With hydrogen produced from renewable sources such as wind power, a significant portion of today’s carbon emissions from industry, transport and heat generation could be avoided. Vattenfall is, therefore, exploring different options for using hydrogen to decarbonise our society.
Wind and solar are expected to make the largest contribution to the EU’s renewable energy targets by 2030 and beyond. At least 32 percent of total energy consumption in the electricity, heat and transport sectors is to be covered by renewable energies – within ten years.
With renewables facing some challenges, including disruption, overcapacity constraints, or long haul transmission difficulties, Vattenfall sees great potential in hydrogen use to address these challenges.
The surplus energy from wind and solar power generation can be used to produce hydrogen using electrolysis, rather than letting it go unused due to grid capacity restrictions or lower demand. In addition, there will be a great demand for renewable electricity to electrify all sectors and to replace conventional power generation.
Buffer between supply and demand
This so-called “green” hydrogen from renewable sources can serve as a buffer between energy supply and electricity demand. Or as an energy source between the electricity sector and the heat and transport sectors, where otherwise it might be difficult to achieve full decarbonisation through electrification.
“Hydrogen is an important factor in the sector coupling between the electricity system and the other energy sectors and allows the integration of renewable energy into the system. Vattenfall is looking for future business opportunities for green hydrogen and therefore wants to develop the technology towards a competitive, large-scale development, “said Oliver Weinmann, Managing Director of Vattenfall Europe Innovation.
Opportunities for Big Business
At present, hydrogen is used in many industrial processes. It is a fundamental building block for the production of ammonia, which can be used in fertilizer production. Refineries that use hydrogen in the processing of oil-based intermediates are other applications. A share of 55 percent of the hydrogen produced worldwide is used for ammonia synthesis, 25 percent in refineries and about 10 percent for methanol production. In addition to projects in the transport sector, Vattenfall is involved in various strategically important projects in these industrial sectors and cooperates with strong partners.
“Partnerships with the right industrial players, the accumulation of experience in existing projects and the pooling of all competencies within our energy company are a competitive advantage for us,” says Weinmann.
Vattenfall’s hydrogen roadmap to 2025 shows significant business potential in the following three areas:
- Heavy transport such as in bus, rail, truck or boat traffic, where hydrogen can be used as fossil-free fuel.
- Refineries, for example, to produce low-carbon biofuels, as part of the cooperation of Vattenfall with PREEM, or to replace fossil fuels.
- Industries, for example, the HYBRIT project for the production of fossil-free steel in cooperation with the Swedish steel producer SSAB and the mining company LKAB.
Vattenfall targets different applications for hydrogen in different markets, depending on the national framework, existing infrastructure, and ongoing partnerships.
Hydrogen plant planned in northern Germany
In Germany, an initiative called HySynGas is being planned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) as part of the funding plan “Reallabore”. Vattenfall is cooperating with Arge Netz and MAN Energy Solutions on an industrial-scale first power-to-gas plant in Brunsbüttel, northern Germany, which will produce hydrogen and synthetic gas from renewable sources. This can supply green gas for the operation of buses, trucks, ships and raw materials for the chemical industry in this region.
“Hydrogen is becoming an exciting business for Vattenfall. Based on our market strategy, we have developed a pipeline of several commercially viable projects in our core markets that can be realized in the near future, “explains Oliver Weinmann.
Why is hydrogen climate-friendly? When fossil fuels are burned, they produce carbon dioxide and other emissions. When hydrogen is converted into fuel cells, it produces only H2O, which is pure water.
Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis. For this, you only need pure water and electricity. In the electrolyzer, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen. For this purpose, electricity from renewable sources is used. In this process, CO 2 -free hydrogen is generated.
Blue hydrogen: At present, most of the hydrogen produced is produced by the steam reforming of natural gas. The resulting in this process CO 2 can be captured and stored in depleted gas fields or aquifers or be used in other chemical processes. Blue hydrogen is therefore CO 2 -neutral.
Gray hydrogen: The CO 2 from hydrogen production by steam reforming is released into the air. This is currently the most widespread procedure.
Vattenfall is interested in the use of green hydrogen.