SMM News: hydrogen is a clean, efficient, zero-carbon energy carrier, in heating, transportation, industry and power generation and other fields to play fuel, raw materials. However, the large-scale application of hydrogen energy has been constrained by technology, economy, safety and other factors, the development is far less than expected, and it is still in the stage of research and development and demonstration all over the world.
In recent years, the pressure of global response to climate change has become increasingly prominent. Hydrogen energy, as a clean energy option that is expected to effectively replace fossil fuels in many fields, has attracted wide attention.
Europe has always been the most active region in the world to deal with climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the development and application of hydrogen energy is also in the forefront of the world.
In 2018, IHS Markit conducted a special study on the current situation of hydrogen energy industry in Europe, the potential of large-scale replacement of fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions in Europe, in order to provide reference for other countries to select key areas of hydrogen energy development and evaluate the development potential of hydrogen energy industry.
Production and Application of hydrogen with low carbon Emission
Hydrogen is the first element in the periodic table of chemical elements and is rich in the earth. The chemical property of hydrogen is active, and it does not exist in free state in nature, but in water and other substances. Therefore, the basis of the development of hydrogen energy is the use of hydrogen-containing compounds to produce hydrogen on a large scale.
According to the types of production processes, there are mainly two mainstream technologies for thermochemical hydrogen production from fossil fuels and electrolytic water (see figure 1), as well as new technologies such as photolysis and biological hydrogen production, which are in the early stage of development. the most mature technology and the largest scale of production is the thermochemical hydrogen production of fossil fuels.
At present, 94 per cent of hydrogen production in Western Europe comes from fossil fuels, of which 54 per cent is produced by natural gas, 31 per cent by oil and 9 per cent by coal. Under the resource endowment of rich coal in China, hydrogen production from coal accounts for more than 50%.
Hydrogen is a zero-carbon energy source, but whether it is produced by fossil fuels or electrolytic water, a large amount of carbon dioxide is emitted during the production process (most of the electricity used by electrolytic water comes from fossil fuels), so this hydrogen is still "high carbon" hydrogen, commonly known as "gray hydrogen" or "black hydrogen".
In order to achieve low carbonation in the hydrogen production process and obtain low-carbon "blue hydrogen" or even zero-carbon "green hydrogen" in the whole life cycle, it is necessary to cooperate with the operation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) devices at the back end of the fossil fuel hydrogen production system, or directly use electricity produced by non-fossil fuels (hydropower, wind power, solar power, nuclear power, etc.) to produce hydrogen by electrolysis of water.
Considering that carbon capture and storage technology still has limited qualified geological conditions and low public acceptance for the long-term storage of carbon dioxide, IHS Markit believes that for Europe, "fossil fuel hydrogen production + carbon capture and storage" can be used as a transition mode of medium-and short-term low-carbon hydrogen production in the future, and electrolytic water hydrogen production from long-term non-fossil fuel power generation will gradually become the main way of low-carbon hydrogen production.
The traditional use of hydrogen is mainly in industrial fields, such as raw materials for chemical processes such as oil refining and methanol production, protective gas for some industrial processes, and fuels for special fields such as aerospace.
In the past 10 years, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCEV) has been used in Europe, the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and other countries or regions.
In addition, Europe is demonstrating the feasibility of using hydrogen for large-scale heating. In the target plan of "zero carbon Europe" put forward by the European Union in 2050, transportation and heating are important application scenarios of hydrogen energy in the future.
Using renewable energy to limit electricity
The total life cycle carbon emissions of hydrogen production directly from the power grid depend on the average carbon intensity of the whole network. In 2017, fossil fuel power generation in Europe accounted for about 43% of all electricity generation, and the average carbon intensity of electricity is still high. Europe is focusing on the use of non-fossil fuel electricity for electrolytic water hydrogen production.
After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, most European countries changed their nuclear energy development policies and did not regard nuclear power as a priority power option for hydrogen production.
IHS Markit believes that the rapid development of renewable energy power generation in recent years, and the subsequent large amount of abandoned wind and light power will provide a large number of high-quality low-carbon energy for large-scale hydrogen production.
