“Hydrogen Valley” objective: work in progress from Lombardy to Sicily
A constantly growing number of companies in Italy are keen to build hydrogen ecosystems in their local areas. The projects involve companies and local administrations, in line with national and European strategies
A growing number of realities in Italy could turn into “Hydrogen Valleys”, in other words develop an ecosystem in their local areas that includes both the production and consumption of hydrogen as well as combining research, industrial and civil applications and sustainable mobility.
The development of the hydrogen vector, specifically “green hydrogen”, is one of the European Union’s priorities. In July, the EU presented its strategy for the development of this resource with the aim of reaching ten million tonnes by 2030 and a 13% share in the European energy mix by 2050.
In recent months, various Italian locations and structures have launched projects in line with the national hydrogen strategy and the European Recovery Plan.
The Malpensa Airport Masterplan 2035 – the development strategy for the next 15 years which will be presented by mid-October – envisages the use of hydrogen-powered aircraft as one of the objectives. The airport in Lombardy therefore might well become the hub of a “Hydrogen Valley”. The topic was discussed during a meeting last 20 September between the Lombardy Region and the directors of Società Esercizi Aeroportuali (SEA – the airport management company), whereby a pilot project will soon be launched.
There is already an operational plan in Lombardy for rail transport in Val Camonica along the Brescia-Iseo-Edolo route, where the “H2iseO” project by Fnm and Trenord envisages the conversion of the non-electrified line, currently used by diesel trains with electric-hydrogen hybrid locomotives.
Large companies increasingly focusing on the development of hydrogen include Snam, which last May announced the launch of the Hydrogen Innovation Centre, whose first headquarters will be inaugurated in Modena as part of a collaboration agreement between Snam and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
In Central Italy, Enea set in motion a project for a Hydrogen Valley at the Casaccia Research Centre, 25 km north-west of Rome, with the aim of creating the first Italian technological incubator for the development of the supply chain. Funds of approximately14 million euros will be made available by Mission Innovation, a global initiative involving 24 countries and the European Commission with the aim of accelerating innovation in the clean energy field and tackling climate change.
In Umbria, Terni Cityt Council launched the Hydra – Hydrogen technologies deployment for a revolution in transport applications project together with Ast, Atc & Partners Mobilità and BusItalia for the construction of hydrogen storage and refuelling infrastructures by 2023.
On the other hand, four Regions – Sicily, Piedmont, Apulia and Sardinia – have applied to host the National High Technology Centre for Hydrogen where initiatives or projects are already underway to develop the carrier.
The Sicily region was among the first to show its interest last March and on 17 July launched the “Manifesto for Hydrogen” during the Catania 2030 – Green Expo of the Mediterranean event.
The Piedmont Region is among the few in Italy to have built and supported the creation of a hydrogen supply chain already involving companies and research centres engaged in projects and more than 3,000 square metres of dedicated and already active areas.
In Apulia on 14 September Edison and Snam signed an agreement with Saipem and Alboran to develop three green hydrogen production plants in Brindisi, Taranto and Cerignola, one of the first initiatives for the production and use of green hydrogen on a large scale in Italy.
In Sardinia, on the other hand, will finance the project to upgrade the Alghero Centre-Alghero Airport railway connection, with the construction of hydrogen plant and rolling stock for the Sassari-Alghero-Fertilia Airport line.
On 23 September, the Minister of Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility, Enrico Giovannini, signed the decree assigning 1.55 billion euros to the Regions from the Complementary Fund to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (Pnrr) and which also includes 140 million euros for the project to upgrade the Sardinian railway network.