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Demand for hydrogen, which has grown more than threefold since 1975, continues to rise. But while green hydrogen, which is produced without fossil fuels, represents only the smallest sliver of today’s hydrogen production pie, it is, according to the International Energy Agency, enjoying unprecedented momentum [1]. Two new green hydrogen production centers now under construction in the United States will rely on multiple ABB systems – illustrating the rise of a potentially game-changing power source.

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Scott McKay ABB Energy Industries Houston, TX, United States, scott.mckay@us.abb.com

Thanks in large part to the steadily declining cost of renewable energy, green hydrogen is expected to play an essential role in meeting greenhouse gas emission targets worldwide. Indeed, scaled-up production could deliver hydrogen for a benchmark cost of $2/kg in 2030 and $1/kg in 2050 in many parts of the world [2], making it competitive with natural gas prices. In the meantime, exponential growth in the hydrogen economy is expected to accelerate, reaching up to 500 to 800 million tons per year by 2050 [3], thus potentially supplying 20 percent of global energy demand.

In view of these trends, Plug, the leading provider of comprehensive hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) turnkey solutions, has established North America’s first green hydrogen supply network. That network is slated to be expanded with the opening of two new production facilities that will jointly produce 60 tons of green hydrogen daily. The hydrogen will replace some 170 tons of fossil fuels in the logistics and transportation sectors.

Already the largest buyer of liquid hydrogen globally, Plug has built more hydrogen refueling stations than any other company in the world. When its new green hydrogen production facilities enter service – one in the town of Alabama, New York, and the other in Peachtree, Georgia – they will help to fulfill its strategic plan of offering green hydrogen that is cost-competitive with fossil fuel energy to customers looking to meet sustainability goals.

The New York plant – which will be the largest green hydrogen production facility in North America – will be located in the New York Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP), and will have its own electric substation. Producing 45 metric tons of green liquid hydrogen daily for the U.S. northeast – the equivalent of 126 tons of gasoline – the plant will use 120 MW of Plug’s state-of-the-art proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers to split water into hydrogen and oxygen through an electrochemical process, using clean hydropower.

The production facility is designed to lead the way in decarbonizing freight transportation and logistics in New York state, thus supporting the state’s path to achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050.

Located in Camden County, Georgia, Plug’s second facility will produce 15 tons of liquid green hydrogen per day for customers in the southeastern U.S.

The New York and Georgia production facilities will join Plug’s other plants under construction in the southern and western United States, as well as its PEM stack and electrolyzer Innovation Center in Rochester, New York. The network aims to supply 500 tons per day of green hydrogen by 2025 and 1,000 tons per day globally by 2028. When fully built, the network will enable pricing competitive to diesel for its transportation fuel customers.

Scaling up
With a view to supporting Plug to scale up its technologies while bringing its overall production costs down, ABB is providing the Alabama facility with a full electrical system encased in an ABB eHouse solution – a prefabricated, walk-in, modular outdoor power distribution center hosting a range of electrical, automation and ancillary equipment that provides site and process power. The pre-tested eHouse is designed to reduce both the costs and time needed for installation and commissioning.

ABB will also supply gas- and air-insulated switchgear, low voltage motor control centers, along with a low voltage variable speed drive for auxiliary applications. In addition, a medium voltage VSD will be applied to multiple motors in sync bypass mode. Used as a compressor starter, this drive will allow smooth process control, and will reduce stress to equipment and utility loads by limiting inrush current and power demand during the process start.

The Georgia plant will have a similar scope of work. As with the New York plant, its hydrogen will be used by the logistics and transportation sectors, enabling users to replace fossil fuels in on-road applications, such as heavy-duty freight vehicles and logistics equipment.

All in all, the New York and Georgia projects are an important part of Plug’s plans to build additional plants around the U.S. to offer green hydrogen that is cost-competitive with fossil fuel energy.

For its part, ABB is collaborating with customers and partners around the world to develop and integrate technology that will make hydrogen an accessible and affordable component of the world’s low carbon energy mix. 

References
[1] IEA. The future of hydrogen. Seizing today’s opportunities. June, 2019. Available: https://www.iea.org/reports/the-future- of-hydrogen [Accessed August 11, 2022].
[2] BloombergNEF. Hydrogen Economy Outlook Key messages, March 30, 2020. Available: https://data.bloomberglp.com/professional/sites/24/BNEF-Hydrogen-Economy-Outlook-Key-Messages-30-Mar-2020.pdf [Accessed August 11, 2022].
[3] Reuters. $15 trillion global hydrogen investment needed to 2050-research. Available: https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/15-trillion-global-hydrogen-investment-needed-2050-research-2021-04-26/ [Accessed August 11, 2022].
Title photo: ©AA+W/stock.adobe.com

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