A vector of energy and opportunities to decarbonise our activities.
The need to decarbonise economies shines the spotlight on the use of hydrogen as a new energy vector.
Construction, energy and concessions: all of the Group's major businesses are involved in and committed to the various stages of the hydrogen value chain: production, storage, distribution and utilisation. To contribute to the development of the sector and to encourage innovation, VINCI teamed up with a number of international partners to launch the largest investment fund dedicated to low-carbon hydrogen in 2021.
At Leonard, VINCI's foresight and innovation platform, a think tank is studying the prospects offered by this new “green gold”.
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen (H) is the most abundant atom in the universe, but it is almost never found in its pure state - alone.
It is always combined with other chemical elements such as in water (H2O), in hydrocarbons (CxHy) or in living organisms. Extracting hydrogen from these primary resources requires energy. Currently, most of the world's hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, which release carbon into the atmosphere: we speak of grey hydrogen.
Hydrogen is currently used in many industries: refining, metallurgy, glass, electronics, textiles, fertilisers as well as in the aerospace sector... And the subject is nothing new at VINCI! Through Cegelec Space (VINCI Energies), a long-standing partner of the Kourou space base in French Guiana, the Group has more than 50 years’ experience in hydrogen-related fluid systems, the fuel used for the Ariane rockets.
More than 90 million tonnes of hydrogen are produced per year, more than 95% from high-carbon processes.
1,300 million tonnes is the global production of hydrogen estimated for 2050 by Bloomberg.
Hydrogen production methods
Total production 2021: 94 Mt
In millions of tonnes
|Coal: black hydrogen||17.9|
|Oil: black hydrogen||17.0|
|Natural Gas: gray hydrogen||58.3|
|Electricity: yellow hydrogen||0.38|
Hydrogen: the missing link in the energy transition?
In order to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, it is necessary to move away from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. This means finding alternative solutions. These include: renewable energies - with solar and wind power in the lead. Although they are developing rapidly, their intermittent nature means that they cannot meet all the world's energy needs.
Hydrogen could help overcome this problem. Alongside already established energies such as nuclear power, it is one of the most promising candidates to complete this “missing link” in the energy transition.
« Everyone is now aware of the revolution that hydrogen represents. Its development is accelerating and we feel very much that things are coming together,”
says Xavier Huillard, Chairman and CEO of VINCI.
Hydrogen has many advantages. Firstly, it has the highest energy-to-mass ratio. In other words: one kilogram of hydrogen releases three times more energy than one kilogram of petrol. In the form of dihydrogen (H
However, the large-scale use of hydrogen requires the removal of major financial, regulatory and technological barriers. The main challenge is to produce it in sufficient quantities and at a reasonable price using non-CO2-emitting processes.
Many governments have decided to make decarbonised hydrogen one of the cornerstones of their energy transition strategies. This is particularly the case in Europe, where the leading economies are demonstrating the continent’s desire to be a pioneer in the development of the sector. The strategy published by the European Commission in July 2020 aims to increase the share of hydrogen in the EU’s energy mix from the current 2% to 13-14% by 2050.
VINCI plays a role throughout the hydrogen value chain
Under the aegis of a new brand known as Hyfinity, VINCI Construction has brought together all the expertise required for design-build projects for carbon-free hydrogen production units. It delivers turnkey projects to its clients, whether they are energy producers or large industrial companies.
VINCI is a partner and shareholder of Genvia, a company created in 2021 on the initiative of the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission) and Schlumberger, whose objective is to industrialise a promising high-temperature electrolyser technology.
VINCI is also one of the 30 industrial companies that launched HyDeal Ambition in 2021. The aim is to prepare the European decarbonised hydrogen industry of the future which will take over from the exploitation of fossil fuels.
Storage, transport and distribution
The Group possesses specialised subsidiaries, such as Geostock , that are able to offer decarbonised hydrogen storage solutions to manufacturers, energy companies and governments. Currently, a quarter of the fossil fuels produced are permanently stored, in particular for strategic state reserves. The storage of hydrogen in tanks or caves is a major challenge for the sector.
Thanks to its profile as an integrator, combining knowledge of industrial processes and expertise in large-scale fluid and electrical systems, VINCI Energies is ideally positioned to support the industrial energy transition.
On the roads, the forthcoming arrival of hydrogen-powered vehicles poses a new challenge: refuelling these vehicles at service areas. VINCI Autoroutes is introducing growing numbers of projects for green hydrogen distribution stations.
The aeronautical sector is also counting on hydrogen to reduce its carbon footprint. Numerous experiments are underway in the airport infrastructures managed by VINCI Airports. At Lyon’s Saint Exupéry airport, as part of a partnership with Airbus and Air Liquide, teams are working on the implementation of decarbonised hydrogen installations: initially in gaseous form to supply heavy vehicles (in the airport itself and linking the airport to the city) with 2 tonnes of fuel per day by 2025; and then later in liquid form to refuel future aircraft by 2035. In Japan, three hydrogen stations are already in operation at the Kansai airports managed by VINCI Airports, including one that powers forklifts used for cargo operations. In Chile, teams are studying the installation of a hydrogen gas station to meet future needs within the airport itself and the region at large.