Hydrogen Cybersecurity

From the commitment to reach carbon neutrality to the war in Ukraine

February 2022 was an important month for hydrogen production, distribution, storage, use, research and development. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the European Union decided to phase out Russian energy imports as quickly as possible. The political commitments and decisions to replace fossil fuels were well accepted by all advocates of a clean energy future that ask for the decarbonization of many major industries. Hydrogen plays a key role in this clean energy future.

Technologies for the production, storage, transportation and use of hydrogen as an energy source are available today, but investments are necessary for the broader application that requires scaling up solutions.

Hydrogen may be produced through a variety of processes. Some are clean, some are not so clean:

1. ‘Electricity-based hydrogen’ refers to hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water (in an electrolyser, powered by electricity), regardless of the electricity source. The full life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the production of electricity-based hydrogen depends on how the electricity is produced.

2. ‘Renewable hydrogen’ or ‘Clean hydrogen’ is hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water (in an electrolyser, powered by electricity), and with the electricity stemming from renewable sources. The full life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the production of renewable hydrogen are close to zero. Renewable hydrogen may also be produced through the reforming of biogas (instead of natural gas) or biochemical conversion of biomass, if in compliance with sustainability requirements.

3. ‘Fossil-based hydrogen’ refers to hydrogen produced through a variety of processes using fossil fuels as feedstock, mainly the reforming of natural gas or the gasification of coal. This represents the bulk of hydrogen produced today. The life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the production of fossil-based hydrogen are high.

4. ‘Fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture’ is a subpart of fossil-based hydrogen, but where greenhouse gases emitted as part of the hydrogen production process are captured. The greenhouse gas emissions of the production of fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture or pyrolysis are lower than for fossil-fuel based hydrogen, but the variable effectiveness of greenhouse gas capture (maximum 90%) needs to be taken into account.

The 8th of July 2020, the European Commission released the communication with title "A hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe". According to the Commission, hydrogen is enjoying a renewed and rapidly growing attention in Europe and around the world. Hydrogen can be used as a feedstock, a fuel or an energy carrier and storage, and has many possible applications across industry, transport, power and buildings sectors. Most importantly, it does not emit CO2 and almost no air pollution when used. It thus offers a solution to decarbonise industrial processes and economic sectors where reducing carbon emissions is both urgent and hard to achieve.

All this makes hydrogen essential to support the EU’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and for the global effort to implement the Paris Agreement while working towards zero pollution.

Technological developments and the urgency to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions, are opening up new possibilities. Every week new investment plans are announced, often at a gigawatt scale. Between November 2019 and March 2020, market analysts increased the list of planned global investments from 3,2 GW to 8,2 GW of electrolysers by 2030 (of which 57% in Europe) and the number of companies joining the International Hydrogen Council has grown from 13 in 2017 to 81.

In transport, hydrogen is also a promising option where electrification is more difficult. In a first phase, early adoption of a hydrogen can occur in captive uses, such as local city buses, commercial fleets (e.g. taxis) or specific parts of the rail network, where electrification is not feasible. Hydrogen refuelling stations can easily be supplied by regional or local electrolysers, but their deployment will need to build on clear analysis of fleet demand and different requirements for light- and heavy-duty vehicles.

Hydrogen fuel cells should be further encouraged in heavy-duty road vehicles, alongside electrification, including coaches, special purpose vehicles, and long-haul road freight given their high CO2 emissions. The 2025 and 2030 targets set out in the CO2 Emission Standards Regulation are an important driver to create a lead market for hydrogen solutions, once fuel cell technology is sufficiently mature and cost-effective. Projects of the Horizon 2020 Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH-JU) are aiming to accelerate Europe’s technological lead.

Hydrogen fuel-cell trains could be developed to more viable train commercial routes that are difficult or not cost-effective to electrify: about 46 % of the mainline network is still being served by diesel technology today. Certain fuel-cell hydrogen train applications (e.g. Multiple Units) can already be cost competitive with diesel today.

For inland waterways and short-sea shipping, hydrogen can become an alternative low emission fuel, especially since the Green Deal emphasises that CO2 emission in the maritime sector must have a price. Scaling up fuel cell power from one42 to multiple megawatts and using renewable hydrogen for the production of synthetic fuels, methanol or ammonia - with higher energy density – are required for longer-distance and deep-sea shipping.

Hydrogen can become in the longer-term an option to decarbonise the aviation and maritime sector, through the production of liquid synthetic kerosene or other synthetic fuels. These are “drop-in” fuels that can be used with existing aircraft technology, but implications in terms of energy efficiency have to be taken into account. In the longer-term, hydrogen-powered fuel cells, requiring adapted aircraft design, or hydrogen-based jet engines may also constitute an option for aviation. To realise these ambitions will require a roadmap for the considerable long-term research and innovation efforts, including under Horizon Europe, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and possible initiatives as part of the Hydrogen Alliance.

Cyber Risk GmbH is a private company incorporated in Horgen, Switzerland. Cyber Risk GmbH is offering training programs in some difficult areas, like the new NIS 2 Directive of the European Union that changes the compliance requirements of many entities in the Energy sector, including the Hydrogen subsector, and programs that assist the Board of Directors and the CEO in understanding cybersecurity challenges.

The Board of Directors and the CEO of entities in Hydrogen production, distribution, storage, use, research and development, must understand that they are high value targets. For them, standard security awareness programs are not going to suffice. The way they are being targeted is anything but standard or usual. They are the recipients of the most sophisticated, tailored attacks, including state-sponsored attacks. These are attacks that are often well planned, well crafted, and employ advanced psychological techniques able to sway a target towards a desired (compromising) behavior without raising any alarms.

Countries expand their global intelligence footprint to better support their growing political, economic, and security interests around the world, increasingly challenging existing alliances and partnerships. They employ an array of tools, especially influence campaigns, to advance their interests or undermine the interests of other countries. They turn a power vacuum into an opportunity.

Countries use proxies (state-sponsored groups, organizations, organized crime, etc.) as a way to accomplish national objectives while limiting cost, reducing the risk of direct conflict, and maintaining plausible deniability.

With plausible deniability, even if the target country is able to attribute an attack to an actor, it is unable to provide evidence that a link exists between the actor and the country that sponsors the attack.

Our training programs

Cybersecurity Training for entities involved in hydrogen production, distribution, storage, use, research and development.

The NIS 2 Directive as it applies in entities involved in hydrogen production, distribution, storage, use, research and development.

Cybersecurity Training for the Board of Directors, in entities involved in hydrogen production, distribution, storage, use, research and development.