by Editor, Camy Sandford.
How Hydrogen, and the Power-to-X will lead the way towards Carbon Net Zero.
Earlier this month, Siemens and Uniper announced a pioneering new partnership, centred around the promotion of green hydrogen, the conversion of power plants, and the encouragement of sector coupling. Based on a longstanding relationship between the two corporations, this new development marks a point of acceleration in terms of hydrogen technologies, and a clear potential step towards carbon net zero.
Hydrogen and the “Power-to-X’
It is clear that the climate is in crisis. Following the 2015 Paris Agreement an overwhelming urgency has defined international efforts, with the largest focus of investment in renewable energy. These innovations have largely focused on electricity, increasing global shares by 22%, meaning progress has done little to reduce overall carbon emissions stemming from sources such as transport, heating and construction.
As a result, consensus amongst corporations – including both Siemens and Uniper – is that sector coupling now represents the most effective means of reaching carbon net zero, through the integration of previously separate sectors in approaching decarbonisation.
“The idea of sector coupling is nothing more than bringing renewable energy from the power sector into the other sectors to thereby decarbonise the entire energy system,” says Siemens Head of Energy Economics and Competitive Intelligence Dr. Volkmar Pflug.
This coupling relies on what is called the ‘Power-to’X’ (or P2X). A term encompassing a variety of processes, this refers to the conversion of electricity to green hydrogen or synthetic e-fuels, replacing traditional fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.
“Power-to-X…offers the opportunity to transform and save energy from renewable resources in a chemical form for long term storage and use,” Pflug explains, solving what DW terms the energy transitions “biggest hurdles”.
Focusing primarily on hydrogen use (although the largest producer remains from fossil sources via the steam methane reforming (SMR)), generation via electrolysis is currently being developed by Siemens which produces less carbon for the same baseline cost.
In addition, when this hydrogen is synthesised with carbon dioxide, “green fuels” are produced. Able to replace fossil fuels, these fuels have the potential to lower “carbon emissions from their expended energy by as much as 90 per cent” says Pflug– a huge contribution towards carbon net zero.
With Siemens and Uniper now working in tandem, this focus on sector coupling has now been incorporated directly into practice. Within the announcement itself, both corporations emphasise the importance of looking at “the energy, mobility and industry sectors together”, with collaborative implementation of decarbonisation policies “addressing the entire value chain”.
These efforts are centred around ‘Brownfield transformation’ – altering current infrastructures to facilitate new technologies, rather than new build construction. In the case of Uniper, this includes the evaluation of the current potential to transform existing gas turbine and storage facilities for use with hydrogen. With Uniper as one of the first corporations to implement the ‘power-to-gas’ technologies, which produce hydrogen for renewable energies, this represents a crucial step, and one of many ways in which Uniper plans to close or repurpose all coal power plants by 2025.
Similarly, focusing again on ‘power-to-gas’ technologies, Siemens aims to decarbonise coal power plants, integrating storage solutions, and green gas into their infrastructure. Additionally, through investing in P2X technologies, they aim to drive “cross-sector decarbonisation”, and sector coupling.
With green hydrogen at the heart of these initiates, Siemens Energy Executive Board Member Jochen Eickholt says this partnership is an opportunity to “show that a CO2-free, environmentally friendly energy supply is possible and makes sense under real conditions and using existing plants”. With both Uniper and Siemens working together to overcome challenges of cost and efficiency in large-scale hydrogen utilisation, the potential carbon reduction impact of these new initiatives is enormous.
As stated simply by Eickholt, “Our future lies in hydrogen.”