Nordic projects drive digital-supported green hydrogen technologies

Nordic companies are driving cost reductions in the production of green hydrogen through digitisation

Nordic-led projects in the green hydrogen technology processing sector are using digital technologies to slash the cost of production.

Stockholm-headquartered IT solutions group Hexagon has partnered with the Hydrogen Utility (H2U), one of Australia’s largest hydrogen infrastructure developers, to digitise its green hydrogen construction plants.

H2U’s strategic partnership with Hexagon combines the Swedish digital reality solutions company’s expertise in integrating industrial facility digital ecosystems with the Australian group’s green hydrogen and green ammonia plant designs.

The collaboration aims to deliver best-in-class digital asset management to support ongoing technological advances in the so-called global green hydrogen revolution.

The move to cost-effective green hydrogen production was the catalyst to Hexagon joining forces with H2U on the digital transformation project, said Ola Rollén, Hexagon’s CEO.

“Our solutions provide a common environment to manage seamless and effective collaboration across H2U’s technology partner ecosystem,” said Rollén.  

Digital twin technology being delivered by Hexagon comprises computer programmes that use real-world data to create simulations that can predict how a product or process will perform in industrial production conditions.

Significantly, cost efficiencies can also be measured within the digital twin framework process that supports the development of rapid deployment scenarios required for green hydrogen to deliver deep decarbonisation in the industrial and energy sectors.

The hydrogen plant digitisation project will task Hexagon’s PPM division (formerly Intergraph Process, Power & Marine) to enable H2U to integrate its digital twin platform. The platform is designed to manage each stage of the asset lifecycle – from engineering and design through finance, construction and operation – to improve efficiency and risk reduction.

Ambitious scope

The ambitious scope of the international partnership will see Hexagon’s technology implemented across H2U’s planned pipeline of high-quality industrial green hydrogen infrastructure initiatives in Australia and New Zealand.

Within H2U’s framework of green hydrogen initiatives are the Eyre Peninsula Gateway project in South Australia and the H2-Hub Gladstone project in Queensland.

Meanwhile, in a Nordic cross-border collaboration, Semcon has joined a Swedish-Norwegian consortium with Hystar to develop new digital-supported electrolyser technology to produce green sustainable hydrogen.

The industrial consortium, led by Semcon and Hystar, is focused on using digital-supported automation to deliver large-scale production of green sustainable hydrogen based on new electrolyser technology. The primary target is to develop an integrated technology solution that can produce up to 150% more hydrogen without using more energy than in conventional processes currently employed across the industry.

The next stage in the project is focused on finding viable solutions to automate the production of electrolyser stacks that convert electricity to hydrogen and oxygen. These ground-breaking mass manufacturing methods are a prerequisite to revolutionising the production of electrolysers, said Robert Eliasson, area manager production development at Semcon.

“This is a challenging and important Nordic collaboration,” he said. “It ensures that both knowledge and production can be retained and developed in Sweden and in Norway.”

Although hydrogen production technology using polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers is common and already well developed, the advanced development of automatic and flexible stack production processes is required to achieve large-scale hydrogen production.

“Our collaboration with Semcon will enable us to achieve our goal to produce our electrolysers stacks more cost-effectively using automation and at high volumes,” said Alejandro Barnett, CTO at Hystar.

The Semcon-supported Hystar project’s chief target is to employ smart digital solutions and engineering to reduce the cost of green hydrogen, said Bente Traa, project manager at Hystar.

“Hystar’s purpose is to develop technology for a greener future. Our Autostack project is a key factor in making that a reality.”

Design concept

The Hystar-Semcon consortium is working to complete the design concept stage of the project during the third quarter of 2022. The next target is to test all critical elements in the concept by the third quarter of 2023. The project’s ultimate goal is to have the tested concept fully defined and ready to deploy on an industrial scale by the second quarter of 2024.

The green hydrogen development project is being part-funded by the Research Council of Norway, the state agency responsible for providing grant aid to innovative schemes.

The potential market demand for green renewable hydrogen, which currently accounts for about 1% of the world’s total industrial and mobility hydrogen consumption,  is expected to experience steady, if not rapid, growth over the coming years.

Nel, the Norway-based dedicated hydrogen supply group, commissioned its first digital-supported automated electrolyser production facility at Herøya, southwest of Oslo, on 20 April 2022.

The falling cost of green hydrogen will unlock new application areas where green hydrogen is the best or only option for decarbonising, said Jon André Løkke, CEO at Nel.

“The secret is scale-up and automate,” he added. “This will lower the unit cost of electrode production like never before. We are on track to make green renewable hydrogen as cheap, or cheaper, to produce than natural gas-based hydrogen by 2025.”

Nel aims to deliver green sustainable hydrogen at $1.50/kg, a goal that would require a 75% drop in capital expenditures from today’s level, said Løkke.

“Half of the savings we need to make will come from scale-up and increased efficiency in production,” he said. “The rest will come from economy of scale, and from effective industrial partnerships.”

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