To truly harness hydrogen’s potential and reduce its carbon footprint, there’s a growing demand for alternative, sustainable production methods.
Electrolysis, powered by renewable energy, offers a promising solution by splitting water into its two elemental components: oxygen and hydrogen. While the technology is well-established, there’s an urgent need to scale up production capacity and drive down costs to meet the rapidly growing industrial demand.
Scotland’s Ambitious Hydrogen Goals
Scotland has set ambitious targets to lead the charge in sustainable hydrogen production. By 2030, the aim is to achieve 5 gigawatts (GW) of installed hydrogen production capacity from low-carbon sources, combining current methods with carbon capture, and embracing renewable hydrogen through electrolysis. By 2045, this target will soar to an impressive 25 GW. These numbers might seem monumental for a relatively small country, but the progress being made suggests that such aspirations are indeed achievable.
One of the critical components of this hydrogen revolution is collaboration. The Scottish Government has been actively identifying local companies with the potential to become industrial-scale electrolyzer manufacturers. Among these is Aqualution, a company with a base in Duns in the Scottish Borders.
Aqualution: Turning Water into Hydrogen Innovatively
Aqualution is renowned internationally for producing a specific disinfectant for food and clinical use, using methods analogous to green hydrogen production. With funding from South of Scottish Enterprise and the University of Edinburgh as an academic partner, Aqualution has made remarkable strides in less than 18 months.
The company is now focused on developing technology that has the potential to outperform current market leaders in green hydrogen production. Nick Meakin, CEO at Aqualution, states, “We were asked if we could repurpose our electrolysers to make hydrogen. So, we said we would give it a go. So far, we have been quite successful.”
Aqualution’s electrolysers exhibit exceptional efficiency, with efficiencies exceeding 90%, in stark contrast to the 50-60% efficiencies of most commercially available electrolysers. This efficiency is attributed to the strength of their core design.
Furthermore, Aqualution has overcome the hurdle of water quality, turning Scottish tap water into hydrogen directly, without the need for extensive purification. Their core electrolysis technology, used globally in food production, remains effective even in regions with poor water quality. Impressively, these electrolysers can be controlled remotely from Scotland, showcasing their versatility and potential for deployment across the globe.
Green Hydrogen: The Road Ahead
While significant strides have already been made in green hydrogen production, Aqualution envisions further advancements to scale up production and reduce costs. On the current trajectory, production prices could plummet to approximately 35 kWh per kilogram.
Meakin outlines the next steps, saying, “The next stage for us will be to do some further work on the internals to reduce the voltage across each individual cell, which will further drop the cost per kilo of the hydrogen. Once you have done that, it is just a question of making it bigger and not losing any of the efficiencies.”
Within the next year, production may escalate to 50 kW and 100 kW systems, eventually reaching a megawatt scale. The company is collaborating with the University of Edinburgh to enhance the resilience of electrolyser components, aiming to harness seawater for hydrogen production without the need for extensive desalination and purification processes.
Scotland’s renowned universities, packed with energy industry experts and scientists, provide the perfect environment for innovation in renewable hydrogen. Numerous innovative projects across Scotland, from turning seawater into hydrogen to underground hydrogen storage in purpose-built rock shafts, are poised to revolutionize green hydrogen production.
As the world undergoes an energy transition, these projects demonstrate that ambitious targets for sustainable hydrogen production are not only achievable but also well within reach. Scotland’s journey into green hydrogen stands as a beacon of hope in the quest for cleaner and more efficient energy solutions.