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First commercial green hydrogen production

First commercial green hydrogen production

Solar Global operates electrolyzer plant in Czech Republic

An electrolyzer in the town of Napajedla in southeastern Czech Republic has produced the country’s first green hydrogen from solar power. The industrial green hydrogen production facility is run by Solar Global, one of the leading companies in the Czech renewables sector.

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This hydrogen plant should be seen primarily as a pioneering initiative since its capacity of 230 kilowatts is relatively low. It can consume up to 246 megawatt-hours per year of electricity. The power is sourced from a photovoltaic plant with a peak capacity of 611 kW. Battery storage is used to buffer the discrepancies between generation and consumption. In line with the Czech hydrogen strategy, most of the hydrogen ends up as fuel.

“Green hydrogen produced in this way can be used at the refueling station in Napajedla to fill up not just trucks and buses, but also cars with environmentally friendly hydrogen propulsion,” explained Vítězslav Skopal, owner of Solar Global Group. According to Solar Global, the plant can supply around 8 metric tons (8.8 US tons) of green hydrogen. This is enough to enable a car to travel 800,000 kilometers (500,000 miles) and a hydrogen bus to travel 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles).

Covering the entire value chain

Hydrogen production is expected to develop gradually into a major area of industry in the Czech Republic. As this happens, the Solar Global Group foresees an entire value chain developing alongside it. In addition to hydrogen production, the company has its sights set on the operation of vehicles equipped with fuel cells. Ultimately, the corporation also wants to get involved in the supply of hydrogen via refueling stations. “Of course all this depends on the building of other requisite technologies, in other words hydrogen compression, storage and refueling stations, and these are the next stages of our pilot project,” said Skopal.

The production of the country’s first kilogram of hydrogen was funded by the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic or SEF CR, which has been in existence since 1992. So far the environment ministry has financially supported four electrolyzers from the environment fund. “Two further projects are under examination,” stated Lucie Früblingová, spokeswoman for the state environment fund. The schemes under which hydrogen projects can receive support are currently being widened. The number of assisted projects and the amount distributed in subsidies are set to rise in the future.

Traditional producers look to green hydrogen

Among those due to receive funding is Orlen Unipetrol, the Czech Republic’s largest producer of “gray,” fossil-based hydrogen. The company, which is part of Polish petroleum giant Orlen, intends to install an electrolyzer in conjunction with a solar power plant in Litvínov. Groundwork will begin sometime between 2024 and 2025, with the production of green hydrogen slated to start at the end of 2028. However, Unipetrol is well aware that its own production can only cover a fraction of its hydrogen demand and is already considering hydrogen imports.

Another electrolyzer being aided by the environment fund belongs to the Sev.en Energy Group. The mining company operates what was once the extensive opencast brown coal mine in Most, Komořany, which will soon be exhausted, as well as the associated coal power plants. Sev.en is planning a massive expansion in solar power plants totaling 120 MW. The proposals include a 17.5-MW electrolyzer that will manufacture 360 metric tons (400 US tons) of green hydrogen a year starting in 2027. The costs for the hydrogen system, according to Sev.en’s head of transformation Pavel Farkač, run to around CZK 700 million, which equates to EUR 28.5 million, a substantial proportion of which is to be covered by subsidies from the environment fund.

In October 2023, the Czech government presented the draft of an energy and climate plan for the years leading up to 2030. The press release from the environment ministry stated that the use of hydrogen would increase within industry and the mobility sector by the end of the decade. The plan also foresees that electricity derived from brown coal will no longer be exported.

Author: Aleksandra Fedorska

National hydrogen strategy for the Czech Republic: www.hytep.cz/images/dokumenty-ke-stazeni/Czech_Hydrogen_Strategy_2021.pdf

“Cool, what you’re doing in Germany”

“Cool, what you’re doing in Germany”

“Today is a good day for industry location Germany, climate protection and sustainable jobs in our country” – German economy and climate protection minister Robert Habeck was referring to the first bidding process for carbon contracts for difference, which the German government launched in mid-March 2024.

