Climate change can only be beaten if society stops emitting greenhouse gases. In order to do this, we need to cut emissions from as many sectors as possible and generate the electricity we all really need using renewable energy sources. However, integrating renewable energy sources into our power grid is a big challenge because wind and solar energy have inherent fluctuations in availability so supply may exceed or fall below a society’s demand curve. Society needs the most energy in the mornings and evenings, but solar energy supply is low at these times and wind supply is simply unpredictable.
This poses a huge problem, but with water electrolysis technology in combination with our patented and proven green hydrogen-based technologies we now have a solution. Together, the two technologies will enable us to reconcile the supply and demand curves of society by establishing new means of electrical energy storage while at the same time generating important industrial products that are free of greenhouse gas emissions. At times when renewable energy availability exceeds societal demand, “storages” need to be filled for use during times of low availability. In theory, battery storage system can be used to buffer shorter periods of time. But these are very energy-intensive to produce, they partly consist of rare metals and they degrade over time. And they do not solve another key problem: How to store energy over a long time and transport it over long distances? Luckily, there are a number of options.
All of these options have as their starting point large-scale water electrolysis such as from our sister company thyssenkrupp nucera. This involves using electricity that is not currently in demand to split water into its elements, hydrogen and oxygen, to generate hydrogen with a high degree of efficiency and without emitting greenhouse gases. But hydrogen is not the end of the story because hydrogen also comes with a number of disadvantages. It has a low energy density and therefore needs to be stored at high pressures and, on its own, it cannot solve many of the challenges society faces in the coming decades. thyssenkrupp Uhde has several patented ways of solving the hydrogen challenge: green ammonia, green methanol and green SNG. They can make life more environment-friendly in the future without sacrificing the stability of our power grid.
Producing green chemicals leverages a lot of advantages: scale is maybe the most important, because producing ammonia, methanol or SNG at industrial scales are long-existing, well-proven processes which are installed worldwide - quite a number of them feature uhde® technologies. This means also that the necessary infrastructure already exists. SNG, for example, can use the complete natural gas grid, a major storage and transport network over land. And overseas? Ammonia storage and transport is common, shipping and port handling capacities exist at scale. This is why green ammonia is a prime candidate to transport renewable energy over long distances, from sun- and wind-rich countries to wherever it is needed.
Ammonia is a key ingredient in the production of fertilizers, and with a growing world population, the world is in need of increasing agricultural productivity. But ammonia can be used for more than just fertilizer. Traditionally, it is produced by reforming natural gas, but when the use of fossil resources is eliminated, a significant contribution can be made to carbon neutrality. Ammonia then becomes, for example, a carbon-neutral energy carrier that can be easily shipped across the planet and is not subject to supply fluctuations. It has a higher volumetric energy density than pure hydrogen and is much easier to handle. This is why green ammonia could be called the "missing link" between sun- and wind-rich countries and those that need more renewable energy, for example in winter or during periods with little sun or wind. It can also be used in fuel cells to generate electricity, with the only emissions being water and air, which makes it an exceptional electricity storage medium. So green ammonia even doubles up as a totally carbon-neutral fuel for the ships that carry it overseas.
Methanol is amazing in its versatility. Among its most prominent uses are applications in the chemical as well as the plastics industries. It binds CO2 from, for example, biomass and can also serve as a fuel or to store electricity. We are therefore pleased to offer our environmentally friendly power to methanol technology. Because our green methanol is synthesized from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, we can supply an important chemical compound that enables carbon capture and usage (CCU), and therefore helps to tackle climate change. Learn more about green methanol here.
Green SNG enables sector coupling, which means: connecting the energy sector directly to other industries. Sometimes, this is called "power-to-x". Let's take a simple household example: Using electrical energy to heat water for a shower is very inefficient, and - if renewable energy is the source - it can be problematic in terms of supply and demand. This can be solved by converting hydrogen into SNG, making long-term storage easy: this can simply be injected into the existing gas grid and used either directly for heating, or converted back into electrical energy. This method of carbon capture and recycling thus leverages existing infrastructure without the need for expensive adaptation. Learn all about these projects in the green SNG section.
Sector Coupling through green chemicals will transform industry and society
Hydrogen derivatives will change the industrial landscape to an extraordinary extent. With thyssenkrupp Uhde's hydrogen-based technologies, we can move many parts of the industrial landscape into a state of sustainability that does not compromise stability. We can work together to impact the sectors of heat, mobility, electrical storage and food production, helping these industrial sectors to become sustainable. A must: for there is no Planet B!
Take a look at our hydrogen landscape map to learn about the value chains, and click on the hotspots for further information!
Hydrogen is poised to make an even more profound impact on the transition to renewable energy than simply as an electrical energy storage medium. Many key industrial products and upstream chemicals can be synthesized in an environmentally friendly way using hydrogen-based technology. Key sectors for its application include, among many others, heat, transport, fuels, fertilizer production. The chart below gives a brief overview of the key applications of hydrogen.