Atlantic France is emerging as a leader in the green hydrogen sector, which brings both opportunities and challenges. Players in the region are managing the risks associated with this highly flammable element by fostering innovation, working on its formation and attracting investment.
Green hydrogen is an energy of the future, and Atlantic France is already a pioneer in this revolution. The region is mobilising €100 million to develop the sector, and is aiming to decarbonise transport, buildings, and more.
Atlantic France has an excellent territorial ecosystem for developing hydrogen projects, thanks to the synergy of public authorities, innovative companies, startups, and research laboratories.
The region is not just developing a hydrogen production and distribution network; it’s also promoting its use in various forms of transport and is supporting hydrogen research programmes. This collective dynamism is making Atlantic France a hub for hydrogen-based innovation.
But, as with any revolutionary technology, there are risks involved, particularly due to hydrogen’s highly flammable nature.
Hydrogen projects require a consistent risk management approach
Even if it is well monitored today, hydrogen presents some risks that should be carefully identified and monitored in any deployment project:
Here are some features of hydrogen to be aware of:
- Its highly flammable nature
- Its invisible flame
- Its low density and the challenge of maintaining the equipment material’s integrity
- Its rapid dispersion rate (which at the same time reduces the risk of an explosion from a leakage)
All this requires vigorous safety management in the green hydrogen industry: it must go beyond mere compliance with legal obligations and technical standards. Advanced tools for risk identification, evaluation, and management are crucial. These tools help with decision-making and ensure the minimisation of accidents, thereby guaranteeing operational continuity.
How do specialised companies step in to help manage these risks? Below are four examples of what some Atlantic France-based companies do to assist.
Stif specialises in storing energy safely
Stif, a French company specialising in explosion protection, is set to go public on the Euronext Growth market with plans to raise €15 million. While historically focused on bulk material handling, the company has diversified into creating safety measures for energy storage systems, and particularly lithium batteries. Given hydrogen’s highly flammable nature, Stif’s expertise in explosion protection could be invaluable for the green hydrogen sector in Atlantic France.
The company is already in talks with major players, signalling its intent to be a key player in a market expected to grow from 75 GW in 2022 to 410 GW by 2030. As part of its growth strategy, Stif is planning for international expansion, which will include new offices in South Korea and Saudi Arabia. This global reach could potentially extend to providing safety solutions for hydrogen storage and distribution, enhancing the overall safety profile of the burgeoning hydrogen industry.
Cetim: spearheading hydrogen storage and material engineering
Cetim, Technical Centre for Mechanical Industry, has invested in specialised machinery for the development of thermoplastic tanks, a crucial component for hydrogen storage. This investment is an extension of the European R&D project “Thor,” aimed at creating optimised and recyclable tanks for hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.
The initiative is part of Cetim’s broader strategy to equip the French mechanical industry with hydrogen-specific expertise. In this regard, a new national expertise centre, known as Hymeet, has been created and is located in Nantes with existing facilities and a brand new building set to be fully operational in 2024. It offers unique capacities to develop and test new equipment, but also to work on safety issues (étanchéité, détection de fuite, systèmes de sécurité, …)
The organisation’s efforts come at a time when France is focusing on scaling its green hydrogen sector. According to recent studies, the country aims to train 100,000 individuals by 2030 to meet the growing demand for hydrogen in various industries, from transport to manufacturing.
Airbus: pioneering hydrogen technologies in aeronautics
Airbus, a global leader in the aeronautics industry, is actively involved in the development of hydrogen technologies at its Technocentre in Nantes, Atlantic France. The centre has produced prototype hydrogen tanks as part of Airbus’s long-term strategy to develop hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft by 2035.
The company is planning to install a pre-production line for medium-sized tanks by 2025. These efforts are supported by the establishment of Zero Emission Development Centres in Bremen, Germany, and Nantes.
Airbus faces unique challenges, such as the need for the cryogenic storage of liquid hydrogen at -250°C. The Nantes site was chosen for its expertise in metallic structural technologies, which are crucial for adapting the centre wing box for hydrogen storage.
GRDF: preparing workforces for a hydrogen future
GRDF is the #1 French gas specialist, with a focus on hydrogen safety and workforce training. The company has established a dedicated test and training platform near Nantes. It serves as the national centre for preparing workforces for the burgeoning hydrogen industry.
As well as this, Energy Formation, an educational arm of GRDF, has been providing specialised gas training for over 50 years. With a commitment to high-quality, customised training, the organisation has achieved a 95% customer satisfaction rate. Their training modules cover a wide range of topics, from gas distribution and safety to maintenance and customer relations.
By prioritising both safety and education, GRDF is not only mitigating the risks in the hydrogen sector but also equipping a skilled workforce to sustain the industry’s growth.
Interested in navigating the opportunities and challenges of the green hydrogen sector? Atlantic France is the place to be, with its pioneering initiatives and a growing ecosystem of innovative companies.
Contact us now to explore how you can be part of this revolution.