Technology, climate and environment

Swerim’s facilities in Luleå. Image: Swerim.

Three goals that drive development

Three Swedish climate goals motivate investment in the Swedish Hydrogen Development Center:

1

A completely fossil-free power generation 2040, especially by expanding the renewable energy (wind and solar). If it is to succeed, the flexibility of the electrical system must also increase.

2

Fossil-free vehicle fleet in road traffic 2030. Today, about 80 percent of the fuels are of fossil origin and account for about one third of Sweden’s climate impact. If the target is to be achieved, a 70 percent reduction in climate emissions in 2030 will be required compared to the 2005 level.

3

A climate-neutral society in 2045. The goal is that the net emissions of greenhouse gases will then be zero and that we will later achieve negative climate emissions. The industry, primarily the base industry, accounts for one third of the total climate emissions in Sweden.

 

Great interest in the area

emissions greenhouse gasThe climate goals are tough, but electrolysis and renewable hydrogen can make a difference by contributing to the balancing of electricity networks, energy storage and climate-neutral transport and industrial processes. However, cross-industry collaboration is needed to find the optimal solutions. Despite progress in the field, there are challenges concerning electrolysis technology, hydrogen storage, applications for stationary industrial processes, mobility and energy system integration.

The good news is the great interest in the issue. This is illustrated by a number of major projects that have been initiated in recent years, not least in Sweden. See examples to the right.

 

Three goals that drive development

Three Swedish climate goals motivate investment in the Swedish Hydrogen Development Center:

1

A completely fossil-free power generation 2040, especially by expanding the renewable energy (wind and solar). If it is to succeed, the flexibility of the electrical system must also increase.

2

Fossil-free vehicle fleet in road traffic 2030. Today, about 80 percent of the fuels are of fossil origin and account for about one third of Sweden’s climate impact. If the target is to be achieved, a 70 percent reduction in climate emissions in 2030 will be required compared to the 2005 level.

3

A climate-neutral society in 2045. The goal is that the net emissions of greenhouse gases will then be zero and that we will later achieve negative climate emissions. The industry, primarily the base industry, accounts for one third of the total climate emissions in Sweden.

 

Great interest in the area

emissions greenhouse gas

The climate goals are tough, but electrolysis and renewable hydrogen can make a difference by contributing to the balancing of electricity networks, energy storage and climate-neutral transport and industrial processes. However, cross-industry collaboration is needed to find the optimal solutions. Despite progress in the field, there are challenges concerning electrolysis technology, hydrogen storage, applications for stationary industrial processes, mobility and energy system integration.

The good news is the great interest in the issue. This is illustrated by a number of major projects that have been initiated in recent years, not least in Sweden.

Some examples:

Power becomes gas or liquid

Through electrolysis and renewable hydrogen, power-to-gas, P2G, can contribute to the balancing of electricity networks, energy storage and climate-neutral transport and industrial processes.

Today, there are mainly three different technologies for the production of hydrogen and oxygen by water electrolysis:

  • Commercial techniques: Alkaline low temperature (AEC) and polymer low temperature (PEM) electrolysis. Today there are about ten European companies that develop and deliver complete solutions in the field.
  • Demonstration stage: Solid oxide high temperature electrolysis (SOEC).
  • Lab stage: Melt carbonate electrolysis (MCEC).

Industries (such as the steel, chemical cement and paper and pulp industry) have large point sources  of carbon dioxide emissions. The carbon dioxide can be combined with renewable hydrogen for production of, for example, methane or methanol. As the product is in liquid form, the process is usually referred to as Power-to-Liquid, P2L. 

 

Hydrogen storage techniques

wind and solar powerHydrogen gas can be stored in many ways: In compressed containers or pipelines, in liquefied form, in metal hydrides or carbon or underground in salt formations or in metal clad caverns. The techniques vary – for smaller quantities compressed containers are commonly used, for medium-sized storages, liquefaction can be an alternative and for larger quantities, underground storage is the most cost-effective option.

Hydrogen gas can also be stored in the form of other fuels / chemicals, such as methanol after a reaction with carbon dioxide (see under the heading Power-to-Liquid) or as ammonia after reaction with nitrogen.

 

Research and innovation

Electricity and the investment for the electrolyser are usually the heaviest cost items in a P2G / P2L system. Technology suppliers’ focus is therefore on reducing investment and operating costs by developing more efficient and cheaper electrode materials with longer life span.

Development is also aimed at optimizing the electrolysis systems with operation at higher pressure / temperature to considerably greater effects to suit the industry’s needs.

Stepwise

Detail from the Stepwise facility, a part of Swerim’s research on hydrogen gas.

Supplementary basic research, for example on the development of new electrode and / or electrolyte materials, as well as system research on P2G / P2L systems as a whole, is mainly conducted by the academia and research institutes.

There is also a need for innovations in terms of cost-effective and mechanically stable hydrogen storage. In Sweden, research and development is underway on large-scale hydrogen storage within the HYBRIT project.

Other ongoing research concerns hydrogen storage on a smaller scale in the form of metal hydrides, and carbon fiber.

 

Existing facilities

Only one complete P2G / P2L facility is running in commercial operation today but around Europe, mainly in Germany, there are about 40 demo and pilot facilities.

In addition, there are a number of filling stations with on-site hydrogen production – for example, one was recently established in Mariestad.

Recently, decisions were also announced on two major plants for renewable hydrogen from water electrolysis, including one in Cologne (Shell), and one in the Norwegian Suldal (Alternative Investment Handelsgesellschaft Holding). They are either aimed at a single or a few applications, such as production of hydrogen gas as regulating and balancing power, for injection on a distribution gas network or to a combination with carbon dioxide for the production of single biofuels or chemicals.

RISE and Swerim have valuable complementary expertise and existing networks and lead, participate in or have established contacts with, several projects and industries described above.

Ongoing projects and initiatives

 

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The energy company Vattenfall has initiated the project HYBRIT in cooperation with the steel company SSAB and the mining company LKAB. The goal is large-scale production and use of renewable hydrogen gas (about 10 TWh / year) for the replacement of fossil coke and coal in the steelmaking process.

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Similar plans are available in Austria and examined in the EU project European H2Future.

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Another important project is Preem’s and Vattenfall’s collaboration to investigate the possibilities of using hydrogen gas (≥ 3 TWh H2 / year) from renewable electricity production in the manufacture of three million m3 biofuel in 2030.

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The EU-funded project FreSMe aims to establish and evaluate a pilot next to SSAB’s steel production in Luleå for the generation of methanol from CO2 derived from blast furnace gas and renewable hydrogen. In Sweden FReSMe is led by Swerim where the pilot plant will be hosted.

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LiquidWind plans to establish a production plant for methanol from P2G and CO2 on Sweden’s west coast, something that Swedish chemical industry has shown interest in.

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Swedegas and Region Gotland and others are planning to build a P2G demonstration plant for upgrading biogas to biomethane on Gotland.

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