No sooner did we do a story on making hydrogen from renewable sources than we came across an announcement from Ørsted saying it will partner with BP to develop a large scale renewable energy project at BP’s Lingen Refinery in Northwest Germany.
Martin Neubert, EVP at Ørsted says, “Heavy industries such as refineries use large quantities of hydrogen in their manufacturing processes. They will continue to need hydrogen, but replacing the currently fossil-based hydrogen with hydrogen produced from renewable energy can help these industries dramatically lower their CO2 footprint. But first, renewable hydrogen has to become cost competitive with fossil-based hydrogen, and for that we need projects such as this with BP’s Lingen refinery which will demonstrate the electrolyser technology at large scale and showcase real life application of hydrogen based on offshore wind.”
Dev Sanyal, BP’a executive vice president for gas and low carbon added, “Hydrogen will have an increasing role to play in meeting the energy demands of a decarbonizing world. And we are determined to build a leading position in this emerging industry. Bringing together Ørsted and BP, Lingen Green Hydrogen offers the opportunity both to accelerate significant emissions reduction in our refinery and build experience of large scale green hydrogen production and deployment. This has the potential to play an important role in the development of a hydrogen economy in Germany and beyond.”
The project will consist of a 50 MW electrolyzer system capable of producing one ton of renewable hydrogen per hour or almost 9,000 tonnes a year. That’s enough to replace about 20 percent of the refinery’s current consumption of hydrogen derived from natural gas — enough to keep 80,000 tons of greenhouse gasses a year out of the atmosphere. But here’s the thing. The Lingen refinery is just one of hundreds of similar industrial operations around the world. A 20 percent reduction in emissions is better than no reduction but it means we have a long, long way to go before industry stops poisoning us all with its waste products.
The good news is that the project, which should be operational by 2024, is just the first step in converting the Lingen refinery to renewable hydrogen. The partners have applied to the EU Innovation Fund for assistance in expanding the renewable hydrogen program to produce more than 500 WW of renewable hydrogen a year — enough to meet all the refinery’s hydrogen demand and also provide feedstock for future synthetic fuel production. The electricity to power the electrolyzer will come from an Ørsted North Sea offshore wind farm. The EU Innovation Fund, which is currently one of the largest funding programs for innovative low carbon technologies focusing on energy intensive industries.
Besides the green hydrogen production itself, the project is also focusing on maximizing the efficiency of the electrolyzer system and completing its integration into the refinery. Coordinated engineering and commercial studies will include assessments for sustainable uses of the main by-products of electrolysis, primarily oxygen and low grade excess heat.
This is excellent news except for one thing. To meet the challenge of global heating, greenhouse gas emissions must fall to zero or nearly so within the next 9 years. All the press releases about being carbon neutral by 2050 are just so much eyewash designed to keeping doing what we have always done for as long as possible — even if that means making the planet unfit for human habitation. We have to do better and soon.