(1) Demand for hydrogen energy
The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance believes that the role of hydrogen energy in the energy transition process mainly includes: realizing large-scale and efficient consumption of renewable energy. Redistributing energy between different industries and regions, and acting as an energy buffer carrier to improve the energy system. Resilience, reduce carbon emissions in the process of transportation, reduce carbon emissions in industrial energy use, replace coke for metallurgical industry. And reduce carbon emissions in building heating.
From the perspective of efficiency, the first choice for hydrogen utilization is fuel cells. And the breakthrough of hydrogen fuel cell technology has driven the market demand for hydrogen. Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology using hydrogen as fuel is gradually mature and is developing towards industrialization.
Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan started to sell hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (Mirai) in 2014. And the cumulative sales exceeded 10,000; Hyundai Motor Corporation of South Korea also sold a similar number of fuel cell vehicles. Driven by the Asian automobile market, the world fuel cell vehicle market has begun to flourish. In 2019, the world’s fuel cell vehicle ownership was about 25,200, and the annual sales volume was about 12,400. In view of the difficulties of hydrogenation in the early stage of commercialization of fuel cell passenger vehicles, my country’s plan proposes to first apply fuel cells to commercial vehicles. This development path has been widely recognized by the industry. More than 6,000 fuel cell commercial vehicles have been put into operation at present.
The application of hydrogen energy in non-road transportation is being promoted. In 2018, the fuel cell train produced by the French Alstom Group was put into operation in Germany. And the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and other countries are also actively developing hydrogen-powered trains. CRRC started to operate fuel cell trams in Foshan, Guangdong in 2019. At the same time carried out exploration and research on hydrogen fuel train solutions.
Home cogeneration and industrial applications also increase the demand for low-carbon hydrogen. Low-carbon industries have the largest demand for hydrogen, especially in oil refining, chemical, steel manufacturing and other industries. The use of low-carbon hydrogen to replace high-carbon hydrogen will be an opportunity to expand demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term. Trials of low-carbon hydrogen for oil refining, methanol and ammonia production are underway internationally. The application scale of electrolytic hydrogen production in the iron and steel industry is expanding rapidly. Hydrogen can replace 35% of natural gas without the need for major transformation of the existing direct reduction steelmaking furnace. The transitional application of hydrogen and natural gas is also proposed. Strategy to accelerate the progress of direct reduction ironmaking using pure hydrogen. It will have an important impact on the storage and transportation of hydrogen.
(2) Hydrogen energy industry planning
The EU stipulates that the hydrogen production response time of electrolyzers is less than 5s. At present, only PEM water electrolysis technology can meet this requirement. Therefore, the EU has planned the development path of PEM water electrolysis to gradually replace the alkaline water electrolysis hydrogen production. In July 2020, the European Commission issued a strategic plan involving hydrogen energy, focusing on the development of renewable energy such as wind and solar energy for production Renewable hydrogen.
In addition, Germany promulgated the “National Hydrogen Energy Strategy” in 2020, proposing to focus on renewable hydroge. And planned the layout of German green hydrogen manufacturing.
The United States not only re-raises the efficient utilization of coal, but also actively promotes the research and development and application of hydrogen energy. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed the H2@Scale plan to promote the large-scale application of hydrogen. In 2019, DOE greatly increased its support for different electrolytic hydrogen production materials and technology research and development projects; In 2020, in the H2@Scale plan, it supported 3M, Giner, ProtonOnsite and other companies to carry out PEM electrolyzer manufacturing and large-scale technology research and development, Involving oxygen evolution catalysts, electrodes. Low-cost PEM electrolyzer components and scale-up processes for gigawatt-scale PEM electrolyzers. The funding amount is more than 4 million US dollars.
This shows that the United States is focusing on the technical route of PEM electrolysis in terms of hydrogen production scale. In addition, DOE supports the research and development of technologies such as hydrogen metallurgy, hydrogen and natural gas mixed transportation. And makes comprehensive preparations for the large-scale application of hydrogen.
(3) Demonstration progress of electrolysis of water for hydrogen production
In terms of marketization process, alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) occupies a dominant position as the most mature electrolysis technology. Especially the application of some large-scale projects. AWE uses potassium hydroxide (KOH) aqueous solution as electrolyte and asbestos as diaphragm to separate water to generate hydrogen and oxygen. And the efficiency is usually 70%~80%.
On the one hand, AWE can use non-precious metal electrocatalysts (such as Ni, Co, Mn, etc.) under alkaline conditions. So the cost of the catalyst in the electrolytic cell is low, but the gas contains lye, water vapor, etc.. It needs to be assisted Equipment removal. On the other hand, AWE is difficult to quickly start or change the load. And it cannot quickly adjust the speed of hydrogen production, so it has poor adaptability to renewable energy power generation.
The total installed amount of AWE units in my country is 1500~2000 sets, most of which are used for the preparation of hydrogen for cooling in power plants. The maximum hydrogen production of domestic equipment is 1000Nm³/h. Domestic representative enterprises include the No.718 Research Institute of China Shipbuilding Corporation, Suzhou Jingli Hydrogen Production Equipment Co., Ltd., Tianjin Continental Hydrogen Production Equipment Co., Ltd., etc. The representative hydrogen production project is Hebei Jiantou New Energy Co., Ltd. The invested Guyuan wind power hydrogen production project (4MW).
As PEM electrolyzers operate more flexibly and are better suited to the volatility of renewable energy, many greenfield projects are turning to PEM electrolyser technology. In the past few years, companies in the European Union, the United States, and Japan have launched PEM electrolysis water hydrogen production products. It has promoted application promotion and large-scale application. Among them, ProtonOnsite has deployed more than 2,000 sets of PEM water electrolysis hydrogen production units (distributed in 72 countries and regions). It owns 70% of the global PEM water electrolysis hydrogen production market share. And it has the ability to integrate more than 10MW hydrogen production systems; Giner’s single PEM electrolyzer has a specification of 5MW and a current density of more than 3A/cm². The high-pressure running time of the 50kW water electrolyzer prototype exceeds 150,000 hours.
At present, the scale of electrolytic hydrogen production projects under construction in the world has grown significantly. Most of the electrolysis hydrogen production projects around 2010 have a scale of less than 0.5MW. While the project scale from 2017 to 2019 is basically 1~5MW; Japan has put into operation a 10MW project in 2020, and Canada is building a 20MW project. The “PowertoGas” project of Germany’s renewable energy electrolysis hydrogen production has been running for more than 10 years.
In 2016, Siemens AG participated in the construction of a 6MWPEM electrolyzer and wind power combined electrolysis hydrogen production system with an annual output of 200t hydrogen. It has achieved profitability in 2018. In 2008, German natural gas pipeline network operator OGE and Amprion jointly implemented the Hybridge 100MW electrolysis water hydrogen production project. And they planned to replace the existing OGE pipeline with a dedicated hydrogen pipeline.
In 2019, the Netherlands launched the PosHYdon project to combine containerized hydrogen production equipment with an electrified oil. And gas platform in the Dutch North Sea to explore the feasibility of offshore wind power hydrogen production.