Renewable energy will become the energy basis for large-scale production of "green hydrogen"
Europe is the first region in the world to develop renewable energy on a large scale. Wind power and solar photovoltaic power generation have grown rapidly in recent years. In 2017, wind power and photovoltaic power accounted for 27 per cent of the total installed capacity of 28 EU countries, but still less than 40 per cent of thermal power.
According to IHS Markit, the proportion will reach 52 per cent in 2030 and 62 per cent in 2050, when the share of thermal power will fall to 20 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively (see figure 3).
Renewable energy power generation has a strong volatility, there is a phenomenon of abandoned electricity caused by the short-term inability of the power grid to absorb the wind and the full power output of optical power generation. This part of the electricity can not be transported by the power grid is called limited electricity.
The power limit will also increase with the rapid increase of renewable energy generation capacity. Even if the peak cutting and valley filling effect of energy storage equipment is considered, the amount of light and electricity will still be considerable. IHS Markit forecasts that Europe will have 120 billion kilowatt hours of abandoned wind and light in 2030 and 200 billion kilowatt hours by 2050.
Hydrogen production cost of renewable energy
In terms of energy costs, the price of electricity to abandon the wind and light is very low, and at some times it may even be negative (taking into account factors such as renewable energy subsidies or green certificates).
However, the period of abandoned air and light is generally limited. If the electrolytic water hydrogen production equipment all depends on the abandoned wind and abandoned electricity, the utilization rate of the hydrogen production equipment is low, which will lead to the depreciation cost of the equipment is too high (see figure 5). If the utilization rate of equipment is supplemented by grid electricity, a higher cost of electricity will have to be paid.
Therefore, large-scale electrolytic water hydrogen production needs to make a tradeoff between improving the utilization rate of equipment and reducing the cost of electricity.
Based on the European power supply and demand and cost model and the hydrogen production cost model, considering the assumptions of investment cost, electricity cost and equipment utilization ratio, IHS Markit calculates the hydrogen supply curve of hydrogen production in Europe in the future.
By 2030, the hydrogen production potential of electrolytic water supplied by Europe at the cost of hydrogen production below 50 euros per megawatt hour can reach 6 billion kilowatt hours, and the hydrogen production potential below 100 euros per megawatt hour can reach 26 billion kilowatt hours.
By 2050, hydrogen production potential of less than 50 euros per megawatt hour and 100 euros per megawatt hour could reach 150 billion kilowatt hours and 200 billion kilowatt hours, respectively. 200 billion kilowatt hours of hydrogen can meet the current fuel needs of 28 per cent of Europe's heavy trucks, reducing a total of 53 million tons of carbon emissions a year from burning diesel.
Based on the project investment cost, electricity cost, equipment utilization and other parameters, the cost calculation model is used to calculate the project investment cost, electricity cost, equipment utilization and other parameters.
Alternative potential of hydrogen in Transportation and heating Energy
Over the past decade, Europe's low-carbon transformation has been mainly in power generation, which accounts for only 20 per cent of Europe's terminal energy needs. To achieve the goal of "zero carbon Europe" by 2050, there is also a need for gradual low-carbon substitution in the main areas of energy consumption.
IHS Markit believes that transport and heating, including construction and industry, together account for 77 per cent of Europe's terminal energy needs and will be important areas for "green hydrogen" to help Europe achieve its medium-and long-term carbon reduction targets.
Fossil fuel combustion is still the most important heating energy in Europe, in which pipeline natural gas accounts for 40% of the primary energy used for heating in Europe. Using hydrogen instead of natural gas heating is the most potential development direction to realize the low-carbon transformation of energy consumption in Europe.
The study shows that, without any modification of the existing natural gas pipeline, the hydrogen of up to 20% volume ratio can be mixed in the natural gas, which will not reduce the safety of the pipeline and the performance of natural gas, and can be used as an effective way to transform the heating field to hydrogen in the transitional stage.
Compared with the load curves of power grid and natural gas network in European countries, it can be found that the fluctuation degree of natural gas network load is significantly higher than that of power grid. In the UK, for example, the peak-to-valley ratio of gas load for British residents is about 5 to 7 times, much higher than 1.7 times that of the power grid.
Therefore, if we use renewable energy to limit electricity and produce hydrogen as energy storage carrier and mix a certain proportion of hydrogen in pipeline natural gas, it will be helpful for the cooperative dispatching of power grid and natural gas pipeline network, and at the same time realize the low carbon transformation of heating system. effectively improve the overall peak regulation capacity of power grid and natural gas pipeline network.
