On 16th October, Olsights COO Emmanuel Kirunda attended the ‘Joining Forces on Hydrogen’ conference in Brussels. The conference organised by the Belgian Hydrogen Council was attended by who-is-who in the Hydrogen Ecosystem from the BENELUX region and beyond. It showcased the strategic and technological ambitions that Belgium has in being a small country that does big things in Hydrogen. From its world leading ports Antwerp-Bruges and North Sea positioning themselves to be central hubs for the global hydrogen supply chain, to the many research centres and global companies such as CMB who are pioneering dual-fuel engines for ships, saying that Belgium punches above its weight is an understatement. The Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten was present to show a dedicated policy backdrop, which will further solidify in tandem with the EU Green policies, when Belgium ascends to the EU Presidency in January.
There were so many insightful presentations from dozens of industry players such as the Hydrogen Council, CMB, Engie, Air Liquide, research institutions such as UGent and the two Hydrogen Clusters WaterstofNet and Cluster Tweed. Main takeaways were three:
- Many countries including Belgium have unrealistic hydrogen targets. The Belgian 10Mt of hydrogen production by 2030 seems impossible given that as of now only 3 Mt of hydrogen production projects have reached FID globally.
- It is very clear that the US IRA is a turbo engine in the global hydrogen industry. Speakers looked at it not only as an ambitious big set of incentives, but also it was admired for its simplicity and speed. Within 6 months, it has delivered on 7 regional hydrogen hubs each worthy about $1 Bn. The EU desperately needs to take a leaf from the Americans.
- According to Prof. Aurore Richel from Liege University, Hydrogen has been known for more than 500 years (first observed in 1502), and water electrolysis for more than 200 years (since 1800). So much of the science and technology of hydrogen is not new. What has sparked the great hullaballoo about hydrogen is the 1972 -2006 definition of the molecule as a ‘universal energy career’. Unfortunately, the real problem preventing the progression of hydrogen projects is ignorance or biases by vested interests, a lack of a streamlined regulatory landscape , and organisational cultures that are steeped in archaic ways of making decisions.
It is the last point that fits very well with the Olsights Value Proposition. We know that the problem facing energy transition project development is largely an organisation problem, not so much technical. Our mission is to create an integrated decision-making tool that all stakeholders such as developers, permitting agencies, and supply chain can use to understand the main project drivers in one single source of truth. We are simplifying understanding of complex datasets, trimming the timelines for analysis and ultimately leading to optimal decision making so that more projects can reach Final Investment Decisions (FID). Having less than 1% of clean energy projects reaching FID (Deloitte, 2023) is a terrible testament to how awful project development is being undertaken. We need new ways, and new tools to screen the right projects.
By Emmanuel Kirunda, COO & Commercial Director.