US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm took to the stage in Washington DC, US, for the opening keynote address and highlighted the opportunity that hydrogen presents for the US, the Americas, and indeed, the world.

Granholm told the 500 attendees that hydrogen offered a key solution for energy security, decarbonisation of heavy industries, and skills matched jobs for fossil fuel industries. As well as pointing to the potential for South American countries to become key hydrogen export hubs.

“The world is in a race to unlock hydrogen’s potential,” said Granholm. “But this is a relay race. We must work together to establish codes and standards to maximise safety. We have to work together to build supply chains with nations who share democratic values.”

Granholm added, “We have a good foundation, but we are looking for more partners to pick up the baton in this relay race. Let’s do this. Let’s develop an industry that will save this shared home, our planet.”

Despite expressing clear hope and drive for hydrogen, Granholm stressed the need to not “overhype” the clean energy carrier, noting significant challenges that lie ahead for the industry.

Policy, incentives, demand

The first session of the day began by exploring the current landscape that is making hydrogen a viable industry. Adam Peters, CEO of Air Liquide North America, explained that a shift in policy has put hydrogen well within reach.

Peters, said, “The incentive packages, combined with governments coming together with private industry to drive hydrogen with policy framework is helping to drive and grow a market. I think that is the fundamental difference between today and what we’ve seen in the past decade.”

Geoff Tuff, Sustainability and Climate Leader for Energy, Resources, & Industrials at Deloitte, added, the current incentives in regions across the globe have opened a door to see more traditional grey hydrogen production, converted to green or blue.

“Looking at existing demand for hydrogen, it was grey that was the cheapest way to produce it. But with the incentives that we have today, blue is now comparable, if not slighter cheaper than grey,” Tuff explained.

He added, “I think that will prompt companies to look at their existing hydrogen production and consider whether it makes sense to shut down old operations to start up new to be able to contribute to carbon dioxide reduction.”

Collaboration is key

One key take away from the day’s proceedings was the need for collaboration across players in the industry to ensure hydrogen can meet its full potential. Whether it be industry and governments, or company to company, there was agreement among panellists and speakers alike that collaboration will play a key role over the coming years.

In a special session shedding the spotlight on US Government indicatives for clean hydrogen, Dr. Sunita Satyapal, Director, Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technologies Office, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy of the US Department of Energy, told the Summit that this a job that no one can do alone.

Satyapal, said, “We all know that no matter how hard we try, and no matter what we do, no one person can whistle a symphony. It really takes the whole orchestra.

“Now more than ever, we need industry, governments, investors, and the global community to succeed. It is really about collaboration and cohesiveness.”

On the topic of hydrogen hubs, Geoff Tuff from Deloitte, stressed that the right collaborations will lead the development of the hydrogen ecosystem. It’s clear that collaboration is key and ultimately the right collaborators in the right place are going to lead to the hubs that end up not just winning the DOE money but winning in the development of the hydrogen ecosystem,” he said.

More on collaboration: Cost reduction in focus at the Hydrogen Americas Summit

While discussing global supply chains, Dr. Fiona Simon, CEO of the Hydrogen Council, said that in addition to the export of the molecule, globally, there needs to be an export of the mindset and the ‘smarts’ needed to make the hydrogen economy a reality, saying that the need for collaboration couldn’t be more true.

The need for global standardisation

As the industry has developed, it has become more and more apparent that hydrogen is set to become a globally traded commodity. Just last Wednesday (October 5), the Hydrogen Council’s Global Hydrogen Flows report revealed that a mismatch in regional supply and demand will force global hydrogen trade links by 2050.

Read more: Regional hydrogen supply and demand mismatch will force global trade links by 2050, report predicts

As that reality draws ever closer, the need for global standardisation on hydrogen production, transport, storage, and use is becoming more apparent. That need was stressed by Rich Gottwald, President & CEO at the Compressed Gas Association, who told the Summit that any safety incidents involving hydrogen will push the industry back.

Gottwald explained, “Everybody remembers the Hindenburg disaster. That was 80 years ago. That was a hydrogen issue that we’re still talking about today. We need to make sure that we properly manage this product so that the industry grows, and key to doing that is safety standards.

Gottwald added, that by implementing standards that can be applied globally, it will make it encourage the global trade of hydrogen. He said, “We’re looking more and more for areas that we can harmonise so that the same standards can be used in the same way around the world and regulate that.

“I think this is what’s going to drive the growth of the industry. Once companies have confidence that the same rules apply wherever they go, they’re more likely to get engaged with the industry.”

Patrick Hartley, Leader of CSIRO Hydrogen Industry Mission, agreed that by sharing best practise approaches, the industry will grow faster. He added, “Sharing reports between different countries that will share best practises, will develop faster together.”

Opportunities for the taking

The closing sessions of the day moved on to explore where hydrogen has the opportunity to replace fossil fuel inputs, simultaneously securing energy supply and decarbonising sectors.

In the short term, Kristoffer Dahlberg, Chief Financial Officer and Director of BD & Organisation at Aker, told the Summit, that current industrial users of grey hydrogen are the obvious places to first see the introduction of cleaner hydrogen.

Dahlberg, said, “The users of grey hydrogen today would be a very good place to start. We believe they should be early movers in adopting the greener alternatives available. That goes for refiners, as well as ammonia for fertiliser.”

Additionally, David Burns, Vice-President Clean Energy at Linde, explained, that due to current incentives, blue hydrogen in many areas of the Americas, is beginning to reach cost parity with grey hydrogen.

“Now, in the US, blue [hydrogen] is almost on parity with grey. I think there’ll be new applications based on a much more attractive cost for blue just to replace natural gases such as in a combustion application,” said Burns.

Looking ahead to the next five to 10 years, Matthew Blieske, CEO of LIFTE H2 told the summit that the ‘winners’ in hydrogen will be developing solutions that are customer focused. Stressing that the shift to hydrogen will force significant changes in end-uses, Blieske said, “You cannot directly replace heavy haul trucks that run on diesel today, with hydrogen, and not expect the operations to change. The winners in this industry will have the customer in the room when they’re developing their solutions.”

Despite the industry still being very much in its nascency, Richard Voorberg, President North America at Siemens Energy expressed a need for the hydrogen industry to be able to establish itself as self-sustainable to be able break away from government subsidies.

“I want them [governments] to get involved in the hydrogen business, and then bull back out of it so we don’t become addicts,” said Voorberg, “We can’t make hydrogen an addict to government subsidies. We have got to get the business functional, get it standalone, and then we’ve got to get the government out of it so it becomes a real business.”

H2 View will be bringing you highlights from day two of the Hydrogen Americas Summit, hosted by Sustainable Energy Council and the US Department of Energy, on October 11.