Hydrogen is a promising energy carrier which enables intersectoral applications thanks to its multiple uses. Through sectors coupling the utilization of the green hydrogen carrier produces additional flexibility of the energy system as required to mitigate renewable energy sources (RES) intermittence and fluctuation. Thus, while increasing RES exploitation also security and resilience of the global energy system are improved.
Hydrogen integration in the energy system is first consequence of top-down measures implemented at governmental level. Moreover, also local synergisms boost hydrogen implementations, so following a bottom-up approach aimed to the emergence of locally integrated hydrogen ecosystems, also named as Hydrogen Valleys. They consist in ecosystems open to multiple actors as indicated in the Italian “Strategia Nazionale dell’Idrogeno”.
Hydrogen Valleys (HVs) imply the realization of an investment, typically in the order of million € at least, on a specific geographic area and covering multiple segments of the hydrogen value chain. Thus, hydrogen production, storage, transport to the end users, up to its utilization in one or more different sectors (mobility, industry, power generation) according to the scale and the topology of the HV, are included. This allows to exploit local assets, as renewable energy sources or wasted hydrogen, as for the HVs object of the LIFE3H project, and to addresses local needs.
In an earlier phase HVs projects developed mostly driven by public authorities or public-private consortia. Currently worldwide announced projects increase in size and complexity and partly are led by the private sector investing in a potential new business area.
The HVs concept has recently established in the European funding and collaboration framework. A “European Hydrogen Valleys partnership” has been created under the “Smart Specialisation for Industrial Modernisation” EC framework. It supports joint projects between the 30 participating European regions, boosting, thanks to a greater visibility, fuel cell and hydrogen applications at European level. The www.h2v.eu platform provides information about Hydrogen Valleys created worldwide.
HVs are characterized by different setups. Typically, they are:
mobility-focused projects implementing transport applications locally and at a smaller-scale regarding investments,
industry-focused projects still at the local geographical scale and implying medium-scale investments,
international export-focused projects implemented at the larger-scale regarding the required investments.
The three investment scales also represent the envisaged development trajectory for the implementation of the HVs concept. As indicated above, the market development moves from a reduced number of sectors involved to cover more and more of the value chain in large-scale and highly complex projects.
Beyond the investment scale, other features characterize a Hydrogen Valley, such as:
A clearly defined geographic focus, since the ecosystem implemented in HVs can range from a local or regional focus to a specific national or international region (e.g., a transnational navigation route).
Hydrogen value chain coverage, since HVs cover multiple steps from production to storage, distribution, up to its utilization.
Intersectionality, since HVs cover hydrogen exploitation at different end-users sharing a common hydrogen supply infrastructure in the geographical area of implementation and involving multiple sectors such as mobility, industry, power generation.
LIFE3H, focusing on the hydrogen application for mobility with a geographic focus, covers multiple steps of the value chain and includes actors in different sectors, considering not only the mobility one but also industries providing the hydrogen according to a circular approach. In this sense LIFE3H project introduces some innovation as the exploitation of hydrogen available downstream industrial processes and the interconnection among three different regional HVs.