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Hydrogen technology is considered an important building block for climate protection. Hydrogen burns with a colorless flame and leaves no residue. No carbon dioxide is produced when green hydrogen is used. Hydrogen gas can also be stored for later use. In the future, the so-called "Power-to-X" technology can provide CO2-neutral fuels for power plants, transportation, buildings and industry. The "hydrogen economy" is still under construction and must overcome several hurdles. AGRU's broad product range will be an important part of the solution along the entire value chain.
In principle, hydrogen is available in sufficient quantities, but on earth or in nature it only exists in compounds (e.g.: water, methane, ...). To obtain pure hydrogen, these compounds must first be split. The "green hydrogen" is produced with the help of renewable energy (solar, wind) by splitting water molecules in the electrolysis process and it is a clean alternative to natural gas.
Multiple applications for AGRU products
To produce (green) hydrogen there are currently two commercial electrolysis processes: PEM ("Proton Exchange Membrane") and Alkaline Electrolysis, which require technical plastic products. The H+ protons move through a system consisting of a negatively charged cathode, a positively charged anode and a membrane (electrolyte). The only byproduct of this process is oxygen, which can then be released back into the atmosphere.
Water transport and storage: Depending on the region and the application, the enormous demand for water is met by groundwater supplies, lake water, chlorinated water or seawater. The AGRULINE and XXL pipe systems offer application-specific complete solutions for water transport from the source to the electrolysis unit.
In the electrolysis unit, a distinction is made between process water (e.g., for cooling) and the ultrapure water needed for the electrolysis process itself. Both electrolysis processes require ultrapure water for reliable and durable operation. Compared to alkaline electrolysis, the PEM process requires ultrapure water with ten times lower conductivity (ion concentration).
Transporting and storing ultrapure water: PEM electrolysis uses ultrapure water (60-80°C process temperature at 6-10 bar pressure) with very low ion concentration. Approximately 13 kg of water is required to produce 1 kg of hydrogen. The PURAD piping system (PP-pure or PVDF, depending on requirements) in combination with tanks from our semi-finished product range ensures reliable transport and storage of the ultrapure water. Within the ultrapure water plants, but especially after EDI or reverse osmosis, it is important to ensure that the ultrapure water is not contaminated by metal ions, organic compounds, particles or gases on its way to the electrolysis stack. Compared to other plastics, AGRU's PURAD range is characterized by its purity, ease of maintenance, standardized connection technology and sustainability. PURAD pipes and fittings are manufactured in a clean room (AGRU Plant 5) under the strictest cleanliness criteria and are welded in isometric or partial isometric modular design according to customer requirements (AGRU Plant 6).
Transportation and Storage of Caustic Potash Solution: Alkaline electrolysis uses 20-40% caustic potash solution (KOH) at process temperatures of 70-120°C. For long-term safe operation, these plants require products from AGRUCHEM's product range (PP, ECTFE, FEP and PFA, depending on the process conditions). Typically, in such projects, potash liquor is stored in PFA tanks at the production site, transported from the production site via FEP pipes to the electrolysis plant, mixed with ultrapure water, and transported and stored within the electrolysis plant in PP pipes or tanks. In the future, we expect higher process temperatures of up to 120°C due to improved plant efficiency – here too, AGRU offers the proper plastic solutions with outstanding chemical resistance and operational reliability for years to come.
Hydrogen transportation: The produced hydrogen is stored under high pressure either in tanks or underground in caverns. The hydrogen is transported to the various end users (industry, mobility, heating, fuel cells...) via the existing or newly laid gas pipeline network. From the pressure reduction station, the "green gas" can be distributed either as a hydrogen-natural gas mixture or 100% at pressures up to ten bar through the AGRULINE pipe system made of PE 100-RC.
For the transport of hydrogen, the AGRULINE PE 100-RC pipe system offers a complete solution that is cost-effective, reliable and easy to maintain. The AGRULINE product range has been assessed by the DBI (Gas Technological Institute) for suitability for the transport of 100% hydrogen and now not only meets the relevant standards and norms (CEN EN 1555 - 1-3, ÖVGW GB 210 and HE 200) but also the "H2Ready" quality mark (DBI GTI 109). Relevant research projects, studies and test installations (including AGRULINE components), which have dealt with the compatibility, suitability and operational safety of PE as a pipe material for hydrogen transport, have come to the worldwide conclusion that hydrogen can be transported 100% through PE pipe systems. In fuel cells, where electricity is generated by "reverse electrolysis", the process media hydrogen, oxygen and cooling water can be transported to the "stack" through the AGRULINE PE 100-RC pipe system.
In addition to these application examples, there are numerous other marketing potentials for our products along the entire hydrogen value chain. The "H2@AGRU" infographic gives a good overview of these!
A look at the market
Relevant studies on the future energy mix assume a drastic expansion of renewable energies. By 2050, global energy consumption is expected to consist of approx. 60-70% electric power (wind, solar...), hydrogen and bioenergy. By comparison, today only about 30% of global energy consumption comes from fossil fuels (natural gas, oil, coal), while 70% still comes from fossil fuels. Hydrogen should then have the same status in terms of energy consumption as natural gas today. To achieve this, a massive expansion of the infrastructure is required in addition to political efforts. Therefore, around 700,000 megawatts of electrolysis capacity will have to be installed worldwide by 2050. With a typical electrolysis unit of ten megawatts, that is 70,000 (!) electrolysers. The majority of the projects will be completed between 2025 and 2035. In addition to mega-projects in Saudi Arabia and China, electrolysers that will produce hydrogen for industry and mobility will be installed in the immediate vicinity of wind turbines in North Friesland and Burgenland, for example. Hydrogen is used, among other things, to power fuel cell buses or to decarbonize chemical or industrial processes. In concrete terms, this is happening, for example, at Germany's largest steel manufacturer, Salzgitter AG, where the hydrogen produced is used to refine steel.
AGRU supplies semi-finished products and pipes made of PP and FEP to large electrolysis plants in Europe, the USA and the Middle East. The application experience from these projects is the starting point for your project!