Fig.: Robert Habeck explains his policy

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Habeck.jpg – Wolf, bitte die Bildqualität so gut wie möglich optimieren

Source: Screenshot BMWK (German economy ministry) video

“With the carbon contracts for difference, firstly, we are promoting modern, climate-friendly industrial systems of tomorrow. Through this will come new technologies, value chains and infrastructures. This helps, secondly, industry worldwide to switch to climate-friendly production. And thirdly, with the carbon contracts for difference, we are setting new international standards for efficient and low-bureaucracy funding,” he added.

Abroad, this step will be admired with envy, according to Habeck: “Cool what you’re doing in Germany. We want that too.”

Even if some people in Germany don’t like to hear that – because they are all too willing to participate in Habeck bashing – you have to give him credit for getting a lot of things off the ground during his time in office. And if representatives of the chemical industry in particular describe these carbon contracts as a “right step,” not everything can have been wrong.

Opinions on Habeck are currently divided: For some, he is not green enough, too pro-business, too industry-friendly – for others, he is too green, too idealistic, too poetic.

But if you look at what has been kicked off in recent months – in particular due to Habeck’s commitment – it can be seen, even with strong climate protection glasses: Germany has come through the last few winters well and now has several LNG terminals built in record time. Germany is gradually getting the energy policy framework that so many people have been calling for, which provides planning security – be it in the heating or transportation sector, but especially in the industrial sector.

Germany is making efforts to keep energy-intensive companies in the steel, glass, cement and chemical industries in particular in the country and to accommodate them. Germany is also forging international partnerships for the import of hydrogen and the transfer of technological expertise (see H2-international May 2024: p. 12 – Norway as partner country of Hannover Messe).

In addition, the IPCEI projects are finally gaining momentum (see p. 28), and even the update to the 37th ordinance on implementation of German emissions reduction law (37. Verordnung zur Durchführung des Bundes-Immissionsschutzgesetzes) was passed by the German parliament on March 14, 2024.

These and many other measures have led, among other things, to a 10.1 percent reduction in climate emissions in 2023 compared to 2022, which corresponds to the largest decrease in CO2 equivalents since 1990.

Yes, this decline is certainly due in part to Germany’s currently reduced economic strength. So? It is quite clear that a transformative process in the energy sector means that production cannot continue at the same level as before. And exactly this is wanted, because we can no longer afford to waste as much energy and as many resources as before.

A moderate decline in economic power is, in my opinion, very manageable for the time being and should be viewed positively, as this is precisely what will break up outdated structures and ensure the country’s future viability. It will now be a matter of keeping the right degree in sight, to find a balance between pressure to act and reasonableness.

This applies not only to the government, but also to the people, who also possess a great deal of responsibility – be it the choice of the next car or the next heating system. Less grumbling and more sustainable action can sometimes work wonders.

Chicken feathers as FC membrane material

Chicken feathers as FC membrane material

Feathers from chickens or other poultry could in the future help make fuel cells more effective and cheaper as a material for membranes. Researchers at ETH Zürich and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have extracted the natural protein keratin from waste feathers, which as a protein building block is an essential component of hair and therefore a natural product. Every year, 40 million metric tons of the waste accrue worldwide, which otherwise is for the most part burned. The researchers process the keratin into extremely fine fibers in order to weave membranes from them. These are then used as electrolytes in the fuel cells.

In conventional fuel cells until now, toxic chemicals have been used for such membranes. They additionally are expensive and not ecologically degradable. The new membrane, on the other hand, is much less expensive. The production in the laboratory, according to ETH Zürich, reduced the cost to one third of the conventional. The chicken feather membrane could also be useful in H2 production by electrolysis, because the membrane is proton permeable and allows the particle migration between anode and cathode necessary for water splitting.

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As a next step, the researchers will now investigate how stable and durable the keratin membrane is. The team has already applied for a patent for the membrane and is now looking for investors or companies that want to further develop the technology and bring it to market.

Author: Niels Hendrik Petersen

Nikola Motors: Capital increase at the right time

Nikola Motors: Capital increase at the right time

Short sellers are working massively against the company at the stock exchange. There were shortly even nearly 200 million shares sold short (on Nov. 16 still 193 million). But now, a price change upwards seems very likely. The reason could lie in the comments made at the press conference on the third quarter results, which Nikola – in my words – sees as being on the right track. The company amassed about 250 million USD in liquidity in the third quarter, and now has available 705 million USD in capital access.

