Scaling up hydrogen production
At home, Bas uses the energy from the sun to power his home. At work, he uses solar energy to make hydrogen with it. A few years ago, Bas partly designed his own house. The goal: a carbon-neutral home. For example, it now has 34 solar panels and a heat pump. “I like the fact that I can apply my personal interest in the energy transition at work.”
What are you holding in your hands?
“A mini-electrolyser. An electrolyser is a system that uses electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The left tube releases the produced hydrogen, the right tube releases the oxygen.”
What solution are you working on?
“Society is going to use more and more hydrogen, preferably the green variant. Electrolysers are needed to produce green hydrogen. These devices have existed for a long time, however how we can apply them on a very large scale and how they respond to the fluctuations in the supply of renewable power is relatively new. How can we optimize the yield, how can maintenance and downtime be minimized and what happens if such a setup has run for a year? My work ensures that the costs of large-scale green hydrogen production decrease and the efficiency of electrolysers increases.”
“In 2021, we had a nice first. KLM carried out the first flight ever in which 500 litres of sustainable synthetic kerosene was blended. I produced the hydrogen for that kerosene.”
What exactly do you do? And why?
“I operate the electrolyser located at ETCA. I look, for example, at how long it takes for the system to reach production capacity and whether this can be done faster. We don’t want the system to take half an hour to start up while the sun is shining. I also look at the quality of the hydrogen we produce. What happens to the hydrogen if the electrolyser is running at low capacity on a cloudy day? Is there more or less water in the hydrogen? Hydrogen must meet all sorts of specifications to ensure it is suitable for the fuel cell in a hydrogen vehicle. In addition, we can demonstrate that the integration of electrolysers and renewable power will also work if we do it on a scale 2000 times greater. This research work confirms that a project can be done according to safety standards and that it is technically and economically feasible.”
Who do you work with?
“With, for example, SINTEF, a Scandinavian knowledge institute. They coordinate a consortium that Shell is also part of. In this consortium we look at new materials such as catalysts and membranes with the aim of improving the efficiency of electrolysers. Another example is ISPT Hydrohub. Through their projects, we can test new set-ups at a larger scale. That is all about the technology. One example of a project where Shell is going to produce green hydrogen at a commercial scale is NortH2 where we are working together with Gasunie and Groningen Seaports, among others, to eventually produce 1 million tons of green hydrogen per year.”
What’s in it for the consumer?
“More green hydrogen means that the industry can make production processes more sustainable, meaning everyday products can be made with fewer CO2 emissions. Another example is mobility. In 2020, the Shell retail station Den Ruygenhoek on the A4 motorway in the Netherlands was equipped with a hydrogen pump. The Westpoort retail station in Amsterdam followed in 2021. A network of stations is thus slowly but surely being created, as a result of which more and more cars, buses and trucks can drive on green hydrogen.”
Hydrogen can play a major role in the energy transition in various ways. For example, as storage media for renewable energy, as a feedstock for everyday products or to transport people and goods. So-called ‘green’ hydrogen is produced with renewable power from wind or solar. ‘Grey’ hydrogen is made from fossil fuels, which releases CO2 during the production process. There is also a ‘blue’ variant. In the latter case the released CO2 is permanently stored in empty gas fields at sea for example, as a result of which the hydrogen obtained is carbon neutral. The electrolyser at ETCA produces green hydrogen with electricity generated by 232 solar panels installed on the roof especially for this purpose.
De industrie gebruikt waterstof nu al op grote schaal als bouwsteen voor alledaagse producten. Als deze waterstof ‘groen’ geproduceerd wordt, worden de eindproducten dus ook duurzaam.
Vliegen op duurzame, synthetische kerosine gemaakt van CO2, water en hernieuwbare energie. Kan dat? Ja, zo bewijzen Shell en KLM.
Waterstof speelt een sleutelrol bij het slagen van de Nederlandse energietransitie. En dan bij voorkeur groene waterstof, gemaakt met stroom uit wind of zon en zonder uitstoot van CO2.
In collaboration with various partners, ETCA researchers are working hard on energy solutions for today and tomorrow. But what exactly are those solutions? And what’s in it for the consumer? Five Shell researchers show an object from their research and talk about what they do and why it matters. Read the short interviews here.