Hydrogen for the post-coal era

By Sven Geitmann

May 15, 2024

Image titel: A nuclear power plant close to the Hungarian town of Paks

Sources: Bükkábrány Energiapark

Hydrogen for the post-coal era

Nuclear energy also to power electrolysis in Hungary

In May 2021, Hungary published its national hydrogen strategy. It sets out how the country plans to create opportunities post-coal. According to the strategy, gray hydrogen is initially expected to be used within industry in the current decade. This will then be replaced only gradually by electrolytic hydrogen. Solar-derived hydrogen is to be produced on sites of former opencast mines, with the first plant already in operation.

Fig. 2: The electrolyzer in the Bükkábrány energy park not only produces solar hydrogen but is also used for research



Image: Bükkábrány Energiapark

The ministry for innovation and technology which is responsible for Hungary’s hydrogen strategy employs the terms “carbon-free hydrogen” and “low-carbon hydrogen” throughout its strategy paper. The expression “green hydrogen,” however, is absent. This is because the Paks nuclear power plant is due to play a major role in the country’s hydrogen production. Unlike other nations, Hungary has openly underlined its desire to put nuclear power at the center of its hydrogen energy plans.

The small town of Paks, situated a good 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Budapest on the western side of the Danube, is currently home to four working nuclear reactors which together generate 2 gigawatts of power. In addition, the Russian enterprise Rosatom is building a further two reactors at this location which are scheduled for completion in 2032. Their generation capacity is expected to be 2.4 GW. The ministry foresees the power plants in Paks supplying large quantities of cheap, carbon-free electricity that will help build the hydrogen value chain.

The ammonia and refining industries have also established themselves in the Paks area. This points toward possible synergies between the power and mobility sectors within a hydrogen economy. Iron- and steelworks are located in Dunaújváros on the eastern bank of the Danube and cement factories are found in the Transdanubia region to the west of the river. This area likewise has the potential to decarbonize through the introduction of a hydrogen economy.

Northwest: hydrogen instead of coal

Another focus region for the hydrogen economy is expected to be the northwest of the country. Here, decarbonization efforts will center on the old Mátra coal-fired power plant. The mines and the brown coal generation facility will remain operational until 2025, after which time only companies involved in machinery construction, underground engineering and biomass production will continue their activities.

It is hoped that hydrogen will ensure an equitable transition for the Mátra power plant as it moves toward an emission-free future. The intention is to manage the social and economic changes caused by phasing out coal combustion, which will affect the lives of thousands of people, with utmost care and responsibility.

Beyond Transdanubia, initial pilot projects have demonstrated that green hydrogen made using solar power has a great deal of potential here. Photovoltaic plants are being installed on the sites of former opencast mines.

One such pilot project is the Bükkábrány energy park. The scheme is being supported by the University of Szeged and partially financed from EU innovation funds. In 2019, Bükkábrány was already producing solar power on a megawatt scale. By the end of 2023 (correct at the time of publication), generation is set to reach 100 MW of PV power. A further 40 MW is anticipated between 2024 and 2025. An electrolyzer with a 1-MW capacity produces high-purity hydrogen on the site.

Although the project represents the first instance of a commercial-scale electrolyzer plant, the operator is keen to emphasize the trial nature of the project. On the website it states that the electrolyzer will make use of the generation peaks of the neighboring 22-MW solar plant, which is located in an area that was once an opencast brown coal mine. It is understood that the University of Szeged developed the control technology for the plant and has indicated interest in purchasing some of the green hydrogen produced in Bükkábrány.

National hydrogen strategy for Hungary (in English):

Author: Aleksandra Fedorska

Kategorien: Europe | international | News
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