European research projects investigate hydrogen blending and GW-scale electrolysis


Last week saw a plethora of technical hydrogen webinars with two prominent examples being the ThyGa (Testing Hydrogen Admixture for Gas Applications) Project update and the research webinar by the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) looking at how to take electrolysis plants into the GW scale.

The ThyGA project is partly funded through the FCHJU and involves 9 partners testing how domestic gas appliances would cope with hydrogen blending. The research flagged that there are around 200mn domestic natural gas appliances in the EU. Assuming there is not an immediate roll-out of hydrogen-ready alternatives, the project is looking at how these existing appliances could cope with a blended gas fuel. While the carbon savings of running each appliance on a combination of hydrogen and natural gas are relatively small, the sheer number of appliances indicates that significant emissions savings could be achieved.

Overall, the presentation covered multiple technical topics including how flame intensity and air flow ratios vary for different concentrations of methane-hydrogen fuel. The presenters also flagged that the biggest obstacle for ensuring adequate operation of the appliances while still ensuring carbon savings, is the “combustion controls” which may need to be adjusted or removed to accommodate a hydrogen blend. By leaving the controls unchanged, it can cause an increase in overall emissions from the appliance in some circumstances.

 The ISPT presented its Stage 1 HydroHub research on how electrolysis could be built at a GW scale, assuming a convenient port-side location in the Netherlands. The approach looked at installations on a total installed cost basis, covering: the electrolyser stacks, costs of power supply and electronics, utilities connections, civil engineering, balancing of plant and other indirect costs. The analysis revealed that the total installed costs for 1GW of electrolysers varied from €1400/kW (alkaline) to €1800/kW (PEM). While the stacks are the key cost component, savings across all cost elements need to be targeted to bring down overall project costs.

The next stage of the research will now look at the levelised cost of energy for hydrogen produced at GW scale. Guest speakers, Nouryon, flagged that green hydrogen can become cost competitive at around €4/kg, but it is some way off being able to achieve that price. They felt that, as in other markets, consumers will be willing to pay a small (~10%) premium for green products, but that this was not enough to bring new plant forward. It was discussed that new investment in hydrogen will require new financing strategies to make the jump from R&D funding of demonstrators to mainstream risk financing and joint ventures. Once a standardised financing structure emerges, like bank loans backed with PPAs in renewables, the capacity will really start to grow.