The damage due to recalled battery-electric trucks was reported as 61.8 million USD (warranty reserve), where Nikola not only resolved this problem, but employed batteries from a still unnamed supplier that possessed advantages over the previous model, was the comment from the company. Additionally, the truck will be equipped with more features that will give the driver more options during use, for example from a distance using a smartphone app, the truck could be already prepared with heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, before the driver gets in. The battery-electric truck will, after the retrofitting in the first quarter, again find its way to customers.

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Now orders can come

There are 277 letters of intent for the purchase of the hydrogen-powered truck. In the fourth quarter, 30 to 50 of them are to be delivered and between 11 and 19 million USD turnover generated. With the battery-electric truck, meanwhile – despite the recall – an individual order of 47 units will be gained. In the next two years, Nikola is determined to deliver on average 250 to 300 trucks of both types per quarter.

The cash burn is at 100 million USD in the quarter, where for the current quarter, the financial effects of the recall on the battery-electric truck are still to be felt (61.8 million USD, of which about 38 million USD is capital that will be used). And the better the scaling of the truck production goes, the more cost-effective they can be manufactured, in order to at the end of the day come out with a good profit margin. Consider this: Money is the future will be earned especially with electricity and hydrogen and not with e-trucks per se. Nikola is at the start of its (success) story.

California setting the pace

Nikola is concentrating, for good reason, on the US state California. Firstly, the best subsidies (up to around 408,000 USD per truck) are there; secondly, the time pressure for shippers to replace diesel-powered by CO2-free trucks is very high. Already starting 2024, in California only the last-mentioned will be allowed at port facilities, so there will be new registrations only for battery-electric or hydrogen trucks. We’re talking about over 30,000 trucks alone in this market segment – a winning pass for Nikola Motors, since in the Inflation Reduction Act are provided also 2.6 billion USD in subsidies specially for port facilities and also drayage trucks as well as for the H2 infrastructure.

Additionally, the competition for Nikola in this truck segment will be sparse for years to come. The look at the already approved vouchers for e-trucks is cause to celebrate: 96 percent of the vouchers of the California’s HVIP program for hydrogen-powered trucks and 50 percent of the vouchers for battery-electric trucks are attributable to Nikola. After all, Nikola is to have received approval of already over 400 vouchers for the two truck variants. A respectable success.

Lawsuit against Milton won

The lengthy legal dispute with company founder Trevor Milton was won. On October 20 came the decision. Milton must now pay 165 million USD to Nikola, which includes procedural costs Nikola first had to pay and now receives back. It should be noted here that there is still no indication of when the money will flow. Nikola still has to pay a portion to the SEC itself, as they reached a settlement of 125 million USD and must itself fulfill it. If 165 million USD flows from Milton soon, Nikola’s liquidity will rise, as the SEC payments will be divided over the next years.

Goals ambitious but realistic

Currently, Nikola can produce 2,400 trucks of either variant per year. In order to be profitable, sales of 1,000 trucks in 2024 and 1,500 in 2025 are needed. These targets are considered realistic from the company’s perspective, if Nikola delivers 250 to 300 truck per quarter. In my view, there will also be some large orders. Beyond this, declarations like the letter of intent (LoI) with Anheuser-Busch (800 trucks) will also flow into the orders on hand, is my expectation.

Nikola Motors – The Tesla of trucks?

For this hypothesis, I earned a lot of criticism. One cannot compare a startup like Nikola, though, with the success story of Tesla. One can say: Tesla started small, then came Elon Musk. The company reported heavy losses for many years and was even on the verge of bankruptcy before the breakthrough came. In the first three years, Tesla earned money, but not with the e-cars but with  emission rights that could be sold to other car manufacturers. Tesla solved the chicken-and-egg problem by providing the electricity for the battery-electric vehicles itself by establishing a charging network made of its own Supercharger stations. Who would have bought a car from Tesla if there had been no charging option – as a package, even free of charge for years?

