Writer: Mathias Terp Munck
The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy will imply more fluctuating electricity production from wind turbines and solar cells. In many cases it will be possible to use the electricity directly, but especially within long-haul transportation and in industry there is a need for indirect electrification in the form of hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, where electricity from renewable energy sources is converted into hydrogen, which can be used directly or synthesized into other Power-to-X fuels. Electrolysis is a flexible form of production that can be adapted to a fluctuating electricity price, so that production takes place during the hours of the year when the electricity price is lowest. The challenge is that many hydrogen use cases depend on a constant flow of hydrogen. The challenge can be met by establishing a hydrogen infrastructure able to store hydrogen and streamline transport from production to consumption
What is Power-to-X?
Power-to-X as a term covers the process where electricity (from wind turbines and solar cells) is used to produce various fuels for heavy transport and industry. The production takes place using electrolysis, where water is split into hydrogen and oxygen, as the reaction scheme below shows
2H2O → 2H2 + O2
The hydrogen (H2) can subsequently be used directly or refined into other fuels by synthesis with biogenic CO2 or N2. By synthesis, it is possible to produce e.g. ammonia, methane, methanol and SAF. Power-to-X fuels are CO2-neutral and therefore do not contribute to increased global warming. In addition, the fuels include other use cases, Eg. ammonia can be used as fertilizer and methanol can be used for plastic production. In addition, hydrogen production has a significant energy loss for heat, which, depending on the circumstances, can be used in the district heating network.
In Denmark, the political ambition is to achieve 4-6 GW of electrolysis capacity by 2030. This is a significant, but necessary, expansion compared to the existing electrolysis capacity of almost 2.5 MW. Hydrogen infrastructure is key to realize this ambition, as hydrogen in pipes is the cheapest form of transport for hydrogen in larger quantities and over longer distances. Today, hydrogen is typically transported in pressure tanks on trucks, which is costly and difficult, as the compression of hydrogen is very energy-intensive. As supply and demand is expected to increase in the future, transportation by truck will become more and more unsustainable. Therefore, in the future, hydrogen must be transported through pipelines, just as is the case with natural gas and biogas today. Hydrogen in pipes also offers the possibility of storing hydrogen on a large scale. In the municipality of Mariagerfjord, Jutland, the plan is to establish an underground hydrogen storage in Lille Torup, which can balance the fluctuating production with the more constant need. In this way, the hydrogen infrastructure can deliver hydrogen so that it fits the customer’s needs and more cost-effectively than is possible by truck.
According to a political agreement from May 2023, Energinet and Evida, which today own and operate the natural gas network in Denmark, must also own and operate the future piped hydrogen infrastructure. Although the division of roles between Energinet and Evida has been determined, there is still uncertainty about when the hydrogen infrastructure will be ready, where exactly the pipelines will be located and what the price for using the infrastructure will be. The maps below show Evida’s first proposal for a development plan with 4 phases for the hydrogen infrastructure in Denmark. Meanwhile, as the hydrogen infrastructure is to be planned in collaboration with Energinet, the map below is simply a possible future scenario. The pipeline will connect sustainable resources, hydrogen producers and users, the future hydrogen storage in Lille Torup and an export connection to Germany. A significant export potential is expected, as Germany’s industry consumes a lot of hydrogen produced on fossil natural gas, a consumption that in the future is expected converted to green hydrogen.
Evida visions different future scenarios to Denmark’s hydrogen infrastructure. Source: ”Scenarie for en fasedrevet udviklingsplan for fremtidens brintinfrastruktur
In an analysis, Energinet has concluded that the establishment of Jutland’s hydrogen infrastructure will provide significant positive economic benefits for society. Compared to a reference scenario without hydrogen infrastructure, the socio-economic gain can be as much as DKK 30-75 billion towards 2060. The capital investment is estimated to be between DKK 10-22 billion. However, it is a relatively modest amount compared to the other private investments in renewable energy. Eg. the supply of the potentially 14 GW offshore wind turbines will require an investment of DKK 190 billion and in addition other investments in wind turbines, solar cells, electrolysis plants and synthesis plants.
In collaboration with Gas Storage Denmark, Eurowind Energy and Evida, Hydrogen Valley is currently uncovering potentials and challenges in the transport and storage of hydrogen and CO2 in North Jutland. This mapping is part of the overall project CO2Vision. As in the rest of Denmark, hydrogen infrastructure in North Jutland will be central to the integration of fluctuating electricity production and the conversion of heavy transport and industry. Since hydrogen can be synthesized with CO2, it makes sense to plan a coherent infrastructure that takes into account the hydrogen storage in Lille Torup and future producers and consumers of hydrogen and CO2. In the mini-lighthouse project CO2 and Hydrogen by pipes, Hydrogen Valley has quantified the value creation of piped hydrogen infrastructure, as well as mapped hydrogen producers, potential consumers, CO2 point sources and future CCU and CCS projects from Idomlund via the salt caverns in Lille Torup with branches to Aalborg and Mariagerfjord. Interested companies are very welcome to reach out to Hydrogen Valley for more information.