Realising green hydrogen’s potential

Youssef Merjaneh, Managing Director of Black & Veatch EMEA, looks at the type of projects that will foster the MENA’s hydrogen economy

Green hydrogen can be used as a zero-carbon fuel, feedstock and energy carrier, and for energy storage. As the world races to combat climate change and transform its energy systems, green hydrogen has a prominent role in decarbonisation strategies across Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

MENA countries pledged and budgeted more than US $105bn toward hydrogen projects and infrastructure, according to business intelligence channel MEED; whose analysis concluded that green hydrogen was attracting the highest level of project funding compared to other decarbonisation categories.

Creating green hydrogen

Any form of renewable energy can power green hydrogen electrolysis – the process which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. Solar is MENA’s most common renewable energy source, but wind also has a role.

In addition to renewable electric power, an abundant water supply is essential for green hydrogen production. The quantity of water consumed differs depending on the application, but roughly 9,800 litres of demineralised and deionised water is required for each tonne of green hydrogen produced.

As a global engineering, procurement, consulting, and construction company, Black & Veatch serves multiple markets that encompass the hydrogen value chain. We have strong experience in the development of renewable energy and natural gas feedstocks; water treatment for industrial applications; hydrogen generation and purification; hydrogen compression, handling and power generation; and selection of cost-effective storage technology. Our consultants bring strategic, regulatory and market experience to evaluate and support the sequenced growth of regional hydrogen economies.

Black & Veatch is currently building 245 megawatts (MW) of electrolysis capacity across two projects, both scheduled to go commercial before 2025. To put that number in perspective, we are nearly doubling the world’s electrolysis capacity with our engineer, procure, construct (EPC) projects.

Our current hydrogen EPC projects include the world’s largest green hydrogen production and storage hub. The ACES-Delta, a joint venture comprised of Mitsubishi Power and Magnum Development, hydrogen hub will initially be designed to convert more than 220MW of renewable energy daily to 100 tonnes of green hydrogen that will be stored in two expansive salt caverns. The project is located in Delta, Utah, USA.

Storing excess renewable energy as hydrogen in this manner yields a long-term and long-duration energy storage solution, complementing battery energy storage solutions while allowing renewable energy to be deployed in times of highest demand. With hydrogen storage solutions, developers will be able to accommodate and optimise seasonal shifts of excess renewable energy.

The ACES-Delta project provides long-term hydrogen storage in salt caverns

Black & Veatch will engineer, procure, construct, start-up and commission the facility. Mitsubishi Power will provide the hydrogen equipment integration, including the 220MW of electrolysers.

The hydrogen storage hub is adjacent to the Intermountain Power Agency’s (IPA) IPP Renewal Project, an 840MW, hydrogen-capable gas turbine combined cycle power plant. With construction beginning in Spring 2022, the ACES facility will enable operations at that power plant as it scales up from its initial 30% hydrogen fuel to an eventual 100%.

Green hydrogen for CCGT plants

Black & Veatch is the owner’s engineer on the IPP Renewal Project, which marks one of the earliest installations of combustion turbine technology designed to use a high percentage of green hydrogen. The plant will generate power with high flexibility that will allow it to quickly ramp up and down in response to California’s challenging ‘duck curve,’ where the region’s high ratio of variable renewable energy presents challenges for stable grid operations. Whether dispatched for base load power, to follow load and renewable generation swings, or in response to long-duration energy storage needs that far exceed current battery capabilities, the IPP Renewal Project will support the transforming energy mix in the western United States.

We are undertaking the EPC role on a smaller but similar project, which will use green hydrogen blended with natural gas to fuel an existing combined cycle plant. The first-of-a-kind 25MW green hydrogen production facility incorporates Cummins electrolysers, with production targeted for 2024. The hydrogen will be blended with natural gas and supplied to the owner’s existing combined cycle combustion turbine power plant.

Green ammonia production in the Middle East

There is significant potential for green ammonia as a transportable and tradeable zero-carbon fuel, particularly for exporters in the Middle East. As the global green hydrogen economy evolves and demand in Europe and Asia grows for the importation of green ammonia, as an energy carrier of hydrogen, we will see developers across the region explore hybrid green ammonia and LNG infrastructure synergies and start planning their transition into this expanding zero-carbon export opportunity.

Black & Veatch was engaged to develop a feasibility study report for a proposed 300 ton per day ammonia plant based on green hydrogen to be set up in the Middle East. Following the successful completion of the feasibility study, Black & Veatch was appointed to conceptualise the complete project including providing support for electrolyser selection and finalisation. The company is also undertaking studies of this kind for green hydrogen/green ammonia project in Europe, the USA and Asia Pacific.

Green hydrogen production is a complex and rapidly evolving process while the global energy community is still working through and discovering the most efficient, effective and sustainable application of this zero-carbon energy source. To succeed in this environment hydrogen project developers and investors need confidence in the quality of the planning, engineering and construction support they receive alongside a clear understanding of the technologies’ roadmaps, maturities, and commercial viabilities, and thereby avoid the risks and consequences of getting locked into path dependencies.

We believe the most effective support will come from partners with expertise in hydrogen, renewable energy generation, water and wastewater treatment and the complex interfaces between these elements which define hydrogen projects – many of which are first-of-a-kind in terms of technology and location. In addition to capabilities and expertise in all these areas, Black & Veatch’s strength includes managing and integrating multiple technologies in a project to provide a complete solution. To ensure the equipment selections best aligned with projects’ commercial goals the value of a technology agnostic partner cannot be overstated.

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