Green hydrogen, produced with energy from renewable sources, is widely considered to be a pillar of the energy transition. As one of the most important climate friendly energy sources, especially in the industry and transport sector, it will be key to achieving the decarbonisation strategies of the European Union and other countries.
Axpo invests in hydrogen production plants, their operation, optimisation and marketing. We also advise and support companies in their transition to green hydrogen. Our aim is to exploit the enormous potential of hydrogen and work towards building the hydrogen economy in Switzerland, as the leading producer of green hydrogen. As our customer, we would:
Axpo is pursuing several projects in Switzerland and Europe:
Following the building permit process, Axpo and Rhiienergie began construction of the 2.5-MW hydrogen production facility at the Reichenau hydropower plant in early 2023. The installation will be connected to the Reichenau hydropower plant in which Axpo holds a majority share. Using Swiss hydropower, the facility will produce about 350 tons of green hydrogen annually. This corresponds to about 1.5 million litres of diesel fuel that the Canton of Grisons and the Rhine valley will be able to save in the future. The green hydrogen will be delivered directly to filling stations from the production facility. Alternatively, the hydrogen can also make a contribution to the decarbonisation of industrial operations. Commissioning is scheduled for the fall of 2023.
Another climate-friendly hydrogen production facility will be built on the Wildischachen industrial location in Brugg (AG), and will be Switzerland's largest hydrogen plant. Axpo, Voegtlin-Meyer, IBB Energie AG (IBB) and the city of Brugg have signed a memorandum of understanding to this end. Axpo plans to deliver clean hydrogen from domestic hydropower directly to the nearby Voegtlin-Meyer filling stations via a pipeline. From there, the green hydrogen will be made available to private users and for the buses operated on behalf of PostAuto AG. The produced volume can be used to drive about 300 trucks, post or other buses for one year.
Axpo holds a 43% interest in Swiss Green Gas International, in short SGGI. The joint venture company founded in 2020 plans and realises power-to-X facilities in Northern Europe (more on power-to-X on Wikipedia). The plants produce hydrogen and synthetic methane (green gas) from renewable electricity. This will promote the urgent, rapid exit from fossil energy sources. Other SGGI shareholders are Holdigaz SA, which primarily supplies the Cantons of Vaud, Valais and Freiburg with gas, and Nordur Group GmbH, a development and investment company.
Together with ABB, Axpo is planning the development of a pilot project in Italy. Under the project, technologies along the entire green hydrogen supply chain will be researched and tested for production feasibility. The memorandum of understanding also includes participation in research and development projects financed by the European Union, as well as financing support.
Hydrogen can be recovered in two ways. One method is by means of steam reformation from natural gas. The natural gas is split and reacts with the ambient air. The second method requires water in place of natural gas as the source material. The water is split into oxygen and hydrogen by means of electrolysis. If the power used in the process is renewable, this hydrogen is designated as green.
Hydrogen can be converted back into electricity. However, it must be noted that every conversion step leads to efficiency losses.
Converting hydrogen back into electricity can take place by means of a thermochemical process or a fuel cell. This fuel cell is an electro-chemical device used to directly convert the fuel cell's chemical energy into electricity.
Green hydrogen is produced through the electrolysis of water. Electricity generated from renewable energy sources like hydropower, wind and solar energy is used. As a result, green hydrogen is CO2-free.
Grey hydrogen is produced by means of steam reformation, usually from natural gas. Some 10 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of hydrogen are produced. The unused CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Steam reformation is the most widely used process in Europe.
Blue hydrogen is grey hydrogen, which captures CO2 during the production process and then stores it in the ground (carbon capture and storage CCS).
Turquoise hydrogen is hydrogen that is produced through the thermal decomposition of methane (methane pyrolysis). Solid carbon is produced instead of CO2. The methane pyrolysis process is still in the development stage.
Yellow hydrogen is hydrogen that is generated from the power mix in the existing grid. In Switzerland, this is mainly electricity from hydro and nuclear power.
Pink hydrogen is produced with electricity from nuclear power. Nuclear power is nearly CO2 free in operation, but its energy source is not renewable.