By Lars Udby, CEO at Hydrogen Valley – Knowledge and Business Center
In 2012 a new energy agreement was passed in Denmark, which aims at making Denmark independent of fossil fuels in the energy and transport sectors by 2050.
No energy agreement has ever been reached by a broader majority in the Danish Parliament than this one, and no Danish energy agreement has previously covered such a long time span.
The agreement is ambitious – and it has been noticed outside of Denmark. Apple has, amongst others, stated that the Danish energy policy is one of the reasons why they have chosen to place a data center in Denmark.
The agreement and the appertaining goals require that we in the near future will need to improve the utilization of renewable sources of energy. And first of all, it requires that we will improve creating coherent systems between production, distribution and energy consumption based on wind, solar and green gases such as hydrogen and biogas.
The latter are the main focus in Hydrogen Valley, and our basis is green gasses.
This is what we are dealing with:
In Denmark we base a lot of our future energy production on wind power. However, when it is very windy the wind turbines produce too much electricity in proportion to how much the national grid can absorb. Today we dispose of the surplus electricity to other countries for a very low price, but if we instead utilize the surplus electricity to produce green hydrogen through electrolysis we will attain two advantages: We will relieve the pressure on the electricity grid and subsequently contribute to creating balance. Simultaneously we will produce a very clean kind of hydrogen, which can be sold to industries who utilize hydrogen in their production. Furthermore, it can also be utilized as fuel for cars, busses and forklifts which run on hydrogen.
Solar- and wind power are both fossil free energy sources – but so are agricultural waste products (biomass). By converting biomass such as manure and organic waste products to biogas in biogas plants, we will attain three advantages: We can upgrade the methane-part of the biogas by removing the CO2 and then pumping it into the natural gas grid, which will be supplemented with CO2-neutral gas and can hereafter be used in for example power plants.
Subsequently, the CO2 by-product from the biogas together with electrolyze-made hydrogen can be used to produce synthetic methane, which also can be used in the transport sector as a substitute for gasoline. The degassed manure can be directed back to the farms and utilized as fertilizer on the fields without having an adverse impact on the environment as much as it has today. Hence, the biomass can easier be absorbed by the plants and the leaching of nutrients to the water environment will be reduced.
When we produce hydrogen and biogas in a greater extent, we will need to store the gasses for later use. Salt Caverns are an excellent choice for storage of green gasses because they are very dense and impenetrable. Today, the salt caverns are rinsed from salt in order to make storage capacity for natural gas; however the rinsed salt has an adverse impact on the environment. If we instead tapped and rinsed the salt caverns, sold the salt and then utilized the caverns as storage for green gasses, we will optimize the usage of the salt caverns both financially and environmentally.
All of the abovementioned elements form part in the activities we are working with in Hydrogen Valley in our attempt to turn the Danish climate-visions into action. Hydrogen Valley has within the last years developed into a Danish center for development of knowledge, experience and activities within the field of hydrogen and fuel-cells, where more than 200 new jobs have been created.
The next step is the establishment of a hydrogen plant in Hobro, which is based on electrolysis of wind power – an activity we are working on in close collaboration with international investors. The plant is expected to be up-and-running by 2017, and will contribute to creating balance in the electrical grid and simultaneously provide hydrogen to industrial use and for transportation. Hereby, we will be a step closer to the target of building coherent systems for a green transition of the Danish energy system.