Worley, Princeton Propose New Approach to Renewable Hydrogen Sector

Credit: Canva Pro

by | Aug 31, 2023

A fabricated hydrogen (H2) plant with water surrounding it.

(Credit: Canva)

Researchers from Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and professional project and asset services provider Worley have published a new action plan for the renewable hydrogen sector.

The partners published a paper, “From Ambition To Reality 3 – steps to accelerate net zero delivery,” that outlines their approach to the sector, including a plan that would reduce delivery timelines for projects by up to 40%. The paper further examines the infrastructure delivery challenges of the hydrogen market and of reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century. Worley joined Princeton University’s E-ffiliates program in 2021, and the paper is the third in a series between the two institutions on rethinking infrastructure delivery practice in the effort to tackle climate change.

Looking at net-zero solutions, renewable hydrogen has become critical, and it is particularly prevalent in the European Union, where hydrogen is included in more than 15 key pieces of policy and legislation.

“Hydrogen’s value as one of the pillars of decarbonization stems from its ability to mimic the characteristics of liquid and gaseous fossil fuels and because it can be produced using a diversity of low-emissions pathways,” the report stated. “Hydrogen also offers a means to delink energy production from the time of end use, providing one solution to the output variability of certain renewables. Hydrogen therefore has the potential to be an enabler of deep decarbonization while also improving energy resilience and energy security across industry sectors.”

The report noted that there is a lack of interoperability in the sector, largely due to its nascent emergence. Even labeling it correctly and according to energy source and manufacturing technology has little consensus. For example, there is mandatory labeling, such as low-carbon hydrogen, clean hydrogen, and renewable hydrogen. But there are also voluntary standards, with emissions ranked by colors. The lack of interoperability represents a challenge for project developers looking at international trade, making standardization a high priority.

Ramping Up Hydrogen Production a Big Priority

The EU has an ambitious goal of 10 million tons per year of renewable hydrogen production by 2030, but traditional delivery methods will be too slow for the infrastructure needed to achieve this goal. To get there, the report revealed an eight-to-12-fold increase in global electrolyzer manufacturing capacity, a four-fold increase in annual capacity additions for offshore wind every year, and a 35% increase in desalination capacity additions are required by 2030.

With such a huge pickup needed to reach the energy goals, Worley and Princeton researchers developed the ‘EU Renewable H2 Initiative Plan,’ a 10-point plan for the industry that requires widespread adoption of a new delivery paradigm.

“We know that the desire to deliver on net zero is strong across the industry, but that needs to be backed up by a pragmatic plan to get there,” Sue Brown, executive group director from Worley, said in a statement. “The EU Renewable H2 Initiative Plan provides a guide for infrastructure participants, outlining tangible steps to drive the necessary transformation to meet the scale and pace required for mid-century net zero.”

Specifically, report authors state that 25 projects at a scale of 3 gigawatts electrolyzer and 400 kilotons per year need to reach commercial operation date by 2030 to meet the EU’s target. The timeline to deliver these projects is likely a minimum of eight years, and timelines beyond 10 years are probable. To achieve the 2030 deadline, a change in approach is necessary.

Also in the plan is proposed government underwriting of demand and streamlining permitting, the use of standardization within the hydrogen industry, and widespread sharing of industry information and best practices. 

See the full report here

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