Nikola is doing the same – only for trucks with the help of electric charging stations and H2 refueling stations. Nikola wants to earn money with electricity and the self-produced or purchased hydrogen. In the USA are waving high subsidies of three USD per kg. Tesla continues to address the market for e-cars, but Nikola the segment for trucks. Both companies can be considered disruptive – they change markets and business models. Both are first movers.

Tesla and its CEO was met with much skepticism, but they proved that change is possible. Nikola is doing the same – only for commercial vehicles. Whether both can be compared with regard to the development of their valuation or share prices time will tell. For Nikola I am extremely optimistic.

Chief financial officer leaves the company

Stasy Pasterick was just six months in office as CFO. She is going over to Universal Hydrogen in the same capacity. It will be interesting to see who her successor will be.

Capital increase secures the company

On December 6, 2023, Nikola’s plan to raise fresh capital on the stock market became known. It entails a convertible bond of a nominal 175 million USD with 8.25-percent coupon (green bonds) with maturity December 2026 (0.90 USD conversion price per share) and 100 million USD in new shares at 0.75 USD per share. The share price fell from around 1 USD probably because – no guarantee – a hedging took place, so the price was depressed, as one can retain and stock up on the share after the capital raise. The share also fell because short sellers wanted to use the capital increase as a negative for themselves.

In accordance with experience, this measure will have already been successfully implemented by the time you read these lines. With it, Nikola is then thoroughly financed and will ultimately have 500 million USD in the bank. That the share price is rising above 1 USD again is also in the nature of things, because the financiers (investment banks such as Nomura) will most likely not accept a delisting of the share (it will come to this if the price sinks below 1 USD for a longer time).

Summary: Nikola is well on the way to positioning itself as a first mover in CO2-free trucks in the USA – first in California, later across the whole country and in parallel in Canada, where likewise large subsidy sums up to 380,000 CAD per truck are waving. Comprehensive funding programs are acting as a turbo, as the buyers of the trucks can comply with the regulatory pressure and are financially incentivized as well. The H2 infrastructure is being established by the company itself, but will be financially accompanied by business partners such as Voltera (EQT) and is receiving a boost by a 7-billion-USD program of the Biden administration, in which seven hydrogen hubs are to be established in the USA. The stock market will not be able to avoid newly valuing Nikola as a startup: In the right market at the right time. Maybe Nikola will even be the H2 share that develops the most price potential. What’s the phrase? No risk, no fun.

Nikola’s management team is considered excellent. CEO Stephen Girsky pointed out that this includes top managers who no longer actually have to work in a start-up, but who are happy to contribute their expertise to make the company’s vision a reality. This is the right approach – out of conviction and with experience.

Disclaimer

Each investor must always be aware of their own risk when investing in shares and should consider a sensible risk diversification. The FC companies and shares mentioned here are small and mid cap, i.e. they are not standard stocks and their volatility is also much higher. This report is not meant to be viewed as purchase recommendations, and the author holds no liability for your actions. All information is based on publicly available sources and, as far as assessment is concerned, represents exclusively the personal opinion of the author, who focuses on medium- and long-term valuation and not on short-term profit. The author may be in possession of the shares presented here.

Hydrogen for the energy transition

Hydrogen for the energy transition

The increase of renewable electricity production and the resulting surplus lead us to ask: How toimprove energy efficiency through the use of hydrogen? This 2nd edition of Power-to-Gas covers the global energy issues (generation, distribution, consumption, markets), the production of hydrogen via electrolysis, its transportation and storage or conversion in another form. It takes account of the new energy challenges facing the world and the development of experimentations by adding new projects and realisations.

The author Méziane Boudellal analyses hydrogen production and hydrogen-based fuels. He discusses energy consumption, markets, and transport and presents case studies from around the world with updated energy data throughout. Also included is a reformulated chapter on “Hydrogen Economy and Energy Transition”.

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Boudellal has has a PhD in physical chemistry. He was a researcher in Germany in the chemical and electronic sector, then in France in the automotive sector. He is also the author of French books about Smart Home, Combined Heat and Power and Micro Cogeneration as well as Fuel Cells.

The paperback book, which was published in black & white in March 2023, consists of 252 pages and includes 192 pictures as well as 39 tables.

Source:
Boudellal, Méziane; Power-to-Gas – Renwable Hydrogen Economy for the Energy Transition, De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-078180-9