Construction starts on world’s largest hydrogen pilot plant

Siemens has developed what is currently the world's largest PEM (proton exchange membrane) electrolyser module for the research facility in Linz. With a capacity of 6 megawatts, the plant will be able to produce 1,200 cubic meters of "green" hydrogen an hour. Photo: Siemens

Global demand for hydrogen could increase tenfold by 2050, to around 6 trillion cubic meters

An EU-funded flagship project for a CO2-reduced energy future and the decarbonization of steel production is taking shape, according to a press release from Siemens. The H2FUTURE project consortium, consisting of voestalpine, Siemens, VERBUND, and Austrian Power Grid, together with the research partners K1-MET and ECN, officially gave the go-ahead for construction of the world’s largest pilot plant for the production of “green” hydrogen.

With a capacity of 6 megawatts, this is the most effective and advanced plant of its type, according to Siemens. The project partners will use this facility to research into future breakthrough technologies which are needed to meet global climate goals over the long-term. The plant is scheduled to be fully operational by spring 2019.

Reducing CO2 emissions by around 80 per cent to 2050 is the central climate goal, and requires both energy suppliers and industry to prepare themselves and explore new pathways together. This is the role of the H2FUTURE research project. More than 600 billion cubic meters of hydrogen are used annually worldwide, more than 95 per cent of which is produced via a CO2-intensive process.

What will be the world’s largest and most advanced plant of its type for generating “green”, i.e. CO2-free hydrogen, will be built at the voestalpine premises in Linz. In future the EU-funded EUR 18 million project will be used to test the potential applications for green hydrogen in the various process stages of steel production, and integration into the power reserve markets for the power grid.

For the industry, transport, and energy sectors, CO2-free hydrogen is an important source of energy for sector coupling and can significantly contribute to achieving the climate goals. The new plant is designed to be a technological milestone on the pathway to the energy transition, and thus to the gradual decarbonization of the steel industry, says Siemens.

After the launch of the project at the beginning of 2017, construction of the pilot facility at the voestalpine site in Linz has now accelerated. The foundations are in place and construction of the hall is currently underway. The core electrolysis components will be delivered during the summer, with the plant going live within a year.

The start of the comprehensive two-year test program is planned for spring 2019.

The goal is to research real breakthrough technologies which will be applicable on an industrial scale in the next couple of decades,” says Wolfgang Eder, Chairman of the Management Board of voestalpine AG.

The vision of the technology and capital goods group is to move away from coal and coke via bridging technologies based on natural gas, as is already the case at the direct reduction plant in Texas, and finally on to the greatest possible use of green hydrogen.

“The prerequisite is the provision of sufficient energy from renewable sources and at competitive prices,” adds Herbert Eibensteiner, Member of the Management Board of voestalpine AG and responsible for the Steel Division.

“At the core of the plant beats a high-tech heart from Siemens. Using green electrons we split water into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen,” explains Wolfgang Hesoun, Chairman of the Managing Board of Siemens AG Österreich (Siemens Austria).

“Siemens’ DNA is clean energy: from generation and distribution to application. Efficient technologies are a key element in curbing climate change with its dramatic consequences.”

Siemens has developed what is currently the world’s largest PEM (proton exchange membrane) electrolyser module for the research facility in Linz. With a capacity of 6 megawatts, the plant will be able to produce 1,200 cubic meters of “green” hydrogen an hour.

Global demand for hydrogen will increase tenfold by 2050, to around 6 trillion cubic meters, according to the release. Plants such as the one in Linz are the prerequisite for meeting this growing demand in an almost CO2-neutral manner. It’s also possible for energy-intensive industries to be climate neutral.

“This outstanding project takes us one step closer to the goal of global decarbonization,” said Roland Busch, Chief Technology Officer and member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG.

“This technology supports our customers as they drive transformation within the energy sector and enhance climate protection. Siemens has set ambitious decarbonization goals for itself: by 2020, we’ll have cut our carbon footprint in half, and we’ll be climate neutral by 2030.”

Only when water is electrolyzed using electricity from renewable sources can “green” hydrogen be produced. With its 128 hydropower plants, VERBUND, Austria’s largest electricity company and a leading European hydropower electricity producer, generates almost 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

“To integrate the volatile renewable energy from wind and solar power into the energy system, we will need even more storage capabilities in future. In addition to our pumped-storage plants in the Alps, and battery storage solutions of various dimensions, we see huge potential in energy storage with green hydrogen,” said Wolfgang Anzengruber, CEO of VERBUND.

“For us, “green” hydrogen is the perfect example of the sector coupling which is urgently required for decarbonizing power generation, industry, and transport.”

VERBUND will supply electricity generated from renewables for the H2FUTURE project, and is also responsible for the development of grid-relevant services. Using demand side management, the PEM electrolyser functions as a dynamic, normal load component, helping to compensate for fluctuations in an increasingly volatile power supply.



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