Here is part 2 of my wide-ranging discussion with Emerson’s Martin Van Der Merwe about the trends, challenges, and solutions in growing hydrogen’s role in the Asia-Pacific region’s energy mix. Here is part 1 in case you missed it.
In this episode, Martin discusses some key technologies and solutions that can be applied across the hydrogen value chain, from the production of hydrogen through the transfer to the end consumer. He shares examples of where companies have deployed these technologies and solutions to drive performance improvements.
Visit the Sustainability & Decarbonization section on Emerson.com and connect with Emerson’s Asia-Pacific Sustainability & Decarbonization experts in your country.
Jim: In what areas does Emerson help the industry overcome these challenges and how does Emerson’s technology and solutions fit into the hydrogen value chain?
Martin: It is worth mentioning that hydrogen production and storage is not new to us, as mentioned hydrogen is currently primarily consumed in refining (41%) and chemical (53%) processes. Both of these industries are significant users of Emerson’s technology, solutions and expertise globally today. In fact we support hydrogen production through electrolysis at over 100 sites today with more that 180k measurement data points – yes the volume of hydrogen generated today via electrolysis in insignificant but it is just matter of scale. And as discussed scale brings cost-reduction benefits but also some challenges.
We help to address these challenges with Emerson’s Greening BY and Greening WITH philosophy. With Greening BY Emerson, we look to support and enable our customers’ hydrogen ambitions with Emerson solutions, technologies and expertise, but we have also been involved in many of the early low-carbon hydrogen pilot projects across Asia as mentioned before like ATCO. On another recent project, here in Melbourne, we partnered with Toyota on their Hydrogen demonstration plant which is a project that showcases the entire green hydrogen value chain from renewable solar power, battery energy storage, water treatment, production, hydrogen storage to the hydrogen refueling station.
These pilots are critical to support the tremendous amount of research and development being done to improve the efficiency and cost across this hydrogen value-chain, this is where we focus on the Greening WITH Emerson part, where we engage with external stakeholders to provide industry leadership, develop innovative solutions with universities and research centers as well as work to support future policies with regulators.
In particular for Asia, we have partnered with bodies such as the Australian Hydrogen Council, Korea Hydrogen Industry Association, Clean Fuel and Ammonia Association in Japan and several others the region.
We currently support research in fields that include analytics, process modeling and digital twin‘s across the hydrogen value-chain, solutions for hydrogen safety, transportation and storage of compressed and LH2, improvements to electrolyzer efficiencies and technologies as well as solutions for end-use application in transportation and use in energy-intensive, hard-to-abate processes.
Jim: Great! I love the example of the Toyota pilot because it sounds like a great pilot that showcases a large part of the value chain. Can you elaborate on what Emerson technologies were specifically used?
Martin: It is a very good example Jim, and it was great to have had them participate at our Asian Emerson Exchange late last year as well. As mentioned, the project covered the entire value chain from renewable solar and battery power system, fuel cell power generation, hydrogen production from an electrolyzer, hydrogen storage and distribution and hydrogen refueling station. As with many hydrogen projects, it consisted of several packages. Toyota’s objective was to easily integrate all these packages with a balance of plant instrumentation and control and safety system that was fit-for-purpose i.e not having to overinvest but also have the flexibility to expand it as needed. Emerson was selected as the automation partner on the project since we could achieve these objectives using our DeltaV integrated control and safety system, which allowed for easy integration of these packages across multiple communication protocols, including Profinet, Modbus and Ethernet IP all on the single Package (PK) controller. The solar array and battery energy storage system required a web-hosted API to interface with the control system to enable optimized energy balancing, this was achieved using our secure state-of-the-art edge device. We also consulted on, and delivered a suite of hydrogen specific instrumentation including pressure, temperature, metering and flame & gas detection. The flame and gas detectors were particularly important as hydrogen flames are nearly invisible in daylight and has low heat radiation. I would encourage you listeners to go to the on-demand webinar if you could share that link in your blog later.
While Toyota covers most of the value-chain, there we also several other projects in the region that covered hydrogen blending in India and Australia with ATCO as mentioned before and large-scale fuel-cell power generation and hydrogen refueling stations in Korea, Japan and China. So we certainly are kept very busy with projects that cover the whole value chain.
Jim: So these are all great examples of Emerson’s breadth in its portfolio of hydrogen applications but were there any lessons or differences that would be applicable to larger scale projects?
