Hydrogen technology is now reaping the benefits of unprecedented political and business momentum, with many strategies, policies, and hydrogen projects worldwide expanding swiftly. In the mining sector hydrogen is forming part of many miners decarbonisation pathways, either as carbon-free fuel to displace diesel in heavy equipment, such as haul trucks and trains, or to generate electricity to power processing plant, with testing already underway and the potential for it to be used more widely before the end of the decade.
Listed below are the key technology trends impacting the hydrogen industry, as identified by GlobalData.
Electrolysers are stepping up swiftly, scaling up from megawatt (MW) to gigawatt (GW), as hydrogen technology continues to evolve and progress. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the cost of electrolysers, from $840/kW today, dropped 60% since 2010 and could drop another 40% in the short-term scenario and 80% in the long-term scenario.
Attaining these reductions depends on innovation to enhance electrolyser performance, increasing manufacturing capacity, standardisation along with rising economies of scale. This can bring the cost of green hydrogen to less than $2/kg—a major breakthrough for cost competitiveness—and a 40% decrease in electrolyser cost, that is $336/kW by 2030, with over 100 GW of capacity deployed. By 2030, IHI Engineering Australia Pty Ltd (IEA) estimates that renewable hydrogen (green hydrogen) will become the cheapest option for clean hydrogen supply for numerous greenfield uses.
There has been a slew of new market entrants, such as H2Pro and Hynet , focusing on improving electrolyser capacity and technology. Energy leader Iberdrola in partnership with Ingeteam has established a company called Iberlyzer, dedicated to electrolyser technology.
Electrolysers will are expected to play a pivotal role in shaping application areas such as industrial hydrogen production, Power-to-X strategy management, as well as power grid stabilisation.
Hydrogen energy storage
Hydrogen produced using renewable electricity – attained via an electrolyser – could enable the integration of large volumes of variable renewable energy such as wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) into the energy system. Electrolysers can enable the integration of variable renewable energy into the electric power systems, as their electricity consumption can be modified to follow solar PV and wind power generation, wherein hydrogen serves as a source of energy storage for renewable electricity.
They provide a flexible load and offer grid balancing services such as ramping up or down frequency regulation, whilst functioning at optimal capacity to meet hydrogen demand from industry along with the transportation sector or for injecting into the natural gas grid.
Hydrogen energy storage has showcased its benefits beyond the lab via real-world projects. In the US, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), a natural gas provider to Southern California, has been involved in several partnerships associated with hydrogen energy storage projects. The company is a leader in getting power to gas (P2G) technology into the US. With the National Fuel Cell Research Centre (NFCRC) at the University of California at Irvine (UCI), SoCalGas set in place an electrolyser powered by the on-campus solar electric system that feeds renewable hydrogen into the campus power plant.
Renewable technology improvements
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, are expected to be a building block for the realisation of a green hydrogen economy. Therefore, the economics of renewable power generation is critical for the growth of green hydrogen adoption. According to Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) analysis, in 2020, technologies including onshore wind and utility-scale solar have become increasingly competitive with the marginal cost of existing conventional generation technologies. The cost of energy from renewables, particularly new wind and solar projects commissioned in 2021, fell below the costs of over 800GW of existing coal-fired power plants globally.
The technological advancements in wind power such as larger wind turbines and longer wind turbine rotor blades; along with the increasing efficiency of solar PV cells would prove beneficial for green hydrogen project deployments. The costs of new solar PV projects have fallen below $1,000 per kWh, while average new wind projects costs have fallen to about $1,400 per kWh. This improves the levelised costs of green hydrogen projects.
Growing carbon capture and storage (CCS) deployment
CCS technology is a potential answer to global carbon emission concerns in the power sector, as it prevents the release of large amounts of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere from fossil-fuelled power plants. CCS technology comprises a three-step process where anthropogenic CO2 emissions are captured, transported, and stored in deep geological formations to prevent the release of hazardous gas into the atmosphere.
CO2 capture processes can be considered new to the power industry but have been used for the past 60 years in the oil, gas, and chemical sectors. The technology has the potential to capture 90% of CO2 emissions from conventional fossil-fuelled plants.
Hydrogen is seen as a clean energy fuel of the future and will play a crucial role in decarbonising the industrial segment. A process involving natural gas reforming with carbon capture technology in itself serves as the lowest cost option for clean hydrogen production. This process produces blue hydrogen by reforming natural gas into H2 and CO2; the CO2 by-product will be then captured, transported as well as stored in deep geological formations.
Waste to hydrogen tech
Hydrogen can be generated from biomass as well as bio waste. A budding niche has developed in the market to convert waste into hydrogen. The available project capacities are limited in terms of size. But the prospect of waste elimination is being tested in several low-to-medium level hydrogen production projects. Wuppertal municipality in Germany has adopted hydrogen fuel cell-based buses in its jurisdiction to cut emissions. The raw material for hydrogen production is sourced from Municipal waste collected by waste segregation.
New technologies for waste to hydrogen are being developed by vendors such as Ways2H , SGH2 Energy, and Standard Hydrogen . Ways2H has developed waste to hydrogen projects in Asia, Europe, as well as in the US. Biomass to hydrogen projects is suited in large agricultural counties, whereas cities can rely on municipal waste generated after careful segregation.
This results in a near perennial source for production while addressing the issue of waste generation. Such small-scale projects can be enacted in various cities globally, especially with governmental cooperation.
This is an edited extract from the Hydrogen in Mining – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.