Hydrogen to Replace Coal

Bart Biebuyck

Now, there’s another installation to add to the growing list of hydrogen production systems: H2Future in Linz, Austria. Supported by the European commission, it is managed by a consortium aiming to produce “green” hydrogen in large quantities to bring the energy and industrial sector closer together.

On Feb. 7, 2017, the consortium partners – APG, Siemens, VERBUND and voestalpine – were awarded the contract for setting up a 6-megawatt pilot between the furnaces at voestalpine in Linz. By their own account, the objective was to construct one of the world’s largest PEM electrolysis systems for producing green hydrogen and determine whether it could be deployed as a load-following power plant and whether the hydrogen itself could be used in industry. Their efforts will be supported by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking with around EUR 12 million in funds from the EU’s Horizon 2020 program.

More precisely, the EUR 18 million project will have hydrogen produced by an on-site Siemens electrolyzer feed directly into the in-house grid for use in steelmaking, while the required power will be supplied by Austria’s largest utility, VERBUND. Dutch-based ECN is said to conduct the related research throughout the four-and-a-half years, for example, if and how the process could be adapted for other industries. Additionally, APG will test the comparatively “flexible” PEM system for its feasibility in the load-following power plant market.

Bart Biebuyck (see image), executive director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, explained at the start of H2Future: “We at FCH JU are proud to see this highly innovative project being launched. H2Future is based on a constructive partnership that will play a decisive role in bringing green energy to manufacturing businesses and increase the use of renewables.”

It’s the steel industry’s first test run to see whether hydrogen could gradually replace coal in all kinds of applications. Projects such as this one could help meet Austria’s target of 40 percent decarbonization by 2030, believes Wolfgang Anzengruber, CEO of VERBUND. Wolfgang Eder, CEO of voestalpine, agrees: “The system will help us get a feeling for whether we can or can’t use hydrogen in combination with our technology in the long term. Our expectations today are that it will be possible. It’s more a question of how, not if.”

According to the latest information, the system is planned to go online in 2021.

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