Green fuel made from renewables: Atlantic France is accelerating the use of hydrogen

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The French hydrogen sector is taking on a new dimension: the government wants to make France tomorrow’s champion for carbon-free hydrogen and is planning to invest €7.2 billion by 2030. This ambition is in line with Atlantic France’s strategy, and our region offers key assets to bring out leading players in this new high added value market.

Massive investments to develop hydrogen in France

France recently announced a huge recovery plan to get over the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. €2 billion will be distributed in the next months to boost the development of the hydrogen sector, and a total amount of €7.2 billion will be invested in this technology by 2030. For the first period (2020-2023), three priorities have been established.

Priority 1: support the production of green hydrogen

The majority of the French public funds will be attributed to projects dedicated to renewable hydrogen. Unlike “gray” hydrogen (96% of world production to date) which is obtained from fossil fuels, “green” hydrogen can be produced and consumed without any CO2 emission. The electricity needed for the electrolysis process can also be generated from renewable sources (solar energy, marine renewables, etc.). 

Priority 2: decarbonize industry and transport

Industrials are the main users of gray hydrogen. Financial incentives will be announced in order to encourage them to switch to green hydrogen. The objective is to reach 10% carbon-free hydrogen in industry by 2023, and then 20 to 40% by 2028. The government also plans to develop the use of hydrogen in transportation, especially in addition to electric batteries.

Priority 3: develop research and training

Developing an economic sector requires workforce and R&D enhancement. The first research program, endowed with €65 million, will focus on the future generation of hydrogen technologies: batteries, tanks, materials, electrolysers, etc. Emphasis is also placed on training, with the establishment of “Campuses of professions and qualifications” (€30 million in 2021).

Promoting the emergence of a hydrogen sector of excellence in Atlantic France

As early as 2016, Atlantic France integrated the emergence of a hydrogen sector into its energy transition roadmap. Today, it is accelerating by granting a budget of €100 million over 10 years to position itself as a territory of excellence in carbon-free hydrogen.

Business opportunities to seize in Atlantic France

The regional roadmap for the development of hydrogen aims to:

  • Cover 100% of the new hydrogen needs by 2030 through renewable regional production, i.e. 3,100 tonnes per year.
  • Deploy around 15 hydrogen production and distribution stations throughout the region.
  • Contribute to the purchase of the first 500 hydrogen cars, launch a bus and a train line powered by hydrogen, experiment with a maritime shuttle, etc.
  • Develop a regional sector capable of designing and developing the hydrogen aircraft, train or liner of the future.

These objectives represent many economic opportunities to be seized, with the production and distribution of renewable hydrogen as well as in the sectors using this technology, starting with transport (maritime, rail, aeronautics and automotive).

An ecosystem favourable to the development of hydrogen

Atlantic France has a solid industrial background and offers top-level expertise in shipbuilding, on-board systems and marine qualification of battery and fuel cell systems. 

The region also relies on specific test resources such as the CEA TECH platform; major clients such as Airbus (which is planning to release a carbon-free hydrogen aircraft by 2035), Les Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Naval Group; construction sites such as Ocea, Navalu, Mecasoud, Alu Marine and Bénéteau; integrators such as ECA Robotics, Europe Technologies and many subcontractors grouped together within the Neopolia network, as well as project owners who have experimented hydrogen fuel for river applications like the Semitan in Nantes.

Atlantic France also has:

  • Concrete achievements: a hydrogen station (MuLTHy) already used for commercial vehicles in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, a hydrogen-powered water bus on the Erdre river since 2018, hydrogen service vehicles on the Île d’Yeu, a building in Saint-Herblain (DeltaGreen) which redistributes photovoltaic energy using hydrogen, etc. 
  • Two major projects underway:
    • H2Ouest: from 2021, the plant operated by the start-up Lhyfe in Bouin will produce 100% “green” hydrogen for local customers with electricity generated from a wind farm.
    • H2 Loire Vallée aims to create a value chain around maritime and river hydrogen by integrating hydrogen systems in boats and equipment. The start-up Hyseas has therefore chosen to set up in Saint-Nazaire to take advantage of these development opportunities. A hydrogen-powered service boat project is also being studied for the maintenance of the first French tidal farms, including the one off the coast of Saint-Nazaire.

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