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Hydrogen energy industry to speed up expansion in nation

By ZHENG XIN | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-03 10:23
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Visitors check out the hydrogen-fueled vehicles during a high-tech exhibition in Rugao, Jiangsu province, on Sept, 26, 2019. [Photo/XU CONGJUN FOR CHINA DAILY]

Li Yonglin, Party secretary of the Sinopec Tianjin petrochemical company under Sinopec and a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress, proposed at this year's two sessions a more detailed national plan and guidelines to be released to promote the healthy development of the hydrogen energy industry.

He suggested a scientific security evaluation and proper hydrogen industry management regulations to ensure the large scale, low cost transportation and storage of hydrogen.

Hydrogen is a fuel that does not result in the release of carbon dioxide. It has been given substantial importance by some developed countries like the United States and Japan. Those countries have been actively deploying their strategic hydrogen industrial layout, Li said.

The Chinese government's development plan showed the country will have 5,000 hydrogen energy vehicles on its roads by 2020, 50,000 by 2025 and 1 million by 2030.

The Hydrogen Council expects hydrogen technologies to provide 18 percent of the world's total energy needs by 2050 and envisions hydrogen powering more than 425 million vehicles worldwide by that time.

Li urged the government to further support the construction of hydrogen refueling stations to drive the development of the entire industrial chain.

The country is in need of a national level approval regulation on hydrogen refueling station construction. Local authorities sometimes have to figure out by themselves and take as long as five years to come up with a hydrogen refueling station, he said.

Kou Nannan, a senior associate with Bloomberg New Energy Finance's advanced transport sector, said hydrogen is a clean-burning molecule that could become a zero-carbon substitute for fossil fuels in sectors of the economy like steel, concrete and seaborne shipping.

But for its use to have net environmental benefits, hydrogen must be produced from clean sources like renewable power rather than from fossil fuel, which is the usual method at this time.

"The cost of producing hydrogen for renewables is primed to fall, but demand needs to be created to drive down costs, and a wide range of delivery infrastructure needs to be built," he said. "That won't happen without new government targets and subsidies."

Kou said the economy of hydrogen application in the transport sector needs to be examined. Heavy trucks could be cheaper to run on hydrogen than diesel by 2031, although batteries remain a cheaper solution for cars, buses and light trucks.

"Storing and moving hydrogen is challenging. For hydrogen to become as ubiquitous as natural gas today, a huge, coordinated program of infrastructure upgrades and construction would be needed," he explained.

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