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Green hydrogen for gas turbines in Mellach

VERBUND has started construction on a pilot plant at the thermal power plant site in Mellach, Austria. The plant will be able to operate both as an electrolyser and as a fuel cell.

Graz University of Technology and Sunfire both evaluate the use of climate-neutral hydrogen in power plant operation as a substitute for natural gas.

With an electrical output of 838 megawatts the Mellach gas-fired power plant is the most powerful plant in Austria. In its use for super regional grid support, it contributes significantly to the electricity supply security throughout Austria. The two gas turbines are currently operated with natural gas.

As part of the recently launched “Hotflex” research project, energy supplier VERBUND will test the partial substitution of natural gas with hydrogen produced in a climate-neutral way in an industrial power plant operation for the first time. 

The starting point for the new plant is the expansion of renewable energies all over Europe. Currently, the main type of large-scale storage for wind and solar power is pumped-storage.

With the “Hotflex” pilot plant, excess wind and solar power can be taken from the grid and converted into hydrogen by high-temperature electrolysis. 

 

This “green” hydrogen will then be mixed with natural gas to drive the two gas turbines in a more climate-neutral manner.

The hydrogen is to be produced directly at the power plant site by high-temperature electrolysis with a production capacity of 40Nm3/h.

A special feature of the Mellach pilot plant, whose components are manufactured by the cleantech company Sunfire in Dresden, is that it can operate in reverse mode as a fuel cell.

VERBUND will test the fuel cell operating mode primarily as a possibility for self or emergency power supply of its power plant.

OPERATOR WANTS TO LAUNCH HYDROGEN-POWERED TAXIS

A Luxembourg taxi operator hopes to roll out 10 new hydrogen-powered taxis if plans for a hydrogen fuel station come to fruition.

Emile Weber was among the first to embrace electric mobility on a large scale when in 2012 it rolled out hybrid taxis and in 2015 100% electric vehicles, under the brand Webtaxi "eco".

Now it is dipping a toe in the hydrogen-powered vehicle market. “We were seduced by the technology because it offers us some interesting advantages: with 5kg of hydrogen, it is already possible to drive up to 400 kilometres, which corresponds to about two drivers' working time,” a company spokesperson told Delano on Thursday. “This is an advantage over electric vehicles, which cannot yet provide such a range.”

The project depends on two elements: that the cost of hydrogen does not exceed that of fossil fuels and the creation of a dedicated H2 service station in Luxembourg City. The latter forms part of an initiative from a consortium of Luxembourg companies, including hydrogen technology firm Move2 Group, which is headquartered in Wiltz.

“We’re trying to install the first H2 station,” Jean-Luc Hannosset de Moxhe, of Move2 Group, told Delano, saying he is seeking private investors for the estimated €3.5m project.

He said the hydrogen station itself is expected to be located in the vicinity of the capital and, assuming he finds backers, could be operational in a year.

 

The group also plans to manufacture hydrogen at a second site, planned for the south of the country, which would use electricity generated from wind turbines in Luxembourg. “This is important because the other way is using oil, and that’s not clean,” he said.

Move2 has developed secure bike and ski containers, which it sells B2B. It also owns H2Tec, developing technology to extend the range of electric light utility vehicles using hydrogen fuel cells. “We know that until now it’s difficult to have a full H2 [hydrogen] car because we don’t have enough H2 charging stations. In fact there are none in Luxembourg,”

 

Hannosset de Moxhe said.  

There are fewer than 100 H2 stations in Europe, among them 62 in Germany, 4 in France, 2 in the Netherlands and 2 in Belgium, according to Hannosset de Moxhe. “Combining the two sources [electric and hydrogen] means the range can [be] more than doubled and this is very interesting because it allows us to reduce the size and weight of the batteries and the fuel cells also.”

Electric infrastructure vs hydrogen

Luxembourg has committed to electrifying the country’s stock of privately-owned vehicles. In 2018, electric and plugin hybrids made up 1.5% of the stock.

 

This could rise steadily after the government introduced subsidies in January 2019 of up to €5,000 on 100% electric or hydrogen fuel cars and €2,500 on plugin hybrids with emissions of 50g/kg or less. At the same time, by January 2019 it had rolled out 277 super-fast charging (Chargy) stations out of a planned 800. Hannosset de Moxhe suggests this is why the government has been reluctant to invest in hydrogen fuel infrastructure.

Hannosset de Moxhe, however, remains convinced that hydrogen has a future in Luxembourg, because it offers faster charging times and higher range at a lower cost. Then there is the environmental impact and shelf-life of lithium batteries used in electric vehicles. “The lifetime of the fuel cell will be 10 years and you can recycle them,” he said.

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