Portugal signs ‘green hydrogen’ deal with Holland

A memorandum of understanding for the export of ‘green hydrogen’ from Portugal to Holland has been signed this week. The plan is for ‘bilateral cooperation’ over the next 10 years.

Said secretary of state João Galamba during online debate “Opportunities for green hydrogen being the engine for sustainable recovery and energetic transition in a post-Covid world”, a more formal partnership with Holland will be announced “very soon”, while ‘conversations’ (in the same vein) are underway with Germany, Japan and Canada.

“We are very attentive to international hydrogen partnerships”, he said. “We are members of the European Union but to accelerate this transition we have to associate ourselves with ‘light’ and uncomplicated countries that are interested in investing in hydrogen”.

The memorandum was signed by Minister of Environment and Climate Action João Pedro Matos Fernandes and the Dutch minister for economic affairs and climate policies Eric Wiebes. 

Says ECO online, it’s a document that has been waiting months for signature, envisaging an export-import network of strategic value, and guaranteeing the production and transport of green hydrogen from Portugal to the Netherlands and its hinterland, through the ports of Sines and Rotterdam.

The next step is to “unite forces” in a candidature to Brussels for IPCEI status (Important Project of Common European Interest).

It’s with this status that Portugal particularly could start ‘selling’ the idea of its green hydrogen industrial ‘cluster’, transforming Sines into a renewable energies hub.

Stressed Galamba, “we won’t get anywhere if we develop hydrogen on our own…this is why we are talking with other countries: participating in international forums. In hydrogen, political commitment and collaboration between different stakeholders is as, or even more, important than the development of production technologies”.

There are arguments that green hydrogen is not even that ‘green’ nor as economical as it is being set out to be (see below), but for the purposes of Portugal’s ‘reindustrialisation’ and recovery from the current crisis, it is being touted as fundamental.

Hundreds of millions of euros are due to become available to Portuguese and international companies that ‘respond to the call by the government to develop hydrogen production projects’ while the national strategy for Sines is expected to involve investment of around 1.5 billion euros. 

Rotterdam is simply the first export focus. There’s talk already of Rotterdam developing into a form of ‘energetic spinal cord’, receiving hydrogen from Chile and Saudi Arabia as well, and then distributing it to northern countries.

“The reality behind Green Hydrogen’s soaring hype”

Various sources within the ‘green tech’ sector warn that ‘green hydrogen’ isn’t the decarbonisation panacea touted by so many countries.

Analysts at Wood Mackenzie – whose motto is ‘trusted natural resources intelligence’ – warn the fuel is not particularly efficient, let alone ‘cheap’, and thus ‘it’s hard to see it being used for electricity generation’ in markets where natural gas prices, for example, are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future.

Similar challenges could hamper attempts to make green hydrogen a viable alternative to electrification in the automotive sector.

‘Debunking green hydrogen myths’ is the gist of headlines in renewables publications which raise the alert over the ‘safety’ of storing this gas, as it is highly inflammable.

Bottom line, experts are calling for public consultation on all aspects of storage, transport and trade before much more in the way of hard-and-fast commitments go forwards.

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Image: Sines port