Cooperation and innovation to expedite the development of low-carbon hydrogen

Bruno Roche, Global Head of Energy Transition, ABB Process Automation, Energy Industries, explains how collaboration can make a world of difference in speeding innovation in low carbon hydrogen production, thereby making it a cost-effective, accessible, and sustainable energy source.

The responsibility to decrease emissions and decarbonize is no longer optional for accountable enterprises.

Certain industries are on the verge of adopting more sustainable practices. For some major industries, however, such as petrochemical, cement, and steel, which account for as much as 22 percent of world emissions, the obstacles are difficult. Here, low-carbon hydrogen comes into play.

When fueled by renewable energy, so-called “green” hydrogen can be a clean energy solution produced from water by electrolysis.

In a broader sense, low-carbon hydrogen, regardless of “color,” can be a very attractive energy vector for reducing carbon in difficult-to-control industries, such as cement or steel, in transport, such as maritime, and in many other applications when utilized as a chemical feedstock.

Complete solution

Collaboration is essential if we are to assist clients in overcoming the obstacles posed by green hydrogen generation. By combining our experience and solutions into a separate ecosystem of industry leaders, we can scale up technologies and lower manufacturing costs in order to construct green hydrogen assets more quickly, affordably, and securely.

For instance, we have partnered with IBM and Worley to expedite and standardize the generation of green hydrogen and to facilitate its industrial usage. Green Hydrogen in a Box is the first-of-its-kind, reproducible solution of its sort. This is an end-to-end template strategy to increase the efficiency of the design, construction, and operation of green hydrogen plants.

IBM will supply systems integration services as well as data framework and management solutions, whereas Worley will provide engineering, procurement, and construction skills during all phases of the project.

ABB combines 130 years of technology innovation and proficiency in project engineering. We will supply solutions for electrical infrastructure, automation operations, digitalization, and optimization of energy management systems.

Together with our partners, we want to expedite global market adoption and scalability by leveraging our collective knowledge. Our mission is to assist facility owners in further decarbonizing their operations and implementing sustainable solutions.

Overcoming obstacles collectively

Sustainable production of hydrogen does pose substantial obstacles. It is crucial to maintain a dependable power supply while new energy sources are integrated into the grid.

Increasing the production of hydrogen quickly enough to reach the required supply levels, while simultaneously reducing its costs to make it economically feasible, is also no easy challenge.

The production cost remains a big obstacle. Green hydrogen was formerly the most expensive kind of hydrogen to create, with a cost of approximately $6 per kilogram.

However, the present high price of gasoline has drastically narrowed the price gap between blue hydrogen, which is produced using fossil fuels, and green hydrogen. Although a reduction in the disparity is beneficial, it may not be sustainable over time.

Regarding cost, the energy-intensive nature of sustainable hydrogen production is a significant obstacle. Therefore, energy and process management must be the focal point of the successful operation of a hydrogen plant.

Scaling up hydrogen production will necessitate substantial capital expenditures (capex), but it is also vital to consider operating expenses (opex).

Long-term, the electricity required to operate a hydrogen production is far more expensive than the initial investment. In fact, more than 70 percent of the total operating costs to produce 1 kilogram of hydrogen could be attributed to the electricity used in the electrolysis process to split the water molecule. We must reduce these costs to allow green hydrogen to scale up to the required GW levels.

Dynamic market

Hydrogen is projected to supply up to 15 percent of the world’s energy demands and generate a market worth $2.5 trillion by 2050, demonstrating the potential and desire to expand the hydrogen economy.

IHS Markit forecasts that low-carbon hydrogen generation will require up to $265 billion in capital expenditures by 2030. At $165 billion, electrolysers that convert water to hydrogen using renewable energy will grab the lion’s share. In the meantime, one hundred billion dollars will be spent on steam methane reforming (SMR) with carbon capture.

ABB believes that economically viable green hydrogen is essential for the transition to a low-carbon society.

We are supplementing the knowledge of our partners with our electrification, automation, and digital solutions, thereby reducing the cost of green hydrogen production. Only via such collaboration will it be feasible to foster a vibrant hydrogen economy and make hydrogen a central component of our planet’s low- or zero-carbon future.