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⚡ "Green Hydrogen: Miracle or Mirage?"

Redefining Energy

Photo by American Public Power Association / Unsplash

Hosts: Gerard Reid & Laurent Segalen
Guest: Graham Cooley | CEO | ITM Power
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:21] “We need to get to net zero, not only at the level of electrons, but also at the level of molecules. And in the old system, all of the energy storage was at the level of the molecules. So you had stored energy in coal and gas and when you released it new made electrons. The new system has got net tero electrons from renewable power and actually we need to get to net zero molecules as well. And the way you do that, is you take a net zero electron, and you make a zero carbon fuel by splitting water and you make green hydrogen. And that's really the rationale of green hydrogen, it's to have both net zero electrons and net zero molecules.

[5:39] “In an electrolyzer, you take electricity, you pass it through water. […] Actually, water is not very conductive, and you make hydrogen and oxygen by splitting the water molecule. This is electrolysis. So, you either need to add a chemical electrolyte or you need to add a polymer electrolyte with fixed charges rather than mobile charges. So, the old fashioned way of doing it is to use a concentrated solution of an alkaline, mostly using potassium hydroxide, you pass the current through then. […] You're using OH- to transport the current and you have a bubble stream which comes off of each electrode, one hydrogen and the other oxygen. Also, the bubble streams mustn't mix, because they're hydrogen and oxygen. The problem with this system is that potassium hydroxide absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, which poisons the cell and so you can't pressurize the cell and you can't turn it on and off quickly. You have an electrolyzer system that you have to turn on very, very slowly, you have to leave it on, you can't certainly couple it to renewable power or use it for grid balancing and you can't make high pressure hydrogen, you make it at atmospheric pressure.”

[7:11] “The development of the industry has been to move away from a liquid electrolyte to a polymer electrolyte with fixed charges that transport protons, which are more mobile than OH- ions. Now you have a system which has no corrosive electrolyte, doesn't absorb CO2 into the electrolyte to poison the stack, an electrolyzer that you can turn on and off rapidly, and an electrolyzer that makes clean hydrogen at high pressure. And actually, when you do that, the overall balance of the plant is lower cost. Because you don't need a blanket gas, you don't need compression, and you don't need to clean the hydrogen, it comes out at five nines purity. And the key reason is that you can use a PEM electrolyzers to turn on and off rep. You can use it as a flexible load, which means it can respond to fluctuations in the power grid, or indeed be used to be coupled directly to renewable power.”

[8:32] “The dominant cost in the production of green hydrogen is the load factor and the cost of the renewable power. [An electrolyser] is a conversion device, not a generation device. So you're tolling through renewable power to make a renewable molecule.”

[10:42] “The entry market for green hydrogen is replacing gray hydrogen in industry. The world uses 70 million tons of hydrogen every year, but also if you include the hydrogen used via syngas for the production of methanol, that's an additional 20 million tonnes. […] But the 70 million tonnes is equivalent to 600 gigawatts of electrolysis. It's a big amount of electrolysis. And that 70 million tonnes is used in refining and ammonia production predominantly.”

[11:29] “Refining more specifically is an important entry market. The Renewable Energy Directive requires all refineries to make 14% of their products in the next nine years renewably. This is a very strong driving force for refiners to convert to green hydrogen.”

[14:02] “What we do at ITM is manufacture the electrolyzer module. We manufacture two megawatt modules and five megawatt modules. And every project we manufacture the same thing over and over again. From this we get standardization, we manufacture the building block, and we concentrate on cost reduction and performance.”

[15:21] “The amount of electrolysis the world needs is an absolutely huge number. The world needs 3,500 gigawatts of electrolysis in the next 29 years. That's to get to net zero by 2050. We're in the world's largest electrolyzer factory with a capacity of one gigawatt per annum. I'd have to run that factory for 35 centuries to make the amount of electrolysis. We're going to need more factories.”

[18:57] “There has certainly been a rapid increase in the understanding of the way that you use green hydrogen, particularly for energy storage. The only zero carbon fuel or energy gas is green hydrogen. That means that the world's going to need a huge amount of electrolysis equipment. And what we are doing is entering the market in a way that has not been envisaged before. […] So what's going to happen over the next few years for ITM power, it's going to be very solid progress in increasing capacity, in delivering on larger and larger orders, scaling up, reducing costs and increasing performance. Next year will be a significant year for hydrogen, but so will every other subsequent year all the way through to 2050.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

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🕰️ 29 min | 🗓️ 02/15/2022
✅ Time saved: 27 min

Additional Links:
Irena Report: Geopolitics of Green Hydrogen