The European Union has committed to a net zero strategy by 2050. This poses a huge challenge. Further development of solar PV and wind farms will help to decarbonise electricity use. However, sectors such as aviation, heavy industry, and chemicals are lacking viable decarbonisation options. Thankfully, Power-to-X innovations such as green hydrogen are emerging to solve this problem. Recent estimates indicate that hydrogen and synfuels could account for up to 23% of final energy in the EU in 2050. The successful integration of Power-to-X solutions, such as green hydrogen, will be key to unlocking Europe's net zero objective.
What is Power-to-X?
Power-to-X is an umbrella term used to describe the conversion of electricity into another substance. A common example of Power-to-X would be Power-to-Heat - or electrical heating. For example, using electricity to power a boiler which generates heat for space heating or hot water. This is the same premise as one of our 24/7 carbon-free electricity (24/7 CFE) pilot projects - where we digitally connect a 120 MW offshore wind farm to a 12 MW district heating boiler in the Netherlands.
Power-to-X has become a popular topic in recent years due to its potential role in the green transition. With large scale rollout of intermittent renewables, significant surpluses of power generated is expected at given times. Power-to-X creates solutions to prevent this excess electricity from going to waste.
Hydrogen is at the core of emerging Power-to-X technology. The initial starting point for most Power-to-X solutions will be the electrolysis process. In the process, an electrolyser will use renewable power to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Once hydrogen has been extracted, it can be used directly or processed for other Power-to-X products.
What are emerging Power-to-X solutions?
There are a number of different Power-to-X solutions across sectors. We have outlined some of emerging solutions below:
- Power-to-Hydrogen: The primary Power-to-X solution, and doesn’t require any further processing. Hydrogen can be used directly in industry/re-converted to power in fuel cells. Project example: ACCIONA’s Power-to-Green H2, Mallorca
- Power-to-Methane: Synthetic Methane (or Natural Gas) can be created through the process of methanation. Hydrogen and CO2 are methanised to create synthetic methane. This can then be injected into the natural gas network. Project example: Project Lübesse, Germany
- Power-to-Syngas: Syngas can be created by electrolysing CO2 with water. This yields a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Syngas can be used as a feedstock for synthetic fuels.
- Power-to-Synthetic Jet Fuel: The aviation sector is one of the most difficult to decarbonise. Renewable Jet Fuel can be created through Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis of syngas. Project Example: KEROSyN100, Germany
- Power-to-Synthetic Diesel: Renewable Diesel can be created through Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis of syngas.
- Power-to-Ammonia (NH3): Ammonia is a widely used chemical in agriculture and industry. Ammonia production can be decarbonised through the Haber-Bosch synthesis of renewable Hydrogen and Nitrogen. Project Example: H2-Based Ammonia Facility, Neom
- Power-to-Methanol (MeOH): Methanol is an important chemical for industry and is also an effective liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC). Methanol production can be decarbonised through direct CO2 hydrogenation. Project Example: Djewels Methanol, Netherlands
Market trust will be key
The Power-to-X market is only just emerging. For the market to reach its potential, two key things need to happen. Firstly, we need greater availability of green electricity. Power-to-X will rely on cheap, clean power. Therefore we need to see greater rollout of renewable power generation.
The other major requirement for the Power-to-X market will be the creation of market trust and transparency. Whether consumers and businesses are using green hydrogen, green methane, or green ammonia, they need to be certain that the underlying power used is from a renewable origin. This requires certification and data tracking. Without this critical tracking layer, the market will lack trust and transparency. This could lead to consumers failing to engage with renewable fuels and green chemicals.
Fit for 55 to set out renewable fuel certification
The European Union has recognised the role of Power-to-X in the decarbonisation of the economy. In the recently published ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package, several initiatives are proposed to support the Power-to-X market. The two amongst the most significant developments are outlined below and they relate to hydrogen:
- Introduction of Hydrogen Sub Targets: The commission has proposed to introduce new targets for green hydrogen and its derivatives. There is a sub target for renewable fuels from non-biological origin (RFNBO) of 2.6%. The commission has also tasked industrial users of hydrogen to achieve a 50% share of renewables in their hydrogen consumption.
- Certification for Hydrogen and RNFBO Fuels: Certification and traceability of green hydrogen for the transport sector is critical to the successful development of the industry. In the RED II Impact Assessment Report - the commission states: “It’s important to ensure that any claims that a fuel is renewable or low carbon be underpinned by a proper certification, verification and traceability system”. The commission is currently assessing certification options but this will likely be as part of a newly setup ‘Union Database’ or through voluntary certification schemes such as Certifhy.
These proposals are now undergoing public feedback but could be adopted by the end of the year. Industry will need to get ready for these future changes and start developing their hydrogen strategies now.
FlexiDAO certifying Power-to-X
At FlexiDAO, we’re ready to help industry and companies navigate these new regulatory changes around Power-to-X, and especially hydrogen. In the past few years, we have successfully been helping companies to collect, monitor, and audit their renewable electricity use on an hourly basis. As a natural consequence, we have also adapted our software to track and certify Green Hydrogen.
The process is straightforward. Our blockchain-based software solution collects generation data from the selected renewable energy plant(s). The software then verifies the share injected in the electrolyser(s) and the amount of hydrogen produced in the process.
Due to the blockchain audit trail, all the information shared in the platform is trustless, transparent, and tamper proof, ready to comply with the upcoming policies. Blockchain acts as a digital notary which ensures that the green hydrogen produced by a company is really green. Therefore, the hydrogen consumer is also allowed to claim the same. Everyone can then claim trustfully, and we all work towards net zero goals.
Don't hesitate to contact our experts to get additional insights on how our blockchain-based platform can trace green hydrogen, and read about one of our flagship projects in the hydrogen sector - GreenH2chain®.