H2FUTURE building world’s largest green hydrogen pilot plant; targeting the steel industry

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The European H2FUTURE project consortium, comprising voestalpine, Siemens, VERBUND, and Austrian Power Grid, together with the research partners K1-MET and ECN, officially gave the green light to the construction of a 6 MW “ production —the world’s —at a voestalpine Linz plant. (Earlier post.)

The partners from and power generation will use this facility to research into future breakthrough technologies which are needed to meet global climate goals over the long-term. The plant is scheduled to be fully operational by spring 2019.

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More than 600 billion cubic meters of hydrogen are used annually worldwide, more than 95% of which is produced via a CO2-intensive process. Global demand for hydrogen is projected to increase tenfold by 2050, to around 6 trillion cubic meters.

The EU-funded €18-million (US$22.3-million) project will be used to test the potential applications for green hydrogen—e.g., CO2-free hydrogen produced via electrolysis using renewable electricity—in the various process stages of steel production, and integration into the power reserve markets for the power grid.

For the industry, transport, and energy sectors, CO2-free hydrogen is an important source of energy for sector coupling and can significantly contribute to achieving the climate goals. The new plant is designed to be a technological milestone on the pathway to the energy transition, and thus to the gradual decarbonization of the steel industry.

After the launch of the project at the beginning of 2017, construction of the pilot facility at the voestalpine site in Linz has now accelerated. The foundations are in place and construction of the hall is currently underway.

The core electrolysis components will be delivered during the summer, with the plant going live within a year. The start of the comprehensive two-year test program is planned for spring 2019.

Construction of the new pilot plant for the production of COCO22-free hydrogen is taking us a step further towards the long-term realization of a technology transformation in the steel industry. The goal is to research real breakthrough technologies which will be applicable on an industrial scale in the next couple of decades.

—Wolfgang Eder, Chairman of the Management Board of voestalpine AG

The vision of the technology and capital goods group is to move away from coal and coke via bridging technologies based on natural gas, as is already the case at the direct reduction plant in Texas, and finally on to the greatest possible use of green hydrogen.

Siemens has developed what is currently the world’s largest PEM (proton exchange membrane) electrolyzer module for the research facility in Linz. With a capacity of 6 megawatts, the plant will be able to produce 1,200 cubic meters (108 kg) of green hydrogen an hour. The goal is to achieve a record output efficiency of 80% in converting electricity into hydrogen.

With its 128 hydropower plants, VERBUND, Austria’s largest electricity company and a leading European hydropower electricity producer, generates almost 100% of its electricity from renewable sources.

To integrate the volatile renewable energy from wind and solar power into the energy system, we will need even more storage capabilities in future. In addition to our pumped-storage plants in the Alps, and battery storage solutions of various dimensions, we see huge potential in energy storage with green hydrogen. For us, “green” hydrogen is the perfect example of the sector coupling which is urgently required for decarbonizing power generation, industry, and transport.

—Wolfgang Anzengruber, CEO of VERBUND

VERBUND will supply electricity generated from renewables for the project, and is also responsible for the development of grid-relevant services. Using demand side management, the PEM electrolyzer functions as a dynamic, normal load component, helping to compensate for fluctuations in an increasingly volatile power supply.

Around €12 million (US$15 million) of the funding is from the European Commission, specifically from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).





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