Lhyfe, a French start-up that sees itself as a global giant in the field of renewable hydrogen.

A few hundred meters from the Bouin wind farm, in the Vendée, a new factory built in 2020 is running at full speed. Powered by wind power and connected to the ocean but not connected to the national grid, it has been producing about 300 kg of renewable hydrogen per day for almost a year thanks to an electrolyzer that decomposes water. through electricity. Compressed and then transported by truck, the precious molecule thus received deliveries over several tens of kilometers, forklift trucks from the Lidl logistics site, dump trucks at Le Mans, or even buses from the neighboring city of La Roche. -Yon. What limits the ecological footprint of mobility in the region, argues its operator, who strongly believes in the future of carbon-free hydrogen.

But there are no giants of the sector on the horizon: it is the Nantes startup Lhyfe, created just five years ago, which operates the site – the very first. The latter offered him a turnover of 197,000 euros in 2021… which the company intends to increase tenfold in the next five years. By 2030, it has even set its sights on an installed capacity of 3 gigawatts (GW), equal to that of the giant EDF, which is now demonstrating its desire to become ” leader in the production of carbon-free hydrogen “.

To realize its ambitions, the young company announced earlier this week that it was listed on the Paris Stock Exchange with the intention of increasing its capital from 110 to 145.5 million euros. While it has already raised €76 million in convertible bonds.” of which approximately 47.8 million will be converted into shares on the IPO settlement day. “Therefore,” she clarified, “the total amount of the operation could reach a peak of 193.3 million euros.

Specifically, investors will have until May 19 to purchase the shares during the open price offer, even if Lhyfe values ​​them in the range of 8.75 to 11.75 euros.

Lhyfe weaves its network in Europe

With this future capitalization, Lhyfe hopes to conquer Europe. And it’s planting its seeds everywhere, with at least 93 onshore projects in the pipes that should open 4.8 GW of commercial pipes for it by 2028, the net player assures. In particular, it is part of the EU-funded GreenHyScale consortium, which plans to install a next-generation 100 MW electrolytic cell in Denmark by 2025, compared to the Bouin electrolytic cell with a capacity of only 1 MW.

The startup also announced last month that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with German energy company WPD to set up a 600 MW (240 tons per day) hydrogen plant. offshore wind farm (1 GW) in Sweden.

And that’s not all: Lhyfe recently won a tender in Germany from Siemens to supply, through production of 30 tons per year, Deutsche Bahn hydrogen trains… are built by the Siemens group itself. It also entered into a partnership with a subsidiary of the Portuguese renewable energy giant EDP, which will become its preferred supplier “.

The tricolor company is looking even beyond the Old Continent and announced in April that it has raised 10 million euros from the Japanese conglomerate Mitsui with the aim of ” expand internationally “. Thanks to this durable fabric, it almost five times the portfolio of EDF for hydrogen ‘, welcomes its President Mathieu Guenet today.

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European subsidies

It must be said that young shoots are sitting in a giant market. Because the whole world has high hopes for the massification of hydrogen, which will prove invaluable for the decarbonization of transport and industry, in addition to the electrification of processes. Moreover, the war in Ukraine has accelerated the process even more, especially for the European Union, which is trying with all its might to limit its extreme dependence on hydrocarbons from Russia. Thus, in its emancipation plan called REPowerEU, which will be presented next Wednesday, Brussels is aiming to double the green hydrogen production goal set in its 2020 strategy! This means that by 2030 production will be 20 million tons per year, helped by strong subsidies.

“I am a firm believer in green hydrogen as the engine of our energy system of the future,” even Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said during a meeting with the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. Thursday, April 28 .

Yet the use of hydrogen is not new, especially in industrial processes ranging from the development of synthetic fuels and petrochemicals to the production of semiconductors.

But today almost all of the 10 million tons of hydrogen produced annually in the EU comes from fossil fuels. through steam reforming of methane…

So with its future electrolysers directly connected to wind and solar power plants, Lhyfe aims to find a place to replace ‘grey’ hydrogen in the future mix with a market share of just over 0.8% in the European Union in 2050. It is now that society must seize this share “We slip into its ranks.

Carbon-Free Hydrogen: Another “Cliff” for the Tricolor Sector

Offshore wind power at the heart of the strategy

Still, the road will be long. While the production of a kilogram of “grey” hydrogen costs 1.90 euros, the “green” equivalent, whose production process does not depend on fossil fuels, now costs about 6 euros. But industrialization will significantly reduce the cost of the latter, argues Mathieu Guesne, while the cost of hydrogen produced from methane will rise due to the price of carbon and falling demand. Prior to convergence around 2030-2035, the launch is hopeful.

For the Bouin station, we have invested 10 million euros per MW. But for the next projects, it will be more likely to be around 5 million euros, since five times more hydrogen will be produced. ! […] Moreover, they will be profitable from the first year of operation. “, – also emphasizes the entrepreneur.

So while the company is suffering big losses with a negative EBITDA of over 5M in 2020, its CEO is looking for a return to the green from 2026 and a long-term Ebitda margin of over 30%.

First of all, it depends on the very strong use of offshore wind power,” key to green hydrogen massification for industry “, according to Mathieu Guene. And for good reason, offshore parks can offer more abundant and slightly less intermittent electricity than their onshore counterparts, whose annual load factor barely exceeds 25%.

“Tomorrow, hydrogen will be produced at sea. And we will be the first to master the technology of marine electrolyzers,” promises the founder of the company, who notably entered into a partnership with Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

By the end of the year, Lhyfe intends to commission the first 1 MW offshore pilot site off the coast of Le Croisic in the Loire-Atlantique, which will produce 400 kg of carbon-free hydrogen daily.

1 MW Plug Power electrolyzer from Le Croisic.

Follow-up brakes

However, there will be many issues before scaling. Because the creation of new parks raises serious acceptability problems, from Oleron to Dunkirk, through Saint-Brieuc, so much so that there are still none in France (even if the Parc Saint-Nazaire has begun its final stage). In addition, the international situation could greatly affect the wind energy industry and hinder cost reduction projections. Because the steel used for naval towers is currently selling for over $2,000 a ton, about three times what it was a few months ago!

Supply chain status […] unhealthy right now […] because we have an inflationary market that exceeds what anyone predicted even last year Cheri Hickok, general manager of GE Renewable Energy (the French subsidiary of US General Electric), warned last month.

Especially since the electrons used to produce hydrogen, with the loss in output that this chemical process implies, will represent a much smaller current available to the electrical grid.

We will never have enough renewable energy to produce green hydrogen “thus launched Emmanuel Macron at the end of 2021.

Faced with this observation, several strategies are already beginning to take shape. While the French government is counting on an abundance of nuclear power to produce local hydrogen, other states such as Germany or Belgium intend to import it in bulk, sometimes from far away countries.

In this fully built ecosystem, Life hopes to discover a third way: to bring consumption and production closer together, but without relying on the atom.

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