- Nov 3, 2020 6:56 pm GMT
Another informative webinar last week on green hydrogen hosted by Nadim Chaudry of GreenPowerGlobal and the Hydrogen Leaders network. This time on electrolyser technology and what it takes to scale up to 10MW plants, and (much) bigger. Lots of nuggets on hydrogen schemes, I share a few here.
One of the sessions concerned the choice between centralised and decentralised hydrogen production. This is a question that pops up often in business and I’m sure many of you have dealt with such choices, as have I. The 1 GW (or bigger) schemes tapping into North Sea wind involve so much scale that hydrogen production will be central (whether onshore, or offshore). Of course, this means infrastructure needs to be put in place to transport all that hydrogen to the end-consumers. The regulator will need to ensure access to infrastructure can be negotiated to achieve this where this transport involves pipelines (the cheapest solution).
Decentralised schemes offer proximity to the end-consumers but rely on niches of local, cheap renewable energy. That can be on offer when local renewable energy production exceeds local demand and there are grid capacity constraints. This monetising of curtailed renewable power production includes grid balancing as a service and the beauty of smaller, decentralised schemes is that they can thus be tailored to the local situation.
Take for example this 4MW scheme under construction near Innsbruck, Tyrol (Austria) where a large regional supermarket chain (MPreis, I know them from my skiing holidays over there) is the anchor hydrogen off-taker: https://www.demo4grid.eu/project/
Power is drawn in from the local grid at low prices (during curtailment) as the system provides primary and secondary grid balancing services. Provision of baseload power through a local hydropower plant can be added later to increase hydrogen production. Key enablers for this rapid response are the pressurised alkaline electrolyser (as opposed to non-pressurised) and hydrogen storage. The latter decouples the electrolyser from hydrogen demand so that it can be turned down or up depending on available power without the customers running short of the agreed hydrogen supply.
Ultimately, this scheme will produce hydrogen for four different applications:
- Industrial heat for MPreis’ bakery and butchery
- FCE trucks for MPreis’ fleet of vans, forklift trucks, and trucks
- Public transport: FCE busses
- Private mobility: hydrogen for FCEV’s of local residents
Clearly, MPreis wants to decarbonise its supply chain and it is the sort of thing ec-conscious consumers are beginning to demand from their supermarket retailer. What I’m missing is an indication that the oxygen produced is monetised. And if the same is true for the waste heat from the pressurised alkaline electrolysis (PAE) which the co-location next to the MPreis plant offers. At 15-20% of installed capacity, this waste heat could be between 800-1000kW at peak load. That is a reasonable amount which would free up more hydrogen to sell to mobility customers improving project economics. Provided of course that the investment to capture and transfer the waste heat provides an acceptable return in the first place.
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