The hydrogen consortium of the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) has made it its mission to competitively produce hydrogen on a large scale for industrial use, without CO2 emissions, by 2030. To this end, researchers will use a new centre, the Hydrohub, to test and develop an industrial-scale hydrogen production unit. The Hydrohub national test centre will have its home at EnTranCe, the Centre of Expertise Energy of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen.
This initiative, funded by the business community and the Top Sector Energy, has been made possible in part by a generous grant from the Province of Groningen to the tune of €1 million. EnTranCe director Jan-jaap Aué welcomes the arrival of Hydrohub: ‘Many businesses are keen to adopt hydrogen, but are too small to make the necessary investments. EnTranCe offers them the opportunity to put their ideas into practice.’
The need for sustainable hydrogen on a large scale
The Dutch hydrogen sector produces around 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year, generating 7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in the process. The current production method is to convert natural gas into hydrogen at high temperatures. By transitioning to the production of hydrogen by electrical means, the sector will kill two birds with a single stone: a considerable reduction of both natural gas use and CO2 emissions in the process. To competitively utilise this technology on a major scale will require electrolysis installations powered by sustainable electricity which are capable of converting water into hydrogen cheaply, efficiently and on a large scale.
As also indicated by the broadly supported Hydrogen Coalition, the economies of scale that will result from the green production of hydrogen will be crucial to the energy transition project. However, such economies of scale are impossible to achieve with the currently available electrolysis installations, which are only capable of generating a few megawatts. In order to achieve a complete transition to sustainable hydrogen, the sector requires electrolysis installations that are jointly capable of generating several gigawatts. The purchasing costs for such installations must also be lower and they must be more smartly designed than the current installations, as well as reliable and low-maintenance.
The Hydrohub: hydrogen technology on an industrial scale
The Hydrohub is an open test centre where the partners in the consortium as well as other knowledge institutes and businesses are able to test innovations from their own labs in electrolysis installations capable of generating 0.5 megawatts. Testing at that scale will reveal any new problems and how the technology will behave when it is scaled up. Once the hydrogen technology has been adequately tested in the Hydrohub, it can be incorporated straight away into an electrolysis installation on an industrial, gigawatt scale. As the research carried out at the Hydrohub is expected to lead to a standard for the design of large-scale electrolysis processes, the project has attracted plenty of attention abroad.
In addition, the ISPT hydrogen consortium will be conducting research into hydrogen infrastructure and the role of hydrogen in the energy chains of tomorrow. Case studies will be carried out to assess the viability of introducing sustainable hydrogen in industrialised areas such as Rotterdam, Delfzijl, Amsterdam, Geleen-Sittard (Chemelot) and the province of Zeeland. Hydrogen technology is an essential component of the industrial sector’s transition to sustainable, circular production, in which fossil raw materials and energy carriers will be replaced with ones that have been sustainably produced.