Many experts believe that hydrogen has great potential as a clean energy resource that can help countries achieve carbon-free goals. Green hydrogen, which is obtained from water by electrolysis on renewable energy sources, can be used to decarbonize a wide range of industries that are difficult to reduce, including petrochemical, cement and steel, which often require high temperatures and combustion that cannot be achieved. with standard wind and solar energy. Hydrogen can also be used in mobile applications and as a carrier of energy storage, among other things, so the future looks very bright for this future energy sector.
“Looking at this big growing market; the projects we see are emerging so quickly; transport and pipeline tasks facing us – infrastructure; and the industrial sector is just beginning to develop, it looks like we’re all climbing the Himalayas and just out of base camp, but we’re very motivated to move on, “said Dr. Hans Dieter Hermes, vice president of Clean Watergen of Worley, as a guest POWER podcast.
Hermes is “very excited” about the hydrogen market. Worley, an engineering company headquartered in Australia with a global team of around 48,000 consultants, engineers, builders and scientists according to the data, is currently implementing more than 120 hydrogen projects worldwide, he said. Although from a historical point of view this figure may seem large, the growth of hydrogen projects needed to decarbonize even some of the above sectors is staggering.
For example, Hermes, based in Berlin, said that if Germany’s heavy truck fleet ran on hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, the country would need to increase today’s hydrogen production by 100 times. “And I” I’m not talking about buses, I’m not talking about trains, I’m not even talking about the fertilizer industry, the chemical industry or steel, or home heating, just a truck park, “he said. As another example, Hermes cited household heating “In order to provide all German households with hydrogen fuel for heating, the existing production needs to be increased 830 times.” This gives us an idea of the scale of the task before us, “he said.
While many companies are investing in hydrogen technology, high production costs are now creating a barrier to widespread use. Today, most hydrogen is derived from natural gas, which is usually considered gray hydrogen or blue hydrogen when carbon capture technology is used. To reduce the cost of producing green hydrogen, the facility will need affordable and abundant renewable energy, and perhaps more importantly, further advance and expand electrolyzer technology.
However, Hermes expects this to happen fairly quickly, based on cost curves observed in other emerging energy sectors. In particular, he cited the marine wind industry as an example. He said that 10-20 years ago each offshore fund was a pilot project and the costs were very high. Currently, the industry is very stable and costs have fallen sharply. “I expect the same will happen with the hydrogen sector. We are already seeing a very sharp reduction in costs, ”he said. Cost reductions to date have been due to the integration of lessons learned from previous projects, as well as due to new developments caused by growing market demand.
Today, more than 50 kW / h is usually required to produce 1 kilogram of hydrogen using an electrolyzer. Hermes said that over the past few years, the cost of hydrogen in certain situations in northern European countries has fallen from a starting point of about 10 euros per kilogram to some projects that today produce hydrogen for 2 euros per kilogram. “It’s promising, and it’s not the end of the curve,” he said.
“In a few years we can see electrolyzers that use 20% less energy to produce the same amount of hydrogen. This is the same thing that has happened and has happened in other sectors, and it will happen here, ”Hermes said. “It has a huge impact on all the energy demand that you need to produce hydrogen, and it again has a big impact on the cost of the cost, and the cost will go down.”
Looking to the future by 2050, Hermes sees several “enhancements and barriers” along the way. “On the positive side, I could already note the development of technology, market development, cooperation,” he said. “On the part of barriers, regulatory framework and infrastructure, and how to get funding in this sector.”
Hermes suggested that the development of hydrogen technology is accelerating due to increased demand. He noted that some startups are collaborating and building each other with research into new types of electrolyzers. Significant improvements in productivity and energy efficiency have been observed in advanced plants. “We see innovation along the entire value chain, and I see it is definitely an incentive for the whole market and sector,” he said.
As for the hydrogen markets, Hermes said there is great demand for sales from all sectors. “This is a good example of good cooperation between government and industry,” he said, believing that government strategies to promote hydrogen use have prompted large corporations in the metallurgical and chemical industries to increase demand. “It also causes massive supplies of pure hydrogen from emerging markets because we know that Europe is happy with industry and infrastructure, but not with sun and wind,” Hermes said. “That means there [are] new players coming to these markets who have these conditions needed to produce hydrogen. Thus, the production of green hydrogen in the future will be based on marine winds, for example, in Northern Europe and North America – it is very reasonable to do – and on the basis of solar and coastal winds, for example, in the Mediterranean, Middle Sea. East, North Africa, the African region and Australia, ”he said.
The third element that Hermes considers promising is cooperation between industries to promote new technologies. He mentioned a consortium called Liquid Wind, which includes Worley, Alfa Laval, Carbon Clean, Haldor Topsoe and Siemens Energy. Worley is providing basic engineering services for the first Liquid Wind project in northern Sweden, which will be one of the world’s first eMethanol commercial facilities. Worley and its consortium partners intend to develop a standardized and modular concept of the facility that could be effectively replicated and assembled for future projects. Liquid Wind plans to build 500 methanol production facilities by 2050. “This is a collaboration between different technology partners,” said Hermes, noting that the aviation industry, which intends to use “environmentally friendly fuels”, is also involved.
“Our homework list has a regulatory framework,” Hermes said. “We will need to see measures to raise market carbon prices as well as increase emission limits. And for those countries where electricity is mostly connected to a large grid, namely the US, Europe and Asia, we need to reduce fees and taxes on green electricity so as not to make the electricity that goes to the cell too expensive because it will lead to expensive final price for hydrogen products ”.
Hermes said the introduction of “more trade facilitation tools” is also important. He noted that many large companies today finance projects with their own money. However, the deployment of the number of facilities needed to decarbonise the world will require banks and other institutions to finance projects.
Currently, average developers can’t get the money they need to start projects, “because they can’t predict the price of hydrogen.” So Hermes said it would be important to have trading platforms on which governments can guarantee ransom prices over time so developers can make the necessary calculations and get loans or credits for financing needed to move forward.
Government support will not be permanent because “funding is there,” Hermes said. “We all know that. Everyone goes for ESG financing, which is environmental, social, managerial, and every private person who wants to invest money asks their bank if it is also a “green investment or can I have something more sustainable?” And the whole financial sector is turning to it, so the amount of funding is there. It’s just that the regulatory framework and infrastructure for this must be developed in such a way that projects can be financed. “
To listen to the full interview, which includes additional discussions on water requirements, desalination strategies, countries leading in hydrogen research and development, other industries involved in the development of hydrogen technology, additional projects in which Worley cooperates, safety aspects of the new hydrogen economy, and more, listen POWER podcast. Click on the SoundCloud player below to listen in your browser now, or use the following links to go to the show page on your favorite podcast platform:
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–Aaron Larsson is the executive editor of POWER (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).