Two new pilot projects testing hydrogen gas as a replacement for natural gas have started up this week, with Ineos and Engie co-firing hydrogen to produce power at a plant in Belgium, and Evolugen and Gazifère generating green hydrogen for injection into a gas grid in Canada.
Hydrogen is being hailed as a possible zero-carbon replacement for natural gas as the world seeks to reach net-zero carbon to mitigate the effects of climate change. There is increasing talk amongst the tank storage industry of the future of large-scale hydrogen terminalling, although demand for hydrogen for fuel is still low. Pilot projects like those of Ineos, Evolugen and Gazifère will help to pave the way for larger-scale projects and ultimately increase demand.
Ineos and Engie will use hydrogen in a commercial-scale gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant at the Ineos Phenol site in Doel in Belgium. The two companies aim to replace natural gas in the CHP plant with hydrogen. They will initially replace 10% of the gas feed with hydrogen, and if successful, they will increase this to 20%. The partners say it is the first time such tests on an industrial plant in operation have been carried out at an industrial scale in Belgium.
The Doel site, just outside Antwerp, is ideally suited for the pilot. Ineos Phenol is experienced in handling hydrogen as a raw material for its production processes and has the correct permits. Engie is responsible for the design, installation and operation of the technology. The partners expect to gain insights into the use of hydrogen at industrial facilities, including efficiency and emissions, to help develop the next generation of burners.
The pilot project is part of Ineos’ pledge in November 2020 to reduce emissions at its Antwerp sites by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990, and for the sites to become carbon neutral by 2050. It also marks the company’s commitment to exploring the use of hydrogen for the energy transition.
‘This test is fully in line with INEOS’ strategy to avoid CO2 emissions at source. It marks a further step for INEOS Phenol in Doel, where 20% green steam is already being purchased via the connection to the Ecluse network. Today, INEOS already produces 300,000 tons of hydrogen on an annual basis as a ‘co-product’ of its chemical processes. This hydrogen is largely used as a low-carbon fuel and as a raw material in its own production processes so that fewer fossil raw materials have to be used. INEOS recently started a new business activity that focuses on the development of ‘clean hydrogen capacity’. For this, INEOS can rely on the expertise of INOVYN, which, as a chlorine and PVC producer within the group, specializes in electrolysis, an important technology for producing hydrogen,’ says Hans Casier, CEO of INEOS Phenol.
Meanwhile, Canadian renewable energy firm Evolugen and Québec natural gas distributor Gazifère, a subsidiary of Enbridge, plan to build and operate a 20 MW water electrolysis hydrogen production plant next to Evolugen’s hydroelectric facility, which will provide the electricity. in the Outaouais region. The green hydrogen will be injected into Gazifère’s natural gas distribution network in Québec. The partners say it will be the first project of its kind in Canada.
The new electrolysis plant will produce approximately 425,000 GJ of green hydrogen. Burning this hydrogen instead of natural gas will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 15,000 tonnes annually.
‘Green hydrogen can play a major role in Québec’s energy transition by offering a sustainable, low-carbon energy solution. With the production, transportation and distribution of green hydrogen, Gazifère has the ambition to provide its customers with an increasingly diversified portfolio of renewable natural gas options. This is another important example of Enbridge’s multi-market approach to green the natural gas grid while continuing to meet the demand for safe, reliable and affordable energy,’ says Cynthia Hansen, executive vice president & president, gas distribution & storage, Enbridge.