Italy, the European hydrogen hub

According to a recent study, our country could become a strategic hub for the distribution in Europe of the clean gas par excellence, hydrogen, which will revolutionize transport, heating and industry.

It is the cleanest “fuel” there is: by reacting with the oxygen in the air, hydrogen can generate energy without polluting. No smoke, no carbon dioxide: as waste only water or steam.

The waters are stirred up by a recent study by The European House-Ambrosetti in collaboration with Snam, according to which our country could use its already highly developed gas network to bring hydrogen produced in North Africa from sources to Europe renewables, especially solar energy.

This gas, in fact, unlike fossil fuels, is not found spontaneously in nature: it must be produced. “The idea is to generate it in the Mediterranean countries, mainly in North Africa, where photovoltaics are favored by climatic conditions,” explains Casalegno. Then the compressed gas could be brought to Italy by ship and fed into the natural gas network. “The advantage is that in Italy we have an excellent gas network, capillary and efficient”. So we can distribute hydrogen throughout the territory, and act as a bridge to other European countries. “Initially, the network could house 10% hydrogen, then the quantity will increase,” says Casalegno. “Some experiments have already been carried out in Italy and in Europe: it is a rather concrete prospect”.

Driving the development of hydrogen in Europe and beyond is above all Germany, which in June announced a 9 billion euro investment plan in this sector. In September, France approved a similar $ 7 billion plan. And Italy has also begun to move. “In the early stages of the epidemic, there was fear of a slowdown in technological development, the spread of renewables and new modes of transport. Instead, Europe is reacting with important investments precisely in these sectors ”, explains Casalegno. «In my opinion this is important. Even in Italy, ministries are currently carrying out technical analyzes to understand what specific aspects we are ready for. Now Snam, with its proposal, has given a boost to this process ».

Thus, hydrogen could travel in the network mixed with natural gas. This mixture can then be used in traditional systems, for example in heating boilers, with the advantage of generating smaller quantities of greenhouse gases (the combustion of hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide). Or, better still, it can be extracted and used in fuel cells, which have no harmful emissions at all, and also find application in other sectors, from industry to transport (both Iveco and, more recently, General Motors have signed agreements strategic with the American and controversial Nikola – whose founder has recently resigned from the position of executive president – for the production of hydrogen trucks, see Focus on newsstands). Regarding the energy needed to produce this gas, while Germany and Italy prefer renewables, France is likely to aim to use any surplus generated by its nuclear plants. A hydrogen which, produced in this way, could no longer be defined as “green”, but which at least would have the advantage.

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