Minnikhanov on hydrogen energy: 'Fuel price should be competitive!'

Tatarstan has been invited to build a 'hydrogen highway' from Rusnano, but Rustam Minnikhanov remained silent in response

The conversion of commercial vehicles to hydrogen fuel can become widespread if its cost is 20-30% cheaper than diesel, Rustam Minnikhanov discussed that way about the future of hydrogen energy at the meeting of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding on 25 May. Otherwise, it will be necessary to introduce a ban on the use of diesel fuel. Aleksey Kashin, the head of InEnergy Group, a partner of Rusnano, spoke about the new approaches to the introduction of new fuel cells in transport, simultaneously inviting Tatarstan to take part in the sensational project for the construction of the “hydrogen highway” on the route Moscow-Kazan. It is expected that the agreement between the partners of Rusnano will be signed on June 5, but whether Tatarstan will be among them remains a mystery.

Tatarstan should “charge up” for hydrogen energy

The main attention of the members of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest-Holding (TNKI-H) was focused on the speech of the head of InEnergy Group, Aleksey Kashin, who, with the support of Rusnano, is engaged in the introduction of hydrogen fuel cells in transport — the new alternative fuel. The main result of this work may be the launch of a pilot project for the construction of a “hydrogen highway” on the Moscow-Kazan route, which, as Aleksey Kashin himself explained, had not received support for a long time. However, with the development of new technologies, the project can still take off. According to the head of InEnergy Group, the agreement is expected to be signed between Rusnano partners on 5 June, and Tatarstan has also received an invitation to join.

“We have repeatedly talked about this project, but it seems to me that it has not yet found proper support — this is the Moscow-Kazan hydrogen highway," Kashin said. “This is a throughly detailed project with options for implementing the hydrogen infrastructure from Moscow to Kazan. It indicates the intermediate points where such hydrogen transport could be refuelled. Local solutions for hydrogen-powered transport could be developed there.

According to him, in connection with the new trend for the introduction of hydrogen energy, the project can gain serious support. Kashin called on Tatarstan to “charge up” for it.

“Now this agenda is gaining momentum in the country. In general, it is strange to see a modest place of Kazan. It seems to me that Tatarstan has every chance to become a leader in terms of the use of hydrogen in the petrochemical complex in the first place," he said.

According to Aleksey Kashin, Tatarstan petrochemical enterprises could start developing the domestic market of hydrogen fuel, which provides 20% savings in electricity costs.

“Now the market for such projects is being formed, and Tatarstan has every chance to assert itself in stationary energy and chemistry," he said.

According to the head of InEnergy Group, hydrogen energy has two mega-significant markets worth $200 billion each. These are stationary (that is, for industrial consumers) and commercial transport.

Speaking about production, Aleksey Kashin said that hydrogen energy is used in the technological process of the enterprises of TAIF Group (Kazanorgsintez, Nizhnekamskneftekhim). “The main advantage is high efficiency. The fuel cell is a unit that directly converts the chemical energy of fuel into electricity and heat without moving parts. Actually, the specific material consumption per kilowatt is lower and the efficiency is higher," he explained the easy entry of hydrogen energy into the industrial sector.

Hydrogen fuel results in savings with a price of 300 rubles per kg

It is another matter to introduce these technologies in transport. There is a number of significant limitations for their ubiquity — a relatively high price, undeveloped infrastructure, and weak technological solutions for storing and transporting hydrogen. Can they be overcome?

“Everything that weighs more than 4 tonnes — the advantages of hydrogen are visible," says Kashin. “Despite the hydrogen hype, we believe that the early stage of the market will last for another 3-7 years.”

However, Rustam Minnikhanov questioned the categorical nature of such approaches. According to Rustam Minnikhanov, in order to switch to hydrogen, the cost of fuel must be competitive, otherwise it will be necessary to introduce protective measures. “Either we do not allow those who emit harmful substances, or it should be cheaper by 30% than the price of diesel fuel," the president said. He asked if the calculations had been made.

The head of InEnergy Group replied that while hydrogen energy is more expensive than diesel fuel, but “if we count now”, and not in the long term.

“There are three options: with logistics from the Moscow oil refinery, the delivery at 900 rubles per 1 kg is being discussed with Gazpromneft. But if it is natural gas, it will be 9 times less — up to 100-120 rubles, depending on haul distance. With compressed gas, we can get into the cost of 200-250 rubles per kg. At this price, hydrogen gives savings," Kashin assured.

Then the president asked what to do with the charging infrastructure. “Electric vehicles have to be charged. The electric capacity that we have is not ready. Today it's like a toy. Let's 'charge' it for free," the president of the Republic of Tatarstan said. According to him, the grid economy is unable to ensure the transition to electricity.

“Those who bought electric cars are returning [to fuel cars]. There is an inner conviction that the fashion from electric cars will switch to fuel cell. Fuel is a complex product and high-tech," he concluded.

Kashin replied that there would be more hydrogen gas stations as the number of vehicles was increasing.

Then the president of Tatarstan asked what to do with the disposal of fuel batteries: “I've read that the first Tesla cars have already served their time. There is the issue with the batteries. Are there any prospects?"

Maganov likes fuel cell batteries

After a long discussion, the president acknowledged that large businesses are interested in fuel cell batteries. “We in Japan and Germany wanted to buy batteries, but it didn't work out," Nail Maganov, the director general of Tatneft, joined the conversation. “We took a fuel cell in Snezhinka. It's like a Soviet ZIL refrigerator, with natural gas inside. Gazprom used them on the main lines to power the instrumentation and automation system. And the American plates got out of order within a week," he complained.

“Maganov likes fuel cells, you can sell them to him," Rustam Minnikhanov joked.

Kashin said that today the longest-running cells is in Kazan, on a Gazprom pipe. It has worked for 26,500 hours.

Let us remind that in 2024, it is planned to bring the first buses running on hydrogen fuel to the streets of Russian cities. A prototype of such bus is to be created by the end of this year. This work is being carried out as part of the execution of the order of the president of the Russian Federation to launch a test bus on hydrogen fuel cells by the end of 2021 and to start pilot operation in 2024.

By Luiza Ignatyeva. Photo: tatarstan.ru