In Bourgogne-Franche-Comt, the hydrogen dream is coming true

Supply stations are coming into service, companies are setting up and laboratories are running at full capacity In Bourgogne-Franche-Comt, the hydrogen ecosystem is moving from project to reality.

Courted from all sides, McPhy’s company made its decision last fall. Finally, inside the Fontaine Aeropark, 10 kilometers from Belfort, the Drmois group will place its gigafactory of electrolysers. From the first half of 2024, it will test and build large-scale new generation equipment there (up to 100 megawatts or more), with the aim of gradually reaching a production capacity of 1 gigawatt (GW) per year. In case he wants to turn to high-efficiency anion-changing membranes (AEM), he can contact Gen-Hy, who will inaugurate his own factory this year, some twenty kilometers away, at the Technoland site. 2 of Allenjoie, northeast of Montbliard. The building permit is in the process of being filedsaid its president, Sbastien Le Polls.

Winner in 2020 of Ademe’s i-Nov innovation competition, the former FlexFuel spin-off is the only one in France to design and develop its own membranes. Initially, it will produce enough to supply 330 MW of electrolysers. Its neighbor is none other than Faurecia which, starting this year, will build high-pressure hydrogen tanks there. As a global center of expertise in this energy carrier for the entire group, the equipment manufacturer’s R&D site is located some twenty kilometers further south.

Dozens of specialized companies

To get its products certified, Faurecia didn’t have to look far. Baptis Isthy, the first testing and certification center for hydrogen storage systems in France has just opened its doors, also Fontaine, under the leadership of REI-Groupe (Rougeot Energie Invest), with the University of Franche-Comt. In the urban area of ​​Belfort there is also H2Sys, which specializes in hydrogen generators; Mincatec, a developer of solid form hydrogen storage systems; and, of course, Alstom, which is working on two freight-oriented hydrogen-related projects there: a shunting locomotive, and a high-powered fuel cell generator wagon. Further north, Hricourt, in Haute-Sane, the Gaussin company focuses, for its part, on heavy handling equipment (trailers), for ports and airports in particular.

We already have a developed network and expertise offered by several regions

Damien Meslot, Greater Belfort

But this territory is not the only one in the region that hosts companies from the hydrogen sphere. The project manager in charge of this sector within the regional economic development agency, Nathalie Loch counts almost fifty specialists in Burgundy-Franche-Comt, such as Mahytec, which produces high pressure tanks for stationary (type P4 ) in Jura; Sundyne, which makes membrane compressors, Dijon; or Oreca, which produces its own hydrogen combustion competition engine in Nivre, a very close distance from the Magny-Cours circuit. The company installed the first test bench there for this type of equipment.

Twenty years of experience

If we count those participating in the hydrogen value chain while having activities in other markets, we arrive at approximately one hundred companies, hinted Nathalie Loch. And every week, I am asked by new ones who want to diversify. Everyone is very motivated. By 2025, the region hopes to create a thousand jobs in this sector, including 450 for McPhy, 120 for Gen-Hy and 100 for Mahytec. A dynamism Bourgogne-Franche-Comt owes to its strong industrial and automotive footprint, but also to the leadership of its leaders.

With their support, the FC Lab was created there more than twenty years ago, initially launching research into fuel cells. From 2012, funded by the State and/or the Region, some concrete projects began to appear, such as the circulation of the first fleet of hydrogen vehicles in France: 10 quadricycles for postmen, christened MobyPost. In 2016, the entire region was selected as part of the national Hydrogen Territories call for projects. Three years later, the regional council allocated 100 million euros to an ENRgHy roadmap to support the growth of the sector: support for companies, investment in research and innovation, development of training. The Ecological Transition, was heavily negotiated with the government, on the same date and for the same purpose, but on a national scale.

Supporting laboratories and tools

Since then, an entire ecosystem has been established. Led by a research laboratory (Franche-Comt electronics, mechanical, thermal and optical sciences and technologies), the FC Lab became a research support unit (UAR), consisting of four laboratories for more than 150 researchers.It produces 70% of scientific publications on fuel cells, underlined Damien Meslot, president of the agglomeration community of Grand-Belfort. Its purpose: to support projects by facilitating the transfer of knowledge to industrial applications.

To this end, the structure offers high-performance equipment, with the characteristics expected by the end user, such as the Hyban test bench, the most powerful in Europe (up to 120 kW), or the vibroclimatic test bench . Developed based on detailed descriptions of the research groups’ needs, there is also another test bed within the Belfort-Montbliard University of Technology (UTBM). Several BTS, professional licenses and other masters have also been created, as well as three seats within the UTBM with McPhy, GRTgaz, Ineris or Enedis. Companies can also rely on several centers of expertise and exchange: the Mecateamcluster, dedicated to train maintenance machinery; the Energy Valley, which specializes in complex systems; and the Vehicles of the Future cluster, which brings together around 500 members, manufacturers and subcontractors from the Bourgogne-Franche-Comt and Grand Est regions.

Production has begun

On the production side, things are also getting clearer. From 2021, the AuxHYGen station in Hynamics, Auxerre, will be able to produce up to 400 kg of green hydrogen daily to supply five Safra buses in combination. In two years, it should theoretically increase to 1,200 kg daily, the goal is to replace the entire fleet, ie 30 buses, by 2028. A household waste collection vehicle will also arrive to be recharged there. But above all, Auxerrois could be the first French territory to welcome a hydrogen passenger train, in 2025, between Auxerre and Laroche-Migennes, through three dual-mode electric-hydrogen TER purchased in 2020 by Bourgogne-Franche-Comt.

Multimodal, another station should be inaugurated this year, at the entrance to Belfort, Danjoutin, to supply seven buses arriving at the end of 2022, and local manufacturers, then 20 buses in 2025. With a capacity of one megawatt, it depends on electricity produced by wind farms near Metz. Dijon, supplemented by renewable energies, will be the main incinerator of the metropolis’s household waste that will power McPhy’s electrolyser intended for the circulation of buses and community dumpsters. The Mcon agglomeration station should start operations in 2024 to operate nine buses and six dump trucks by 2024. It is also open to the public.

The collective training

Research, innovation, development, industrialization, production, certification and use: we already have a developed network and expertise offered by several regions, says Damien Meslot. An ecosystem strengthened by the habit, acquired over the years by each of the actors, of reasoning in collective mode. State, Region, laboratory, industry, administrative service: some cannot function without the other, review of Nathalie Loch. Training in the feed industry, which is based on research. Companies work together. For our part, within the economic agency, we not only accompany them for their establishment: we help them with their strategic structure. We integrate them into markets, regional or national networks, such as France Hydrogne. We make them visible.

And no doubt this guided the decision of McPhy or Gen-Hy to come and live in the region. Here, not only is there land available but we were helped to find it, to make the land viable, to apply for a building permit, details Sébastien Le Polls. We are also in a very industrial environment, surrounded by well-known companies, all subcontractors for welding, metallurgy, surface treatment. They have real knowledge, tools, machines It’s all these details that make the difference.

Article published on January 24, 2023

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