Go East, hydrogen

What’s up in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Russia


Central and eastern Europe are no newcomers to the hydrogen market. Pertinent chemical and refinery industries can draw on a wealth of expertise. Poland, the region’s most important economy, was one of the European Union’s top three hydrogen countries in 2018, producing a total of 1.3 million tons. Unfortunately, much of the hydrogen is fossil fuel-sourced and not available on the open market. Still, efforts to make chemical companies and refineries part of a new hydrogen economy are underway.

Half the chemically synthesized hydrogen produced in Poland issues from Azoty Group factories, primarily from subsidiaries Puławy and Kędzierzyn. Sales to partner businesses are increasing, with a current total of 600 tons a year. In summer of 2020, the Azoty Group – also involved in fuel cell development – announced ambitious plans for greatly expanding production capacity.

Another key player in Poland is Orlen, the country’s largest oil corporation. Orlen steam-reforms natural gas to make hydrogen, nearly all of which is used in Poland’s industrial sector. The Lotos Group, an Orlen acquisition, is currently building a hydrogen purification plant near Gdańsk to supply buses and other fuel cell vehicles.

Also, in early summer 2020, Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo, PGNiG, a Polish natural gas supplier, launched a EUR 6.6 million investment program promoting a hydrogen economy, having already erected both a power-to-gas system in Odolanów and a research facility, New Fuel Lab. PGNiG now plans to produce green hydrogen from solar sources and offshore wind energy generated on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast. The gas will be distributed via company-owned pipelines.

Czech Republic fuels up

Major energy corporations, primarily government-owned, support central and eastern European national hydrogen strategies and initiatives. However, not all follow the EU’s strategy to emphasize green hydrogen production. Also missing is a sufficient infrastructure for manufacturing and distributing the gas.

Getting a head start, the Czech government published a National Action Plan for Clean Transportation in 2015. The plan aims to improve hydrogen infrastructure, especially in transportation, and to construct six to eight new fueling stations by 2023. One program partner is Orlen subsidiary Unipetrol, which will reportedly build three fueling stations in Prague, Brno und Litvínov.

Hungary, the nuclear renewable

A similar constellation is at work in Hungary, where the country’s major energy corporation MOL dominates the hydrogen sector. In early 2020, MOL launched a new climate initiative encompassing a recycling program, increased renewable capacity and the acquisition of Goldi Mobility, a hydrogen-powered, mass-transit bus manufacturer (see H2-international, August 2020). Hungary has also created a national platform for hydrogen technology transfer bringing together industry managers, researchers and project leaders.

Then, last summer, Hungarian officials made a surprising statement. They claimed hydrogen produced from nuclear power is a renewable source of energy. Péter Kaderják, Hungary’s energy and environment minister explained:

“In the long run, nuclear-produced hydrogen will play a decisive role in Hungary’s economy and energy mix. Thus, we think nuclear-sourced hydrogen needs to be recognized as a renewable.” At present, nuclear power stations already meet a third of Hungary’s electricity needs. Completing Pak 2 plant expansion will double the share.

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, Feb. 2021

Author: Aleksandra Fedorska

Leave a Reply