Cadent, the two largest natural gas pipeline companies in the UK, and (Northern Gas Networks), the Northern Natural Gas Network, are working with Statoil on the feasibility of a hydrogen heating project called H21.
The project plans to build nine 1.35 gigawatts (measured in terms of hydrogen heat) of natural gas autothermal reforming hydrogen production units in Leeds on the northern coast of the UK, coupled with carbon capture and storage (carbon dioxide will be piped into the saline layer at the bottom of the North Sea). Large-scale hydrogen replacement of the energy structure in the region.
The project has entered the engineering design stage and plans to complete the investment decision to start construction in 2023. The city of Leeds plans to carry out hydrogen matching transformation of the heating pipe network infrastructure from 2028.
It is estimated that through the reasonable planning of the hydrogen transmission and distribution network, the project can replace all the natural gas needs of 3.7 million residents in Leeds City for heating, industry and power generation, and make the area become a real "hydrogen energy society".
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEV) and electric vehicles (including BEV and PHEV) are important technical options to replace traditional fuel vehicles. Electric vehicles (especially passenger vehicles) have exploded in the past five years.
In 2018, global sales of electric passenger vehicles have exceeded 1 million, while fuel cell passenger vehicle sales have just exceeded 10, 000, and electric vehicles seem to have won a landslide victory in the competition for new energy vehicles.
However, the inherent defects of electric vehicles, such as small battery capacity, long charging time and rapid battery aging, will persist for some time to come, which provides an opportunity for fuel cell vehicles to make breakthroughs in some application areas (see Table 1).
At present, it is generally believed that electric vehicles have taken the lead in the field of passenger vehicles, and great breakthroughs have been made in charging infrastructure and industrial policies. Fuel cell vehicles will not be able to shake the dominant position of electric vehicles in this field in the short term in the future.
However, for some transportation applications with heavy load, long driving distance and long driving time, such as long-distance heavy freight trucks, long-distance buses, city taxis and so on, fuel cell vehicles have obvious advantages. Europe is studying the feasibility of developing hydrogen fuel cell long-distance trucks on a large scale and is expected to make a breakthrough in the near future.
At present, the core technology of hydrogen fuel cell power system is lower than that of electric vehicles. With the continuous progress of fuel cell stack and hydrogen storage and other related technologies in the future, fuel cell vehicles may gradually catch up with electric vehicles and achieve greater development even in the field of passenger vehicles.
Enlightenment to the Development of hydrogen Energy in China
China has always attached great importance to the development of hydrogen energy industry. According to the research results of IHS Markit on the development of hydrogen energy industry in Europe, the following suggestions are put forward for the development of hydrogen energy in China.
To explore the feasible path from simply producing hydrogen products to realizing the transition to "blue hydrogen" and "green hydrogen". One of the key reasons why hydrogen has received widespread attention is the zero carbon characteristics of hydrogen. If we want to achieve the goal of reaching the peak of China's carbon emissions by 2030 through hydrogen, we need to seriously study the feasibility of installing carbon capture and storage systems for fossil fuel hydrogen production plants, and at the same time make as much use of clean energy as possible to produce hydrogen.
China has a very large fossil fuel hydrogen production industry, but the whole industry is lack of connectivity, most of the hydrogen production capacity is only produced locally for their own use.
It will take some time to realize the industrialization of "green hydrogen". How to make use of "blue hydrogen" to lay the application foundation for the development of hydrogen industry in the future is a problem worthy of in-depth consideration by all parties. One of the important aspects is the construction of hydrogen transportation pipe network, especially how to transport surplus hydrogen in petrochemical industry on a large scale.
We will strengthen research and development support for the core technology of hydrogen fuel cells. The greatest potential of hydrogen energy development in the future is likely to be in the transportation industry, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are also the most concerned direction.
China is not only the world's largest producer and consumer of cars, but also the largest producer and consumer of new energy vehicles. The development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is of great significance to the development of China's hydrogen energy industry and the low-carbon transformation of the transportation industry. China should strengthen the research and support of related technologies in this field and speed up the process of industrialization.