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GreeNH3 secures UK government funding for hydrogen storage tech

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The revolutionary GreeNH3 project has promised to transform the ammonia production process and usher in a new era of green hydrogen storage and distribution.

Ammonia – produced using hydrogen and nitrogen – is critically important in the production of fertiliser and as a fuel or energy carrier for hydrogen. However, the world’s largest ammonia production technologies use hydrogen from fossil fuel sources, with the majority of the carbon emissions generated in the hydrogen production method.

The GreeNH3 project will use Supercritical’s proprietary high-pressure electrolyser – powered by renewable energy – to deliver hydrogen without the need for gas compressors. This will then be used in Proton Ventures’ NFuel unit where the green hydrogen, under extremely high pressures, is combined with nitrogen from the air to produce ammonia.

Moving ammonia production to a greener process powered by renewable energy will not only help reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels; it could also help stabilise future energy costs for industry by breaking the link with the volatile gas market, which has seen prices reach unprecedented levels in recent months.

ScottishPower will operate the pilot facility, providing operator and market feedback – it is already exploring the export of green hydrogen or ammonia from the UK to countries like Germany through the Scot2Ger initiative.

The funding from the UK Government, supplied under the Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 Competition, aims to support innovation in the supply of hydrogen, reduce the costs of supplying hydrogen, bring new solutions to the market, and ensure that the UK continues to develop world-leading technologies for a future hydrogen economy. It follows on from the first Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply Competition. The competition forms part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP).

Barry Carruthers, Hydrogen Director at ScottishPower, said: “Innovative solutions like this are driving forward the clean fuels revolution, bringing green hydrogen and ammonia to markets that may not have realised there is a greener alternative, giving them a chance to do their bit for Net Zero. We’re looking forward to working with our partners on this study and hopefully demonstrating a more sustainable, cost-efficient way of producing ammonia.”

Luke Tan, Chief Product Officer at Supercritical, said: “Supercritical’s electrolyser is a hand in glove fit with the Haber-Bosch process. This demonstration opportunity will prove that, enabling a new market for green ammonia.”

Nitish Gadgil, Project Manager at Proton Ventures, said: “Proton Ventures is proud and excited to partner up with Supercritical and ScottishPower for this innovative GreeNH3 project. Our modular NFuel unit produces green ammonia, which is the most promising green hydrogen carrier and we strongly believe that this study contributes in kickstarting the green hydrogen economy.”

Energy Minister Greg Hands said: “The UK is truly leading the world in hydrogen innovation thanks to exciting efforts like this. The government support received today will help to boost the development of hydrogen as the clean, affordable, homegrown superfuel of the future.”

Green hydrogen has potential to be a ‘game changer’

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Hydrogen’s noteworthy contribution to clean energy transitions makes it a game changer for the power industry, says GlobalData. The data and analytics firm notes that the power industry can leverage hydrogen’s potential as a cleaner burning alternative to conventional fuels in the evolving hydrogen economy.

GlobalData’s report, ‘Hydrogen in Power – Thematic Research’, notes that, while the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources is currently expensive, the momentum that has been built along the entire value chain is accelerating the cost reduction in hydrogen production, transmission, distribution, retail, and end-applications. Now is the time to scale up low-carbon technologies and lower their costs, so that hydrogen technology can be widely utilized.

Sectors such as oil refining and ammonia, methanol, and steel production have been using hydrogen extensively. Hydrogen will play a critical role in the transition to clean energy with the advancement of its applications in sectors such as transportation (fuel cell vehicles), buildings (hydrogen blending), and power generation.

Sneha Susan Elias, Power Analyst at GlobalData, said: “Currently, in the power industry, hydrogen plays a minimal role and accounts for less than 0.2% of electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency. However, a change is highly possible in the near future, as the mixing of ammonia can decrease the impact of carbon in existing conventional coal-fired power plants, hydrogen gas turbines, and combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGT). When it comes to long-term and large-scale energy storage, hydrogen (in the form of compressed gas, ammonia [NH3], or synthetic methane) has a role to play in balancing seasonal variations in electricity supply and demand from renewable energy sources.”

Hydrogen is becoming popular as a low or zero-carbon energy source. The major growth markets for green hydrogen include green hydrogen replacing grey hydrogen and new markets such as energy storage, buildings, and transportation. Several countries have begun to consider a hydrogen-based economy as a solution to increasing carbon emissions, energy stability, and climate change issues. Green hydrogen presently has a small share in the production mix but is poised to increase, given the ambitious targets announced by countries. Through the Hydrogen Strategy for a Carbon Neutral Europe (EU Green Deal), the EU targets for a renewable hydrogen electrolyzer capacity of 6 GW by 2024 and 40 GW by 2030. India unveiled its National Hydrogen Mission in 2021 and aims for 5 million tonne (MT) green hydrogen production by 2030. Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy plans to set up hydrogen hubs regions wherein users of hydrogen are co-located to take advantage of existing users or potential hydrogen markets.

