RINA has several initiatives and projects ongoing exploring hydrogen across different industries ranging from steelmaking to hydrogen fuel cells in the maritime industry.

To find out more about RINA’s hydrogen projects and further activities across the value chain, H2 View spoke with Ugo Salerno, CEO of RINA.

One particular focus for RINA is using hydrogen within hard-to-abate sectors as a means to support decarbonisation in sectors that renewable electricity cannot. One of these is in the steel manufacturing industry.

Salerno told H2 View, “In the steel industry the use of hydrogen can be extremely important in order to make a transition from the blast furnace cycle to electric arc furnace cycle. The first thing you can do using hydrogen is to make directly reduce iron ore.

“For this you work on the iron ore that there is to be used in the arc blast furnace. Then you take out oxygen, and these materials become very interesting and easy to use in an electric arc furnace system.

“You can do these using hydrogen and we are developing a test system. In addition, hydrogen can be used in the electric arc furnace because electric arc furnace doesn’t work only with electricity, but it needs a boost of power that today is given by methane. This provides a possibility to substitute methane with hydrogen.”

The steel industry is a key sector to decarbonise, and hydrogen could play a pivotal role in doing so. We have already seen the opportunity this could provide with H2 Green Steel preparing to supply BMW with green steel. Innovation in this sector could be a huge market and increase the popularity of hydrogen industry creating further demand.

However, the current production of hydrogen is not enough to support this growing sector and, as Salerno points out, it will take decades for it to be widely adopted in the steelmaking industry.

“The quantity of hydrogen needed really to make a transition is much bigger than the quantity of hydrogen that is available today, especially if we speak of renewables because these are will not be for the time being,” Salerno told H2 View.

“I’m sure that hydrogen will be one of the solutions, the most important solution. But we are speaking of, I think, 20 years from here from today for it to become a true substitute because renewables will take a lot of time to be developed and we are speaking not of the two years we are speaking of that maybe one or two decades.”

If the industries engage in carbon capture, carbon capture and blue hydrogen will be one of the solutions. In the meantime, we can start using hydrogen and create a world for the technology.

Steelmaking is not the only sector in which RINA is exploring hydrogen technologies. Innovation is part of the company’s DNA and thus are additionally working with Snam to support the backbone of the hydrogen industry – infrastructure.

Salerno told H2 View, “We are working with Snam to make the qualification and certification of their pipeline network. Just to give you an idea, the pipeline network of Snam that is carrying methane is 33,000km. It’s the biggest pipe network in Europe. We are working on it and the first thing we are doing is we are making the qualification of the steel used for the pipes.”

Once operational for hydrogen this could be groundbreaking for Italy and contribute to the development of a European-wide hydrogen backbone.

End use is also another focus area for RINA and the company currently is exploring both hydrogen and ammonia as a means to fuel maritime vessels in an eco-friendly, sustainable fashion.

“We are working with Wartsila and with the Chinese manufacturers, also with the Chinese engineering companies to use engines with ammonia. We are very close to it, it’s working, it’s working,” Salerno said.

“Shipping is facing an enormous problem because it needs filling points, and it needs the fuel. Even if we speak of hydrogen, even worse, because hydrogen to be transported is much more difficult so ammonia could be an easier way of transporting hydrogen on board because it’s the easier to liquify.”

Despite green hydrogen being the end goal for the industry, blue hydrogen is a key technology to develop to create an initial market for the clean energy carrier. This is a viewpoint shared by Salerno who said, “I am 100% in agreement [with blue hydrogen]. Also, carbon capture systems today can reasonably catch about 80% of CO2 without spending a fortune.

“If you want to capture 95%, you can, but it costs more. Let’s think to 80/90%. But the more we implement these plans, the more the industry will improve the quality and we will reach a huge reduction in costs and the higher efficiency. Let’s not forget that solar panels 10 years ago were costing about six times, six and a half times what they cost today.

“It’s just a matter of engaging industry. If the industries engage in carbon capture, carbon capture and blue hydrogen will be one of the solutions. In the meantime, we can start using hydrogen and create a world for the technology.”

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