Martin: Great question Jim. And yes it is one thing building a pilot or demonstration plant but scaling up to a larger scale presents both opportunities and challenges. We are currently supporting Feasibility and FEED activities in several large-scale projects in the region.
In terms of opportunities, the obvious ones are cost savings in duplication of process units, like electrolyzer stack design as well as engineering and maintenance efficiencies.
Some of the lessons from the gas industry that are particularly well suited to hydrogen would be to implement a remote or integrated operation center. Having the operations centralized allows not only for cost savings but enables the effective use of data driven decision making using cross functional teams that are aided by advanced analytics and modeling. For example identifying the optimal economic dispatch of your distributed energy resources in wind farms and solar arrays or you may want to optimize your electrolyzer loads to minimize membrane or diaphragm replacement. In the case of a large-scale hydrogen refueler network you would again want to optimize the hydrogen distribution across the network based on demand forecast and plan maintenance routs based on predictive analytics. Emerson has the technology today to build operational digital twins for process and economic optimization that can support the design and implementation of a project, but also provide ongoing support once the facilities are in operation.
Many large-scale projects are phased in their rollout to align to demand. So again there is an opportunity to optimize design scope that provides flexibility to integrate and install new units, while minimizing the impact and process balance of existing equipment. We see many hydrogen projects starting with large-scale renewables that initially would dispatch to the grid, while the hydrogen production plant is then built later after offtake or supply contracts are agreed.
This phased approach can present some challenges as technology progresses, for example right now alkaline electrolysis is cheaper than proton exchange membrane or PEM but in the next decade they will reach cost parity at which point you may want to switch to the more efficient PEM after having built your plant on alkaline technology, so you should consider how you can manage their different operating parameters.
A phased large-scale project may also need to consider changes in market requirements. You may initially only produce hydrogen to supply a local hub or pipeline network but in later phases develop the capacity to export. In that case do you plan to export the hydrogen as ammonia or LH2 or both?
Ultimately any feasibility study for a large-scale project now would need to evaluate or simulate many scenarios both economically and process related to enable the design to be as flexible as possible without adding excessive cost. In my mind having a digital twin of the assets to support and the evaluation and optimize different designs and scenarios, would be a great way to build confidence in the feasibility and flexibility of a project today.
Jim: You mentioned the challenges of evolving technologies, how do you see Emerson adapting and innovating to address these challenges.
Martin: Luckily Jim, innovation is at the heart of Emerson’s purpose, and we continue to invest in R&D and partner WITH research bodies to ensure we can support our customers as process and operations technology advance in hydrogen.
We have a strong track record with our investment to support the development of severe service valves for cryogenic LH2 applications as well as our Micro Motion Coriolis flow meter designed for high-pressure, high flow hydrogen dispensing improving refueling times for heavy-duty freight applications. I believe that not only will it be important for customers in the hydrogen industry to leverage new technology and solutions but also to ensure that the equipment they select are robust, reliable and fit-for-purpose, the industry will be very competitive, and reputation will play key role for future success.
While talking about innovation and evolution of technology we should also consider the impact regulations and standards will have in this regard. This is why Emerson has representatives that participate in standards development to ensure we are aware and prepared for regulation changes as they progress across the region.
Jim: Well, it’s been a great discussion and I hope our listeners enjoyed it as well! Martin, before we wrap things up, and where can our listeners go to learn more and how can they connect with us on any specific questions they might have?
Martin: Well, a great place to start is our sustainability & decarbonization webpage. Through that, you can find out more about our sustainability initiatives, our solutions and reach out to us. So that’s a great start. Also, as part of this Asia Pacific podcast series, Jim I believe we will be sharing the contact details of the Emerson Sustainability & Decarbonization representative for your respective countries here in Asia Pacific, please feel free to contact them if you have any queries or need assistance.
Jim: Perfect! I’ll add links in the transcript to these sites and other things you discussed today. Thank you, Martin for joining us today and sharing some of your insights on the future of Hydrogen across the Asia-Pacific region.
Martin: Thanks a lot Jim, it’s been great
Jim: For all our listeners, this was the second in a series of our Asia Pacific Sustainability & Decarbonization podcasts. Do follow our page for details for the next podcast where we will cover specific segments such as Renewable Energy, Carbon Capture, and more in greater detail with our subject matter experts from Asia Pacific.