By Eurasia Business News – January 13, 2021

View on a bio-refinery – Photo credits : Pixabay

Total and Engie have signed a cooperation agreement to design, develop, build and operate the Masshylia project, the largest renewable hydrogen production site in France, located in Châteauneuf-les-Martigues in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur South region.

Located at the heart of Total’s biorefinery in La Mède and powered by solar farms with a total capacity of more than 100 MW, the 40 MW electrolyse plant should produce 5 tonnes of green hydrogen per day. This infrastructure would meet the needs of the production process of biofuels from the Total biorefinery in La Mède, avoiding 15,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. 

An innovative management solution for the production and storage of hydrogen will be implemented to manage the intermittency of solar electricity production and the need for continuous supply to the biorefinery. According to the two groups, the decarbonisation solution used for the project is unprecedented in Europe.

Total and Engie reported that the infrastructure integrates the implementation of five innovations that foreshadow the decarbonisation solutions of industry, unprecedented in Europe:

  • A digital control system for the continuous supply of hydrogen with real-time management of solar electricity production ;
  • Optimizing the integration of several photovoltaic farms supplying the electrolyzer to minimize energy losses and limit network congestion ;
  • Large-scale hydrogen storage to balance intermittent electricity production and continuous hydrogen consumption ;
  • A direct connection between the photovoltaic farm and the electrolyzer to improve the energy balance ;
  • Reinforced industrial safety thanks to the use of 3D digital models for each component of the installation.

Beyond this first phase, new renewable energy stations could be developed by the partners for the electrolyzer, which will have the capacity to produce up to 15 tonnes of green hydrogen per day. 

Read also : Hydrogen cost to decrease within 5-10 years

Total and Engie aim to start construction of the facilities in 2022, following the advanced engineering study, with the plan to start producing hydrogen in 2024, if the necessary financial support and public authorizations are available on time. Grant applications have been submitted to the French and European authorities.

 “The association of two large French energy companies will make it possible to develop the hydrogen sector and to become its leaders thanks to this common, industrial and reproducible project on an international scale.” commented Philippe Sauquet, president of the Gas, Renewables & Power division of Total.

 “The partnership between Engie and Total, through its scope and its very ambitious integrated approach, embodies Engie’s renewable hydrogen development strategy to reduce the CO2 footprint of our customers. It also paves the way for a multi-use renewable hydrogen “hub” in the near future, strongly anchored in the region and with an international scope.” said Gwenaëlle Avice-Huet, Deputy CEO of Engie in charge of renewable energies.

The refinery of La Mède stopped production in December 2016 and then conversion work  has been undertaken by Total in the production of biodiesel.

Hydrogen can be produced from water and electricity, through a process called the electrolysis of water. The electrolyzer separates a water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. This technique is still not very widespread because it is much more expensive (2 to 3 times more expensive than reforming natural gas) and reserved for specific uses, such as electronics, which require a high level of purity.

Read also : Gazprom proposed to build a hydrogen production plant in Germany

The European Union, Russia and Japan have recently announced investment plans intended to develop the production of non-carbon hydrogen, which would make industry and heavy mobility cleaner, to mitigate the effects of the climate change.

Hydrogen is considered as a promising fuel for coming decades. Highly efficient, hydrogen causes less harm to the environment than fossil fuels. Indeed, during its combustion, hydrogen generates water vapour. 

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