Hydrogen ramps up to industrial scale in the south of France

Hydrogen ramps up to industrial scale in the south of France
Site de la bioraffinerie de Total à La Mède
21 January 2021 / Eco-industries, Energy, invest in provence

Total, Engie, Arcelor-Mittal, Air Liquide,... overview of industrial projects in the Étang de Berre area

One year after starting biofuel production at the La Mède refinery, Total will reach another strategic milestone in 2024 when it begins producing green hydrogen from renewable energy on an industrial scale. Total and Engie signed a cooperation agreement to bring the project to life. "Masshylia", as it is called, will build a solar farm, an electrolyzer and a hydrogen storage unit to reduce CO2 emissions while producing biofuels. As a firm believer in the technology's potential role in the energy mix, the Provence region has been a booster of the hydrogen industry in France for nearly 15 years.  

France's largest green hydrogen production site powered by all-renewable electricity is expected to come on line in 2024 in Provence, on the grounds of the biorefinery in Châteauneuf-les-Martigues. In mid-January 2020, Total and Engie signed an agreement to cooperate on the design, development, construction and operation of the biggest green hydrogen production unit. It is intended to continuously supply the biorefinery and thus prevent 15,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

The "Masshylia" project is backed by local governments and has applied for national (AMI) and European (IPCEI/Innovation Fund) funding. The French energy companies aim to begin construction of the facilities in 2022. The 100 MW solar farm will be connected to a 40 MW electrolyzer that will produce 5 tons of green hydrogen per day with the ability to eventually expand daily production to 15 tons. The project is rife with potential for new industrial collaborations.

Creation of an International Hydrogen Center of Expertise

"Here in Provence we are adding a new weapon to the energy arsenal to help us attain carbon neutrality by 2050. This innovative, large-scale green production hub should enable us to make significant progress, in particular by advancing the standardization of equipment. That will lead to cost reductions, which are a key factor in developing the sector and industrial applications. This virtuous undertaking also includes a training component with plans to create on International Hydrogen Safety Center of Expertise, in partnership with ENSOSP (*)," explains Jean-Michel Diaz, Mediterranean Regional Delegate for Total and President of GMIF (**).  

The project boasts five major innovations, including large-scale hydrogen storage, optimized integration of multiple solar farms and a digital system to manage the continuous supply of hydrogen, with real-time coordination of solar electricity generation. This strategic announcement comes just as the French government set up the National Council on Hydrogen, which convenes key industrial stakeholders who are working to establish a competitive carbon-free hydrogen industry in the next 10 years.

Arcelor-Mittal committed to green steel production

In recent months, Arcelor-Mittal has blazed a trail at Fos-sur-Mer with its commitment to producing "green steel" to reduce its CO2 emissions by 20% before 2030. ArcelorMittal Méditerranée will host a pilot site (Carbalyst) to capture the residual gases, including CO2, emitted by its blast furnaces to convert them to ethanol and acetone. The process will increase CO2 savings with a large-scale electrolyzer that will produce hydrogen from renewable electricity. At the same time, ArcelorMittal Méditerranée, which manufactured 3.6 million tons of steel in 2019, has begun deploying a "Smart Carbon" strategy to replace coal with hydrogen to make iron ore.

From Jupiter 1000 to the hydrogen station for long-haul trucks

These projects are a culmination of the innovation efforts under way in the region since 2017 to promote hydrogen. The first experiments exploring the transformation and storage of renewable energies began at the PIICTO innovation platform. The pioneering Jupiter 1000, a "power-to-gas" demonstrator, converts excess electricity into green hydrogen with two electrolyzers.  

The momentum created at the Port of Fos will carry over into mobility with the arrival in 2022 of eight, 44-ton trucks powered by hydrogen. Carrefour and transportation company Jacky Perrenot have been partnering on the HyAMMED project, backed by ADEME, since 2020.

The long-haul trucks will refuel at a low-carbon hydrogen station commissioned two years ago by Air Liquide.

Committed stakeholders in the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis

The Aix-Marseille Provence Metropolis and Capenergies are actively supporting the hydrogen sector, which brings together some 100 local businesses. Their green hydrogen initiatives make the Metropolis a regional leader in developing this energy source with the first "industrial" market inventing the mobility solutions of the future.

In July 2019, the region hosted "Hydrogen Days". Its goal in the next 10 years is to become the Mediterranean hub for hydrogen production and distribution. The industry's biggest names are drawn to this dynamic and

Provence Promotion is working with other actors to smooth the way for these manufacturers to set up operations in the region.

(*) National Institute of Higher Learning for Firefighting Officers, based in Aix-en-Provence.
(**) Groupement Maritime et Industriel de Fos, a professional organization representing the Fos manufacturing and maritime industries