On 16 November, the departmental military delegation of Morbihan (Brittany) organised a conference under the patronage of the Morbihan prefect, Pascal Bolot, at the University Bretagne Sud in Lorient (Brittany).
The conference brought together experts* from the world of business, academia and the military on the theme of “Armed Forces and Hydrogen.” Organised and moderated by Philippe des Robert, 3 round-table discussions were held during the conference. The topics were: energy autonomy in operations, energy carrier for decarbonisation and education and research.
The day provided an opportunity to review the state of the art and current foods for thought in this area. Hydrogen could well bridge the gap between geopolitical issues and the energy transition.
The energy strategy of the French Ministry of Armed Forces
French Ministry of Armed Forces is developing an energy policy based on three strategic axes: reducing consumption to minimise the logistical footprint, encouraging the use of synthetic fuels for more efficient consumption, and diversifying energy technologies and sources of supply for greater national security.
The challenge lies in integrating these dimensions while guaranteeing fuel availability at strategic locations, particularly during the intense phases of military operations outside of France. This notion of availability is also part of the armed forces’ leitmotiv: “having the right fuel, at the right time, in the right place.” Incidentally, 0.45% of the fuel consumed in France is used by the military.
Why is the French army turning to hydrogen?
While hydrogen does not comes without challenges (storage, transport, safety), it can nevertheless meet needs that electric power cannot. Hydrogen is particularly well suited to meeting the military’s need for autonomy, flexibility and versatility. Prospects for the military use of hydrogen range from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the autonomy of special forces, including environments such as the seabed and exo-atmospheric space, as well as stationary applications. The conference also discussed land, naval and air mobility in a broader sense.
As of today, the armed forces rather envisage to use hydrogen through synthetic fuels, due to a lack of infrastructure. But the cards should be reshuffled by the end of the decade thanks to regulations (AFIR for instance).
Aside from the technical and economic aspects, hydrogen could strengthen energy sovereignty, by relocating fuel production on the French territory.
A boon for the French hydrogen industry
If the French Army opts for hydrogen, it means more investment in research and development. This will mean, among other things, greater innovation and an increase in the number of trained technicians. It is a strategic choice that will be beneficial for France for at least two reasons. On the one hand, the French hydrogen industry would be able to develop more rapidly. And, on the other hand, it would also establish France as a leader in the hydrogen sector.
To find out more about the discussions at the conference, you can access the 7-page report here (in French).
*Note that Seiya (editor of this site) took part in the event.