel economy and a new energy economy in the future, as it uses byproducts from coal production, which has zero greenhouse emissions from its combustion.
"Shanxi has abundant resources of coke oven gas and gases produced from chemical reactions of coal, which are two main sources of producing hydrogen. Therefore, the province has an advantage of large-scale hydrogen power production with relatively low costs," Wang said.
Wang Qirui, head of Shanxi's bureau of emergency management, said Shanxi's production capacity in the coking industry makes up one-third of the country's total. Its byproduct, coke oven gas, could support the production of up to 15 billion cubic meters of hydrogen annually. That amount of hydrogen can supply 289,000 hydrogen-powered trucks and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel equivalents by 86.67 million metric tons per year.
"In addition, Shanxi has well-developed chemical and steel industries whose byproducts are an important source to produce hydrogen at a relatively low cost," Wang Qirui said.
Officials said that in recent years, Shanxi is on a fast track to transform from a coal-reliant energy structure to a new energy mix led by hydrogen.
Wang Yixin said a large number of new energy companies have invested or set up hydrogen energy projects in Shanxi. Cities like Taiyuan, Datong and Changzhi are accelerating the formation of hydrogen industrial clusters. Average annual output of hydrogen has now surpassed 3 million tons.
"In Shanxi's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), hydrogen energy was listed as one of the top seven growing industries in the future, and the province will roll out supportive measures for the industry's development," Wang Yixin said.
"Going forward, Shanxi will strengthen policy support and make good use of the market to form an advanced industrial chain including hydrogen production, storage, transportation, filling and adaptation. We expect hydrogen energy will grow into a pillar industry, just like coal, in Shanxi province," Wang added.
Wang Qirui warned though of safety issues during development of the now booming hydrogen energy industry.
He said hydrogen is a very flammable gas which can cause fires and explosions, and there are such cases in hydrogen facilities. It is necessary for industry regulators and the government to strengthen management and companies to pay attention to safety issues to avoid such accidents.
The remarks by the officials were made during the newly-concluded 2021 Taiyuan Energy Low Carbon Development Forum. The event featured discussions on the renewable energy revolution, climate change and environmental protection.
In recent years, Shanxi, as well as some 20 provinces and cities, have rolled out development plans for hydrogen energy to tap market potential from the growing industry, and released a series of supportive measures, including subsidies.
A report co-released by Deloitte and the China Institute of Energy Economics said developing hydrogen energy is helpful for carbon reduction in areas of commuting, architecture, and even aviation and aviation logistics, which is considered one of the hardest industries to reduce carbon emissions.
Currently, China is the world's largest hydrogen producer with an annual production capacity of 41 million tons and an annual output of 33.42 million tons, a report by the National Alliance of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell said.
Estimates from the alliance show that China's demand for hydrogen will reach close to 60 million tons by 2050, helping reduce carbon emissions by 700 million tons.