Elias concluded: “With global leaders in the energy industry in search of solutions that will help them to achieve decarbonization or enhance energy security, hydrogen is on track to becoming an energy vector and its use is gathering momentum.”

Glasgow hydrogen storage project gets green light

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A ‘first-of-a-kind’ hydrogen storage project near Glasgow has been backed by nearly £10 million in UK government funding, which it says will help create high-skilled jobs and drive progress towards decarbonising the UK transport sector.

The £9.4 million cash boost will see the Whitelee green hydrogen project develop the UK’s largest electrolyser, a system which converts water into hydrogen gas as a way to store energy. It will be located alongside ScottishPower’s Whitelee Windfarm, the largest of its kind in the UK, and will produce and store hydrogen to supply local transport providers with zero-carbon fuel.

Developed by ITM Power and BOC, in conjunction with ScottishPower’s Hydrogen division, the state-of-the-art facility will be able to produce enough green hydrogen per day – 2.5 to 4 tonnes – that, once stored, could provide the equivalent of enough zero-carbon fuel for 225 buses travelling to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh each day.

The announcement follows COP26, the global climate change summit held in Glasgow earlier this month, and supports the city’s ambition to become net zero by 2030. The Whitelee project will be the UK’s largest power-to hydrogen energy storage project, using an electrolyser powered by the renewable energy from the Whitelee Windfarm. This will create green hydrogen, a zero-carbon gas that is produced via electrolysis (splitting) of water, using renewable power.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “This first-of-a-kind hydrogen facility will put Scotland at the forefront of plans to make the UK a world-leading hydrogen economy, bringing green jobs to Glasgow, while also helping to decarbonise local transport – all immediately following the historic COP26 talks. Projects like these will be vital as we shift to a green electricity grid, helping us get the full benefit from our world-class renewables, supporting the UK as we work to eliminate the UK’s contribution to climate change.”

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said: “This tremendous investment at Whitelee Windfarm illustrates how serious the UK government is about supporting projects that will see us achieve net zero by 2050. In the weeks following COP26 in Glasgow, it has never been more important to champion projects like this one, which embraces new hydrogen technology while creating highly-skilled jobs. We can, and will, achieve a greener, cleaner future.”

Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power Ltd, said: ‘We are very pleased to be a partner in Green Hydrogen for Scotland and this first project, Green Hydrogen for Glasgow, will see the deployment of the largest electrolyser to date in the UK.”

Jim Mercer, Business President, BOC UK & Ireland said: “The Green Hydrogen for Glasgow project is both innovative and exciting. It will help to shape the future of energy storage and demonstrate the value of hydrogen to Scotland’s growing low-carbon economy. This project will accelerate development across multiple disciplines – from production and storage, to transportation and end use.”

Barry Carruthers, ScottishPower Hydrogen Director, said: “This blend of renewable electricity generation and green hydrogen production promises to highlight the multiple ways in which society can decarbonise by using these technologies here and now. Building on the government’s plans to make the UK a world-leading hydrogen economy and ensure the sector has the skilled workforce it needs, an additional £2.25 million in new government funding will support the development of hydrogen skills and standards in the UK.

“This funding, under the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, will see the British Standards Institution (BSI) develop technical standards for hydrogen products, and a consortium comprising Energy and Utility Skills and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers, will establish new standards and training specifications to facilitate the training of hydrogen gas installers.”

Net Zero, carbon capture and hydrogen: Regulatory developments 

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By Matt Lewy (pictured), Energy Partner at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson

The UK government is pressing ahead with the development of the regulatory regime for carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), following the latest suite of updated business models published in May 2021.

Ultimately the CCUS regime will look like many regulated utilities, with a fixed (or regulated asset base) return paid to operators and investors. That said, there is risk inherent in developing the transport and storage components of a technology largely unproven at significant scale. This is coupled with a need to ensure enough power plants and industrial emitters connect to those systems at an early stage, in order to make them financially viable.

The business model updates look at options for mitigating those risks, with the government ultimately providing backstop support. At this stage, it has not been confirmed who will be the regulator for the industry, and whether this role will be split between the onshore and offshore elements.

The government is running a procurement process, with nascent CCUS clusters in UK industrial heartlands bidding to become one of two priority, or track-1, clusters. These will work with the government in implementing the regulatory regime and developing the returns model both for the development and operational phases of each project. The intention is to apply lessons learnt from the priority clusters, which on current projections will be operational by the mid-2020s, to smooth the path for future investment.

