French Investor Makes Power-to-Gas Pitch

June 13, 2017

A French firm has signed up a Norwegian manufacturer for a deal to supply up to seven plants making hydrogen for use in the French public gas system. The idea behind the move is to store surplus power, and partly to decarbonise France’s gas supply over time.

Norwegian manufacturer Nel said June 13 it has signed a framework agreement with H2V Product, a subsidiary of France?s privately-owned Samfi-Invest, to build and install up to seven hydrogen plants. The power-to-gas (PTG) units will inject hydrogen as a substitute for natural gas to France?s gas grid.

The first 100-MW hydrogen plant represents a contract value of some kroner 450mn ($53mn) and would be built by 2020. The six others would cost at least Nkr 3.15bbn for a total of 700 MW installed. They will be built in the Les Hauts de France and Normandie regions, next to gas pipelines, where H2V Product says it has secured sites.

The latter?s founder and CEO Lucien Mallet said that Nel?s large-scale electrolysers ?are proven to be the world´s most efficient and reliable, making them a perfect fit for our important industrial development. We are looking forward to working with Nel to furnish, install and ensure the maintenance of 40 electrolysers in our first H2V Product hydrogen plant, with a planned expansion to six other plants in France towards 2025.?

“The carbon-free hydrogen will be injected into the main gas pipeline that distributes natural gas throughout France, making the natural gas greener. This is truly a milestone agreement for Nel,” said Nel CEO Jon Andre Lokke.

Both parties expect to reach a final agreement on the delivery schedule in 2H2017, for which Nel would have to expand its existing production capacity by end-2017 once an initial payment has been received from the French firm. Le Havre-based property investor Samfi-Invest is owned by Alain Samson.

The operator of France’s largest gas transmission and distribution grid, GRTgaz, four years ago committed itself to work towards a 100% carbon-neutral gas supply by 2050. The government too is interested in ways to convert surplus renewable electricity to a form that can be stored, believes PTG offers one such means, and is understood to be willing to subsidise its development. To date though, its cost has inhibited its deployment, despite pilot PTG projects installed in Germany such as Uniper’s at Falkenhagen and projects in the Netherlands.

Nicolas Hulot, a journalist and ecologist, was last month appointed interim ecology minister (including energy) in President Emmanuel Macron’s new government. 

Mark Smedley


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