For hydrogen to take centre stage as a fuel source in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Khalid Salem says the infrastructure to make, move, store and utilise large quantities of hydrogen requires significant investment. With significant investment, the President of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) MENA, thinks hydrogen production could become cost competitive in the next five years.
“By providing a major new market for stored hydrogen, as well as the means to produce green hydrogen from renewable energy, the power generation industry can serve as the springboard to a new energy economy in the MENA region,” Salem told H2 View. “Ultimately, the hydrogen economy could transform many critical sectors in the region such as transportation, manufacturing, construction and more.”
Working in the hydrogen space for nearly 50 years providing hydrogen-fuelled gas turbines, MHPS plays a central role in power generation and is continuously working towards reducing environmental impact through technological innovation. The company is developing energy solutions and processes that will enable hydrogen’s transition from powering rockets to being the clean fuel that will drive a net zero carbon future.
“While commercialising the generation of hydrogen power is the ambition globally, one of the most prevalent challenges is whether power plant operators can afford to renew their facilities,” Salem said. “MHPS has developed a hydrogen power generation system that utilises existing gas turbine facilities, which is revolutionising the global power sector.”
“The team at MHPS has succeeded in developing a large-scale hydrogen gas turbine combustor that uses a mix of natural gas and 30% hydrogen. This ‘blend’ offers an additional 10% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to gas turbine combined cycle (GTCC) power generation.”
“As this technology enables the use of existing resources, power generation facilities do not need to undergo large-scale modifications. This makes it possible to lower costs significantly and minimises operating hurdles, promoting a seamless transition towards a hydrogen society.”
MHPS is working on several hydrogen related projects in Japan, the Netherlands and the US.
“Japan’s hydrogen strategy targets commercialised hydrogen power generation by 2030. In response, MHPS took the first step in 2018 by developing and successfully testing a large-scale gas turbine combustor capable of utilising a fuel that is 70% natural gas and 30% hydrogen,” Salem (pictured above) highlighted.
“The advantage of this solution is that existing power plants can be renewed to low carbon or CO2-free power generation just by converting combustors and associated equipment. As this technology enables the use of existing facilities, large-scale modification of power generation facilities becomes unnecessary, making it possible to lower costs significantly.”
After successfully demonstrating 30% hydrogen co-firing, MHPS is now moving into the next phase of the programme to achieve gas turbines running on 100% hydrogen.
MHPS is participating in a program in the Netherlands, where a 440MW large-scale natural-gas-fired GTCC power plant is being converted into a 100% hydrogen-fired power generation plant by 2025. This will reduce the current CO2 production to almost zero.
“More recently, MHPS in partnership with Magnum Renewable Development, is building the world’s largest renewable energy storage project, called Advanced Clean Energy Storage in Utah, the US,” Salem told H2 View. “Green hydrogen will be produced from excess renewable energy and stored in a series of underground salt caverns.”
“One cavern at this project will store enough renewable hydrogen to provide 150,000 MWh of clean energy storage. This marks the first advanced class gas turbines (ACGT) in the industry that is specifically designed and purchased as part of a comprehensive plan to sequentially transition from coal, to natural gas, and finally to renewable hydrogen fuel, truly creating a roadmap for the global industry to follow.”
Additionally, hydrogen can also be used as a distributed energy source via solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology. “Today, SOFCs developed by MHPS can replace small diesel generators as cleaner power backups in places such as commercial buildings, using either hydrogen or natural gas to generate both electricity and heat,” Salem said.
MHPS has long pioneered hydrogen fuel combustion technologies, and its recent large-scale and ambitious projects demonstrate its commitment and accumulated expertise in this field. Salem said the company’s aim is to leverage its global expertise in the MENA region by partnering with local government units and stakeholders to deploy similar cutting-edge energy solutions.
“These solutions are going to be pivotal in demonstrating how hydrogen can competitively fulfil clean energy expectations in countries across the region and enable a low carbon society,” he added.
For Salem, it has become evident that hydrogen can complement renewables and help decarbonise parts of the grid that renewables cannot reach.
“There is now a global effort across many industries and sectors to make hydrogen commercially viable for a range of applications,” he said. “MHPS focuses on delivering technologies and solutions that will help realize this potential, establish a viable market, and meet the robust demand for hydrogen over the next decade.”
“We are working on maximising the utilisation of hydrogen, derived from renewable energy and fossil fuel, and applying power generation technologies, which is one of our major strengths, to the hydrogen value chain.”
“Among these efforts, large gas turbines for power generation can not only generate power with high efficiency but can also use low-purity hydrogen (with relatively low hurdles of manufacturing cost and technology), which leads to large and stable hydrogen demand. As such, with the implementation of hydrogen into existing systems, the role of our large gas turbines for power generation will increase further in the near future.”
MHPS and group companies have also proposed a comprehensive hydrogen utilisation plan that covers the supply, transport, storage, and use of hydrogen, such as a system that processes CO2 generated during the production of fossil fuel-derived hydrogen using carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS).
Salem continued, “We are currently working with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, in close collaboration with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) in Japan, to jointly research the production of methanol – a key fuel and raw material for a wide range of industries – by recycling the CO2 that is captured. Insights gained from the study, which is set to run until February 2021, will contribute significantly to establishing a carbon-free society, driving economic development, and supporting global sustainability efforts.”