Tom Baxter Senior Lecturer, Chemical Engineering, Aberdeen University: Electrolysis may soon compete with CCS. Should electrolysis be shown to be able to compete on cost, the basis for SMR with CCS becomes very difficult to support.
Energy Voice 7th June 2019 read more »
A demonstration plant in Germany that converts wind electricity into hydrogen is probably the most emblematic of a series of pilot projects that could radically transform Europe’s energy landscape in the coming decade. Back in 2013, German energy utility Uniper achieved a world first – building a power-to-gas plant. Called WindGas, the facility became the first of its kind able to store wind energy in the natural gas grid. “The name WindGas is because renewable electricity is generated from wind farms,” says Axel Wietfeld, Managing Director of Uniper Energy Storage. “At that time, it was clearly pioneering because it was the first power-to-gas facility in the world,” he told EURACTIV in a phone interview. In the six years since it started operation, the 2MW capacity alkali-electrolyser at Uniper’s pilot plant has produced more than 8GWh of green hydrogen, Wietfeld says. The challenge now is to scale up production in order to bring down costs and make green hydrogen competitive. “The focus now should really be on the next steps to scale up power-to-gas production, beyond the pilot projects,” says Wietfeld. Green hydrogen is a 100% carbon-free source of energy which is widely seen as a central piece of Europe’s future low-carbon energy mix. Using an electrolyser, water is divided into its constituents – hydrogen and oxygen. When the electricity comes from renewables, the hydrogen can be labelled ‘green’ by opposition to ‘grey’ hydrogen which comes from splitting natural gas, a process which releases CO2. “Power-to-gas can de-bottleneck the electricity grid, therefore bringing system value that should be remunerated,” Wietfeld says. “But at the moment, it’s the contrary which is happening: we are classified as end customers and therefore we have to pay renewable levies and taxes. And it’s just not fair that those taxes are being transferred from one sector to another. That is something that needs to be addressed both at EU and at national level.” Scale is precisely what French company Storengy is trying to achieve. In Britain, the subsidiary of French utility Engie is spearheading a pilot project called Centurion at the Runcorn petrochemical site, where plastic is produced. The plant currently runs on grey hydrogen but Storengy plans to replace that with green hydrogen obtained from renewable electricity. And storage is needed in order to supply the petrochemical site when it needs it. “The plant does not run all the time and we need to run our electrolyser when electricity prices are as low as possible, so that’s why we need storage,” says Cécile Prévieu, CEO of Storengy. According to Prévieu, storage is a prerequisite to supply green hydrogen in large quantities. “Because in the supply chain, when you feed several large industrial sites, you have significant storage needs,” she explains.
Euractiv 29th May 2019 read more »