Steelmakers discover hydrogen to energy energy-hungry processes


Hydrogen’s position within the decarbonisation of heavy industries is about to be put to the check.

Recent months have seen a surge in world firms unveiling pilot schemes aimed toward demonstrating the potential of the gasoline to remodel energy-hungry industrial processes and wean them off coal and different fossil fuels.

Earlier this month, Vattenfall, the Swedish energy group, introduced plans to assist construct the world’s first unit producing hydrogen from the Hollandse Kust West offshore wind farm undertaking within the Netherlands. The purpose is to pipe ashore “green” hydrogen to Rotterdam for use in a variety of petrochemical and different industrial processes.

The firm is already a pioneer in utilizing “green” hydrogen — the place renewable vitality is used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen — within the manufacturing of inexperienced metal for Volvo Group, the automobile maker.

As a part of a consortium that additionally consists of Swedish metals producer SSAB and iron-ore miner LKAB, it has deployed hydropower from the nation’s reservoir system to create hydrogen by means of electrolysis. This can then be used as a chemical reductant to strip oxygen out of iron ore, to supply high-grade metal.

SSAB’s inexperienced metal check facility in Lulea, Sweden © Charlie Bibby/FT

Other metal producers are eager to cut back using extremely polluting coking coal as an ingredient in smelting ore, and change to greener vitality when accessible.

ArcelorMittal, Europe’s largest steelmaker, has introduced $5.6bn of investments at vegetation in Spain, Canada, Belgium and France over the previous yr in tasks aimed toward decarbonising metal manufacturing.

But utilizing hydrogen to decarbonise “hard to abate” industries, corresponding to steelmaking, stays problematic.

Many of those pilots depend upon partial fairly than complete transfer from pure gasoline to hydrogen — both the “green” selection or “grey”, which is produced from fossil fuels.

ArcelorMittal says its ambition is to make sure future investments are “hydrogen ready” in order that, as and when provides of hydrogen develop into accessible, it may change from pure gasoline to assist it meet decarbonisation targets.

Mikael Nordlander, director of business decarbonisation at Vattenfall, says there may be loads of scope for using hydrogen to be prolonged into different areas of heavy business and transport.

Last month, consortiums during which Vattenfall is concerned introduced plans to take advantage of energy generated from wind farms off Sweden’s south-west coast to ship sustainable aviation gasoline primarily based on fossil-free hydrogen, by 2030.

The firm can also be methods of utilizing inexperienced hydrogen to assist course of the “biogenic carbon dioxide” waste produced by Scandinavia’s paper and pulp sector.

Hydrogen has a job to play in a variety of producing sectors “where you need high temperature and it is difficult to apply to electricity directly”, says Nordlander.

But one technological constraint is a bottleneck within the provide of apparatus utilized in splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen to create the inexperienced gasoline inventory. “There’s not enough capacity to produce electrolysers,” he explains.

Another concern is uncertainty over the longer term value and quantity of hydrogen provide. Investors in put in vegetation have to be fairly assured that they are often operated economically at full capability.

Earlier this yr, ThyssenKrupp Nucera, which is majority-owned by German engineering group ThyssenKrupp, pointed to a €900mn backlog in orders for its inexperienced hydrogen electrolysis tools, and mentioned it was planning an IPO to assist develop provide. It acknowledged: “The hydrogen market is expected not only to increase sevenfold by 2050, but most of the previously fossil-based production will be converted to green hydrogen.”

However, the fundraising has been placed on maintain.

Brad Davey, government vice-president at ArcelorMittal, says the provision and value of inexperienced hydrogen current a problem at this stage of the transition. In the meantime, he believes coverage help is required to “ensure that regions which move first are not rendered uncompetitive, given the globally traded nature of steel”.

The UK’s Climate Change Committee, the impartial group that advises the federal government, argues that there must be an enormous enlargement in hydrogen use in addition to direct electrification from inexperienced vitality sources to assist the nation meet its environmental commitments.

Chart showing projected hydrogen demand (terawatt-hour) according to ‘balanced net zero pathway’ from 2025 to 2050

Aaron Goater, an analyst on the CCC, says most estimates level to heavy industries and manufacturing accounting for about 15 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gasoline emissions immediately. A big proportion of this output is “associated with combustion”, he says, including “hydrogen could help decarbonise the majority of these emissions”.

Kofi Mbuk, a clear vitality tech analyst at London-based think-tank Carbon Tracker, says he doubts hydrogen will emerge as “the best thing since sliced bread” as a path to decarbonising business, however suggests it may be a big a part of the software package for attaining environmental ambitions.

“Hydrogen is best used to decarbonise heavy industries and [tackle] wind and solar energy’s intermittences,” he says. In heavy transport, specifically, inexperienced, flamable hydrogen may play a big position, he provides — regardless that the problem of powering private highway transport seems to have been “solved by EVs [electric vehicles]”.

Observers agree there isn’t any benefit in changing renewable vitality into hydrogen and again once more unnecessarily when grid provide will be matched with demand. “By turning electricity into hydrogen, you lose about 25 per cent of the energy,” factors out Goater on the CCC.

However, the rising downside of intermittency with renewable energy may create an essential ancillary position for hydrogen, alongside battery storage, in stockpiling energy to stability the grid. Hydrogen will be saved very like pure gasoline and burnt when wanted.

At current, argues Mbuk, “there isn’t any battery technology that can really scale up” to totally resolve this downside.