For all the hype and hopes around a green hydrogen revolution sweeping the globe, the industry looks set to remain a local game for years to come.
Despite being a “very fast-evolving, dynamic space,” Sanjiv Lamba, chief operating officer of industrial-gas supplier Linde Plc, is taking a pragmatic view. Given each country is pursuing its own hydrogen strategy and there’s no coordinated approach to the incentives needed to scale up an industry, Lamba can only envision pockets of activity: a plant here, another there, each serving the local economy and industry. Eventually, some larger facilities will be built, but not of a size to drive exports of hydrogen.
Further out, Lamba paints a different picture. Vast fields of low-cost solar power stretching into the deserts of Chile and North Africa raise the prospect of huge sites producing enough green hydrogen to export via a pipeline under the Mediterranean to Europe, or throughout Latin America, in the case of Chile.
But it will take years for green hydrogen to have a scalable cost effective solution, Lamba said. A carrot-and-stick combination of incentives and fines for carbon is needed to provide a suitable cost curve for large-scale adoption.
Linde’s hydrogen task force meets every month to review projects: there are some 240 on the books currently, worth $4.1 billion in Capex. Some are large, a lot are smaller, and focused on mobility. The U.S.-German group is hellbent on converting its fleet of trucks to hydrogen, and will be announcing a further expansion of its fuel-cell partnership with Plug Power Inc.
“We’re really waiting with bated breathe to get these trucks on the road,” Lamba said on a call today.
Another hive of activity is South Korea, where Linde is helping install liquid hydrogen infrastructure for heavy duty vehicles.
Despite Europe backing green hydrogen, the blue variety will dominate the landscape for years to come, until electrolysis technology is further developed to improve efficiency, providing a cost advantage.
“The prospect of Africa becomes so attractive,” Lamba said.
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