Hydrogen – the economic miracle

View inside the 500-kilowatt Green Electrolyzer, © iGas
View inside the 500-kilowatt Green Electrolyzer, © iGas

The production of hydrogen is now recognized as an emerging market right around the globe. Many diverse electrolyzer manufacturers are experiencing unprecedented demand. A great many new players are jumping on the bandwagon and increasing numbers of conventional energy suppliers are pivoting from traditional power sources to renewable energies and embedding hydrogen in their portfolios. So what is the current situation vis-a-vis electrolyzers and what can we expect in the future? This article seeks to shine a light on these and other questions by providing a general – though not necessarily exhaustive – roundup of recent developments.

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Small on-site energy generation is on the up

Prototype of the mini wind turbine developed by Fraunhofer IAP, BTU and EAB, © Fraunhofer IAP
© Fraunhofer IAP

Until now, the energy supply mechanism in Germany and Europe has taken a centralized form. Massive power plants are responsible for generating electricity and heat which are then distributed via cables or district heating networks. When the boom in solar and wind generation began around 20 years ago, many in the sector hoped that decentralization would follow – a belief that led only to disappointment in many respects. While the number of distributed energy generation systems has indeed risen, the wholesale change once envisaged has yet to materialize.

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Efforts to expand hydrogen infrastructure are stalling

Hydrogen Station in Neuruppin, Germany
Opened in March 2021 after a considerable delay: The hydrogen station in Neuruppin was no. 92.

New hydrogen refueling stations continue to spring up but Germany has yet to pass the 100-station mark. How can that be? The reason for this apparent stagnation lies in the dismantling or renovation of old filling stations. A number of stations that were built several years ago as demonstrators for the first stage of Germany’s national hydrogen innovation program are showing their age. Consequently, some are no longer economical to run and are being taken down or – at widely varying expense – upgraded.

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New dates for energy storage and H2 events

Logo H2ExpoNot least because of the pandemic, there will be a few changes in the trade fair organizing domain. Energy Storage Europe (ESE) in Düsseldorf will not take place in the spring as usual, but from September 20th to 22th, and under a new name, Expo for Decarbonised Industries. Another difference is that the energy storage fair will be prevented from coinciding with the world-leading glass production fair Glasstec. According to Messe Düsseldorf, it shall create a “suitable platform for decarbonization of industries and businesses in Germany.”

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Peter Sauber says farewell after over 20 years

Peter Sauber with Stefan Kaumann
Peter Sauber (left) with Stefan Kaufmann, national innovation officer for green hydrogen

Peter Sauber filled the fairgrounds of the Haus der Wirtschaft in Stuttgart with exhibitors one last time. To conclude his long career, the fuel cell pioneer presented, with the customary professionalism, an f-cell as eventful as in the best days, despite pandemic conditions. All of the available exhibition spaces were booked and it would have been even grander if the area were larger, remarked Sauber, showing H2-international the waiting list as proof.

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Havelstoff – hydrogen from the Havel region

Trash, © Shutterstock
A copious amount of trash is readily available, © Shutterstock

Producing high-purity hydrogen from the blades of decommissioned wind turbines is a most ingenious idea. If this can be scaled up successfully, it would solve a number of challenges in one fell swoop: For one thing, it would save the effort of shredding, recycling or otherwise disposing of old blades. Instead their composite material could be usefully reclaimed. Secondly, it would open up an additional hydrogen source to help satisfy the rapidly rising demand for hydrogen. And thirdly, the process would result in an extremely clean form of carbon dioxide that could be used in various branches of industry. But before any of that is possible, a whole range of issues must first be overcome.

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It’s all about the colors of hydrogen … again

I could be wrong, of course. But I feel like more and more members of the hydrogen community have had enough of people constantly talking about their favorite colors. During the past several months, we’ve seen debate after debate about the pros and cons of green, blue and turquoise hydrogen. First in Germany, now in Brussels.

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Metal hydride as H2 storage for alpine residential building

The Miner's house with Hy2green energy supply, © GKN
© GKN

Seasonal storage of hydropower

Up to now, hydrogen has generally been stored in a gaseous state – both in the mobile and stationary sectors. But there are other possibilities: For example, a group of companies has applied the same technology to a South Tyrolean residential building that is also used in fuel cell-powered submarines: Metal hydride storage. With their help, a seasonal energy transfer of hydropower from summer to winter is being tested as part of a demonstration project.

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HZwei turns 20

may

It’s been over 20 years since the “Magazin für Wasserstoff und Brennstoffzellen” started covering the hydrogen and fuel cell sector. H2Tec, as it was called at the time, was launched by Hanover-based SunMedia Verlags GmbH at the turn of this century. In 2005, the company decided to cease publication and transfer the rights to the trade magazine to Hydrogeit Verlag, then and now Germany’s premier source for books about hydrogen and fuel cells.

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Hydrogen is the key

Bernd Buchholz, economy minister, Schleswig-Holstein.

It’s been a long time since things were moving forward at the pace they have been in recent months. And it has been just as long since the mood was that optimistic in the energy sector. Wherever you look, you feel as if a new chapter has begun. It certainly feels a lot different than past times of doom and gloom in the fuel cell and hydrogen industry.

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