The Polish hydrogen strategy and Poland’s 2040 Energy Policy are being drafted by the Ministry of Climate. The second document will determine the shape of the energy industry in the future and the dominant hydrogen generation technology. Irregardless, gas infrastructure for transporting this fuel can be prepared today.
Preparation is prevention
Poland’s Energy Policy by 2040 is being updated and it still has not been adopted by the government. Thus, there are no fundamental decisions on the fate of Poland’s energy sector including the kind of decarbonization path the country wants to choose. The conflicts within the government over nuclear and renewable energy undermine the trust in declarations made to the public opinion. It has been announced that a government reshuffle will take place in the fall. Because of that, it will be necessary to wait for a new division of duties, which may include the shutting down of ministries and establishing news ones, as well as transferring responsibilities between existing ministries. However, the Polish energy sector cannot wait and has to make strategic decisions. The German administration is a model of decisive action. It has already adopted a hydrogen strategy that puts more emphasis on the so-called green hydrogen, which is produced from surplus energy generated by renewable energy sources (RES). Germans can afford to take such resolute steps, because their commission on coal drafted a decarbonization plan for the energy sector. Moreover, for years they have been developing RES, which gives hopes that significant amounts of hydrogen will be produced from it. However, this doesn’t mean Poles should copy German solutions. It is worth following the pace with which Germany is moving, but Poland’s specific characteristics should be taken into consideration.
Poles find it impossible to decide whether and to what degree nuclear energy will complement the existing energy mi, in which coal plays the major role, but where the RES and gas tandem is taking up increasingly more space. They also do not know where they will acquire domestic hydrogen. However, they do know they will need it to fully decarbonize their economy, including heavy industry, which needs this fuel to satisfy its high energy needs. Therefore, one could say that regardless of Poland’s 2040 energy strategy and the strategic choices included in that document, Poland will need infrastructure able to distribute hydrogen. This is why the plan on building transmission networks for this fuel can be actually made today. It should also include the adaptation of the existing gas pipelines and entry points to the gas grid to hydrogen transmission. If a given transmission infrastructure is ready to transmit hydrogen it means it is “hydrogen ready”. According to the declarations made by the operator of the controversial Nord Stream 2 project, the gas pipeline will be able to transmit hydrogen. Hydrogen Europe claims that it is safe to pump up to 10 percent of hydrogen into the existing gas pipelines. Whereas Russians responsible for Nord Stream 2 talk about even 70 percent. Despite the fact that Poles will probably not be interested in importing hydrogen via that route, they still need to own gas pipelines capable of transporting this fuel from various directions: national and foreign sources, irregardless of its color, whether it will be the already mentioned green hydrogen or the blue one (from gas), or turquoise (from nuclear energy). In 2019 GAZ-SYSTEM, Poland’s GTSO, joined Hydrogen Europe, an organization that promotes hydrogen. It is also analyzing whether hydrogen can be pumped into the gas grid as part of the Hyready project, which was mentioned in a 2019 report on GAZ-SYSTEM’s sustainable development. However, these plans are no match for what Poland’s western neighbors are doing and this is another point we should take into consideration when it comes to copying our neighbors. Germany’s Uniper wants to present in 2021 a plan to decarbonize gas grids and gas storage, which will include pumping in hydrogen (as well as other renewable gases that do not emit CO2, such as biogas). Whereas, Siemens decided that Siemens Energy would withdraw from the legacy power sector and completely focus on developing the Power-To-X technology, which allows using electrolizers powered by RES to produce hydrogen.
Poles will follow their 2040 energy plan, which will determine their hydrogen strategy. If they were to be guided by the currently binding project, the capacity at their disposal to produce hydrogen would come from various sources. These don’t have to be renewables only. Already the 2017 Responsible Development Strategy, adopted by the government, proposed investing in high-temperature reactors (HTR), which use pyrolysis to generate hydrogen. If Poles decide to formally introduce nuclear energy, they will be able to use the violet hydrogen. Similarly to blue hydrogen produced from gas, domestic hydrogen will be better than gas from Russia, especially considering Rosatom’s export plans, which follow Gazprom’s footsteps to a hydrogen economy.
To sum up, whatever the future of the two strategic documents – the hydrogen strategy and the energy policy strategy, Polish companies, with GAZ-SYSTEM leading the way, can already create a map of hydrogen ready gas pipes. Perhaps it would be worth taking into consideration plans on hydrogen in the next National Ten Year Development Plans for the Transmission Network, which detail the development of the gas grid of various kinds, but are yet to mention this fuel. On 7 July 2020 GAZ-SYSTEM signed the Climate Ministry’s Polish Hydrogen Memorandum, which is a letter of intent on establishing a partnership to build a hydrogen economy. The agreement’s other signatories are PGNiG, Grupa Azoty, PKN Orlen and Grupa Lotos. They all declared they would cooperate with regard to research and development on hydrogen technologies in Poland.
Poland’s Hydrogen Ready Map
Drafting a map with potential transmission networks for hydrogen, could be a good starting point to prepare a hydrogen strategy, which should also talk about producing this fuel and the kind of technology used for this, depending on the content of the energy strategy. Poland’s gas transmission infrastructure should be as much hydrogen ready as possible for one more reason. This will make it easier to acquire funding for investments, because those where renewable gases are used are treated as “green” by EU and private financial institutions. In this context, it is worth reminding the words of Poland’s ambassador to Denmark, Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, who admitted that in the future Baltic Pipe may transmit hydrogen.