How technology can solve key challenges of the hydrogen value chain

How technology can solve key challenges of the hydrogen value chain

The race to net-zero requires a suite of solutions and renewable energy sources. Hydrogen is abundant and has the potential to be a clean, efficient and widely used fuel. In addition, it is an energy carrier that can be stored for both mid- and long-term, transported, transformed into other chemical compounds or syn fuel. Hydrogen is a vector of different derivatives.  Here’s how ABB is addressing four fundamental facets of hydrogen to help build the momentum.

Learning to ‘fly’ while producing new fuel

Hydrogen is highly flammable even in low concentrations and famously burns with an invisible flame. Before end users adopt it as a fuel or energy carrier, they will need to be assured that it’s safe. Safety starts with production and transportation and making sure this volatile fuel is secure.

We produce digital twin for hydrogen production plants that cover the planning, execution and operation phases of the project lifecycle which will help us to optimize the performance, reduce risk and increase safety. The integration of ABB Process Power Simulator (PPSim) with process model and simulated control system create a realistic behaviour of the dynamics of a plant process and this helps producers to optimize a variety of configurations at the planning stage. Importantly, it creates a real-world environment that allows operators to see how equipment will behave under realistic process and power conditions and scenarios. It lets plant operators gain invaluable ‘hands-on’ experience – similar to pilots training on a flight simulator. They can see how the system responds to different power-input scenarios in normal operations and learn on the simulator what to do in an emergency situation, such as a leak or a fire, and the system will also generate additional predictions of potential outcomes. Especially in an emerging industry, it’s the ideal way for operators to gain confidence and experience safely.

Right-sizing hydrogen plants to bring down costs

The cost of producing green hydrogen can be four to five times higher than for grey hydrogen. It’s a zero-carbon-emissions fuel, but if the cost of green hydrogen is so much higher, it is much less competitive in the value chain. We can use technology to help us reduce the levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH) by optimizing production plants sizing while maximize the renewable inputs.

If you break down the LCOH, approximately 14% of the cost comes from the CAPEX costs to build the project and approximately 69% comes from the electricity costs. ABB has developed the HPP (Hydrogen Production Plant) Sizing Tool, web-based software to holistically optimize the sizing of a hydrogen production plant by considering optimal operations regime during the planning phase. To reduce the LCOH, it is critical to accurately calculate the sizing of the hydrogen production plant and use an energy management system as an integral part of the process design. Our tool lets you run different scenarios, including storage, type of electrolyzers and type of power source inputs. It’s user-friendly and presents a graphic overview to let customers construct, manipulate and compare different scenarios in a digital twin of the proposed plant.

While green hydrogen is the ultimate aim, we know that as we progress the energy transition a lot of hydrogen production will increase the portion of renewable power source and reduce energy from the grid. By optimising the plant during the planning phase, producers will be able to right-size their plant for low-carbon hydrogen production and increase the competitiveness within the hydrogen value chain.

Balancing supply and demand for optimum efficiency

The efficiency of electrolyzers is increasing rapidly but for most producers there is still a mix of power inputs. To be able to move to green hydrogen producers must be equipped to manage and optimize energy from multiple renewable sources. Launched in 2022, ABB AbilityTM Energy Management OPTIMAX is an energy management specifically designed to support green hydrogen production. Its software increases the efficiency of energy-intensive electrolyzers and it ensures smooth integration of inputs from multiple power sources, such as wind and solar, as well as the grid. It helps reduce costs by giving hydrogen producers real-time visibility of consumption across their whole operation.   It’s essential to bring the cost of green hydrogen down to scale up production to the level needed. Global industry advocacy group Green Hydrogen Catapult estimates we need 50-fold production of the fuel by 2050 – and that costs will have to come down by 50 per cent.

ABB’s OPTIMAX doesn’t just deal with the production side, it analyses the feedstock and demand side. Besides real-time demand, it can also do intra-day forecasting, so operators can plan their production and consumption to their advantage with ABB OPTIMAX. ABB estimates that its OPTIMAX energy management system can help reduce plant’s OPEX lifecycle cost by up to 20 per cent and enable more renewable energy inputs.

Integrated support for the all-important electrolyzer

ABB doesn’t make electrolyzers, but we have deep expertise across “balance of plant” solutions – all of the remaining equipment essential to the safe, reliable and efficient operation of hydrogen production.

Design and sizing from initial phases are the key for low carbon or green hydrogen project.  These integrated solutions go across the value chain from CAPEX to OPEX, and beginning with the all-important right-sizing at the planning stage.As an integrated solution provider, ABB supplies automation/control systems, electrical architecture, rectifiers, motors and drives, intelligent switchgear, power management systems and more. In the automation space, it’s safety systems, electrical control systems, intelligent field instruments and analyzers, telecommunication systems and more.

The successful operation of any hydrogen plant relies on efficient energy and process management, which is where ABB OPTIMAX and other ABB Ability solutions apply, supporting remote operations and digitalisation, production and energy optimization and service and asset management.

Just like hydrogen itself, our offerings are abundant!


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