Using hydrogen to make large and fast cuts in carbon emissions
Industry has been tasked with making major reductions in carbon emissions to protect the planet from the effects of climate change. This challenge is being taken very seriously and all those involved are working hard on a range of innovative solutions. H-vision is one of the solutions and a realistic option for meeting the ambitious climate goals. What is the strength of this project? How do the project partners envision development, planning, and introduction?
The Paris Climate Agreement
The Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2016. The aim was to limit global warming to no more than 2°C, with 1.5 degrees as the target. The Netherlands formulated this target as a 49% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030. The European Union’s initial target was a minimum 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, but it is now aiming for a 55% reduction compared with 1990 levels. This is ambitious, but necessary to protect the world from the effects of climate change.
Hydrogen to play a major role
Hydrogen will play an important role in climate-neutral energy supplies. The focus is on ensuring that carbon-free hydrogen (aka green hydrogen) will have a basic function by 2050.
Haste is required
We believe that switching to this carbon-free green hydrogen on an industrial scale will take several decades. But haste is also required. Time is short and the introduction and implementation of new technological solutions is a long process. H-vision gives us the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions significantly before 2030, without using the still-limited green power available and without further burdening the electricity grid. That is good news. It will allow us to actually make the contribution needed to achieve the climate goals.
H-vision’s solution for major, fast, reductions in carbon emissions
With H-vision, we can achieve large cuts in carbon emissions quickly by using residual gases from industry. Residual gases are a by-product of the industrial process and they play a major role in generating heat in industrial processes. There is generally no other useful application. At refineries, but also at chemical plants, residual gases – aka refinery gases – are now used directly to generate heat at high temperatures. During that process, the CO2 from the residual gases is released into the atmosphere. Producing low-carbon hydrogen from these residual gases first and then using this hydrogen to generate high-temperature heat in refineries and chemical plants makes it possible to achieve major reductions in carbon emissions.
The entire process
H-vision is initially used at refineries. The captured residual gases from refining are transported by pipeline to a central plant where they are used to make low-carbon hydrogen. That hydrogen is then returned to the refineries to be used as a fuel to generate high-temperature heat. The CO2 resulting from the production of the hydrogen is captured directly and then transported to depleted gas fields under the North Sea for storage (CCS). Alternatively, it may eventually be converted into a building block for basic chemicals such as methanol (CCU).
A proven technology and few suitable alternatives
H-vision hydrogen is based on proven technology and it does not depend on the production of sustainable electricity. Suitable alternatives are scarce. Electrification cannot be used to generate such high temperatures. In addition, the available capacity from solar and wind is also inadequate.
Developing different solutions alongside each other
Both solutions – the H-Vision solution and the deployment of green hydrogen – will have to be developed and used side by side on the road to a new sustainable energy system. Given its purity (almost 100%), carbon-free green hydrogen will initially be better for use as a feedstock in the chemical industry, for mobility applications and for the production of clean fuels (for example in desulphurisation).
Without a quick solution, the climate targets for industry are unachievable
The conversion of hydrogen for heat and electricity production can only be considered if it is available in large amounts and if there is a surplus of carbon-free hydrogen. Without the use of low-carbon hydrogen as a fuel in industry, the ambitious climate targets for 2030 would seem to be unattainable.
Planning and introduction
The project is on schedule and it is currently in the pre-FEED phase, which focuses on areas such as the design and location of the plants. The various hydrogen vision documents of the municipal and provincial authorities, the national government, and the European Commission express considerable support for H-vision. The latest IPCC report underscores the need to take effective action quickly.
Regulations, timetable and launch
The project is on schedule and it is currently in the pre-FEED phase, which focuses on areas such as the design and location of the plants. The various hydrogen vision documents of the municipal and provincial authorities, the national government, and the European Commission express considerable support for H-vision.
So far, regulations have been lagging behind: there was no support, even though ‘first of a kind’ projects like this have a high investment risk and they require a safety net.
Fortunately, there is good news. The preliminary advisory report published recently by the Environmental Research Agency (PBL) on SDE++ 2022 included a category for hydrogen made from residual gases. This is a major milestone, opening the way to huge potential for cutting carbon emissions in industry.
This step is a significant boost for the development of projects such as H-vision. We are now waiting for further details about this category so that we can calculate the impact on financial feasibility.
Finally, something very important!
We have not yet mentioned the added value for society of the concept or its future resilience. Because even if industry – not only refineries but also the chemical industry – were to achieve 100% electrification in theory, there will still be residual gases for which a solution is needed. This will also be the case if there is a feedstock transition involving the use of biogenic feedstock. The CO2 from the residual gases will then still be released into the atmosphere. H-vision also offers a solution in this respect by converting those residual gases into low-carbon hydrogen as well. This makes the H-vision concept truly unique.
Update: H-vision in 3 minutes
Video: low-carbon hydrogen for hard to abate industries.
H-vision at the World Hydrogen Summit Rotterdam. Watch the video of the panel discussion...
H-vision in numbers
CO-2 emissions Rotterdam
Over the course of four years, the signatories to Rotterdam’s Climate Agreement want to reverse the current trend in carbon emissions: from an annual increase to a pronounced decrease. If by 2030 all plans are realised, by 2030, the region’s carbon footprint will be reduced by 49.6% compared to 2017. In absolute terms: in 2017 Rotterdam released 31.2 megatons of CO₂ into the atmosphere. By 2030, this needs to have dropped to 11.8 megatons – savings of nearly 20 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Capacity hydrogen plants
The first plant, with a capacity of approximately 750 MW, will be completed by late 2026. A second hydrogen plant can increase the total capacity to over 1,500 MW.