The announcement of the priority clusters is pencilled in for 9 August 2021. There are probably five or six viable proposals under serious consideration. These include St Fergus in Aberdeenshire and Teesside. Whichever of the clusters are selected there will be a certain amount of levelling-up achieved, as there is a requirement to include a significant component of local supply chain content, with associated employment opportunities, within the cluster bidding process. In connection with this, the government has launched a supply chain mapping exercise, the intention being to ensure the UK becomes a market leader in the industry.

It is telling that the CCUS regime is significantly more advanced than that for hydrogen. The priority appears to be the decarbonisation of heavy industry, and learning to apply CCUS to natural gas. Gas power with CCUS will be used to provide electricity whilst the UK scales up renewable electricity generation and addresses its intermittency. Gas with CCUS will also be used in the production of blue hydrogen.

A further update on the use of hydrogen and its regulatory regime is expected from the government shortly. Whether this extends to more long term uses of hydrogen, i.e. outside the confines of localised clusters, such as in domestic heating and mass transport systems, remains to be seen.

UK businesses pledge £3bn to back British hydrogen

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The UK could see more than £3 billion invested in the emerging hydrogen sector as more businesses step forward to pledge funding – but only if PM Boris Johnson backs the low-carbon fuel.

Earlier this year, cross-industry group Hydrogen Strategy Now said its members were ready to pump £1.5bn into the UK hydrogen economy. The group revealed that figure has now doubled to £3bn as more businesses line up plans for hydrogen projects across the UK.

Now bosses from leading businesses have come together to call on Mr Johnson to pave the way for a British hydrogen economy in his long-awaited energy strategy as they vowed to heavily invest in hydrogen technologies.

Members of Hydrogen Strategy Now, which combined employs around 100,000 people and has a value of £100bn in the UK, said their shovel-ready projects would create thousands of jobs across the country, helping to kick start a post-Covid green recovery.

The group has welcomed the recent appointment of Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel and the South Downs, as the Government’s Net Zero Business Tsar, as a positive step in the right direction from Parliament.

But its members have warned that unless the sector receives load and clear backing from the Government, the UK risks being left behind the rest of the globe.

Attracting cross-party support, the Hydrogen Strategy Now collective wants to see a clear, strategic plan to help unlock significant private funding in hydrogen technologies and manufacturing across the country, driving growth and generating hundreds of thousands of green jobs.

They believe a UK-wide hydrogen economy will:

●      Create and sustain hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, green jobs, in all parts of the country and in alignment with the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda

●      Drive progress to Net Zero and improve air quality in towns and cities

●      Secure private investment into the UK, and unlock export opportunities for our products and skills

●      Increase our energy security by making fuller use of the UK’s natural resources

A letter from the group to Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier this year stated: “As you look to design a post-COVID recovery, we encourage you to focus on creating high-skilled, green jobs, in sectors that will be critical to the future economy, such as low-carbon energy, transport and heavy industry.

“These measures would be wholly complimentary to the Government’s levelling-up agenda and long-term decarbonisation goals. For example, the Committee for Climate Change has made it clear that the UK will not meet its Net Zero targets without significant investment in the hydrogen economy.

“The global hydrogen economy is estimated to be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050, supporting 30 million jobs. Other nations, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and China have already set ambitious strategies for growing their hydrogen economies. Just last week, Germany joined this list with their own €9 billion hydrogen strategy. The European Commission is also creating an EU hydrogen strategy, which includes plans for multi-billion euro investment in hydrogen projects, and schemes to boost sales of hydrogen electric vehicles.

“It is now clear that hydrogen is going to play an essential role in the world’s future, low-carbon economy. The increasingly bold steps being taken by other nations underlines the need for the UK to bring forward urgent measures to establish a hydrogen strategy and unlock investment and innovation. We should not risk falling behind other nations in developing our hydrogen industry.”

Huge energy storage site planned in Utah

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A plan to launch an Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) project in central Utah has been unveiled by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) and Magnum Development.

The ACES initiative, the largest project of its kind, will develop 1,000 megawatts of 100 percent clean energy storage, thereby deploying technologies and strategies essential to a decarbonised future for the power grid of the Western United States.

Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector have dropped 30 percent since 2005 (www.emissionsindex.org), because of a combination of natural gas and renewable power replacing retiring coal-fired power plants.

MHPS claims it has been instrumental in the transition and last year became the global market share leader for heavy duty gas turbines. As a next step in decarbonisation, MHPS has developed gas turbine technology that enables a mixture of renewable hydrogen and natural gas to produce power with even lower carbon emissions. 

The MHPS technology roadmap aims to use 100 percent renewable hydrogen as a fuel source, which will allow gas turbines to produce electricity with zero carbon emissions.

Magnum Development owns and controls the only known “Gulf Coast” style domal-quality salt formation in the western United States. With five salt caverns already in operation for liquid fuels storage, Magnum is continuing to develop Compressed Air Energy Storage and renewable hydrogen storage options. Strategically located adjacent to the Intermountain Power Project, the Magnum site is positioned to integrate with the western U.S. power grid utilising existing infrastructure.

In many parts of the western United States, there are times of day when demand for electricity is lower than the production of renewable power. This leads to curtailment of renewable generation and negative electricity pricing. As such, continued deployment of renewables will require that excess power be stored for later use. To serve the needs of the entire western United States, many gigawatt-hours of storage capacity are required.

Initially developing enough energy storage to completely serve the needs of 150,000 households for an entire year, the ACES initiative will deploy four types of clean energy storage at utility scale. These energy storage technologies include:

  • Renewable hydrogen
  • Compressed Air Energy Storage
  • Large scale flow batteries
  • Solid oxide fuel cells

“For 20 years, we’ve been reducing carbon emissions of the U.S. power grid using natural gas in combination with renewable power to replace retiring coal-fired power generation. In California and other states in the western United States, which will soon have retired all of their coal-fired power generation, we need the next step in decarbonisation. Mixing natural gas and storage, and eventually using 100 percent renewable storage, is that next step. The technologies we are deploying will store electricity on time scales from seconds to seasons of the year,” said Paul Browning, President and CEO of MHPS Americas. 

“For example, when we add gas turbines powered with renewable hydrogen to a hydrogen storage salt-dome, we have a solution that stores and generates electricity with zero carbon emissions.”

“Central Utah is the ideal location for this project, and Utah is a business friendly state for projects like this. Magnum’s site adjacent to the Intermountain Power Project is positioned to take full advantage of existing regional electricity grid connections, fully developed transportation infrastructure, ample solar and wind development capacity, a skilled workforce currently transitioning away from coal, and, of course, the unique salt dome opportunity,” said Craig Broussard, CEO of Magnum. 

“Magnum and MHPS are great partners. Magnum has the below-ground technologies necessary to store energy at utility scale, while MHPS has the above-ground technologies such as hydrogen-fired gas turbines, compressed air storage, solid oxide fuel cells and battery storage technology, to supply electricity at grid scale. With the ACES initiative, we will dramatically accelerate the vision of a western renewable energy hub that we launched over a decade ago.”

“The unmatched investment and innovation brought forward by MHPS and Magnum Development to rural Utah again demonstrates the power of the forward-looking energy policy I have advanced throughout my administration. Utah continues to set the standard among states for driving next generation solutions to market,” said Gov. Herbert. “I’m proud that Millard County’s skilled workforce, strategic energy infrastructure and unique geological salt domes have put Utah on the map as the epicenter of utility-scale storage for the Western United States.”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Waste2Tricity and PowerHouse Energy push solution for plastic waste

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Waste2Tricity (W2T) has signed a binding heads of terms for engineering services with PowerHouse Energy (PHE), giving it exclusive rights to use innovative technology that turns waste plastic into hydrogen, which can be used for transport fuel. 

The company says the technology has potential to not only create a green fuel but to clean up plastic from our oceans.

W2T are the exclusive developer in the UK and South East Asia, including Japan and South Korea for the Powerhouse PLC DMG (distributes modular generation) for Waste plastic to hydrogen and electricity. 

This converts unrecyclable plastic into high-grade hydrogen for use as a transport fuel, whilst also generating power for export by private wire or to the grid.

The technology has been developed by Powerhouse Energy over several years at the University of Chester Energy Centre.  The plastics to hydrogen plant will be located at their 54-acre Protos site near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

Waste2Tricity are fundraising and currently in discussions with large institutional investors and hope to expand across the UK for future projects with a vision for it to be scaled out globally.

John Hall, chairman, Waste2Tricity said: “We are excited to be the exclusive representative for the Powerhouse DMG system in a number of geographical regions particularly in South East Asia, where 90% of Ocean plastic emanates from.  

“Signing this agreement with PowerHouse Energy means this technology will soon be ready for a large scale roll out to eliminate the bulk of ocean plastics and making hydrogen the go-to fuel for the future.”

The next stage of development will focus on switching the technology to allow it to produce hydrogen for use in a distributed hydrogen network as well as syngas production for generating electricity.

The Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract is in negotiation and planning application for the development of the plant at Ellesmere Port is expected to be submitted in Spring 2019.

Subject to planning approval the plant could be operational later this year.