Hydrogen: We're ready
Hydrogen - H2 - is an essential factor in decarbonising the existing energy supply and is amazingly versatile. The areas of application range from hydrogen injection into the natural gas grid for domestic heat supply to the provision of process heat in industry and fuel cells for stationary or mobile use.
Hydrogen can be temporarily stored to a certain extent in the existing gas grid. At the same time, this energy carrier itself can be ideally used as a storage medium - for solar power, for example. Both lower the technical hurdles as well as the financial outlay for converting our infrastructure and equipment landscape.
Taken together, this makes the topic exciting for many players: appliance manufacturers, energy suppliers, technical planners, journalists, craftsmen and homeowners, investors and construction companies all benefit equally from sufficiently well-founded information.
We provide companies and everyone interested in this topic with the necessary facts about hydrogen and help you to meet the energy demand in buildings more sustainably with future-oriented solutions.
Hydrogen: the basics
Hydrogen is a gas. It is abundant on earth, but almost exclusively in chemical compounds with e.g. water, acids, hydrocarbons, etc.
Hydrogen is obtained by splitting water (H2O) into oxygen (O) and molecular hydrogen (H2). If this is done with the help of electric current, it is called electrolysis. The decisive advantage for the climate is that the electricity required can easily be generated from renewable energies and thus at the same time helps to store them independently of demand.
Moreover, not only during the production, but also during the transport and use of hydrogen to generate heat or other useful energy, only water is released as a "waste product", no CO2.
In the meantime, research is being conducted on other promising processes, e.g. the pyrolysis of methane or natural gas, in which hydrogen and solid carbon (carbon powder) are obtained.
What are the advantages of hydrogen?
In addition to the advantages already mentioned, the decarbonisation of the gas grid in particular requires hydrogen. In European terms, this existing grid connects European industry and covers more than 40% of EU household heat supply and 15% of EU electricity generation. Biogas, while an important lever, will not be available at the scale required. Electrification with heat pumps can replace natural gas for heating new buildings, but requires costly or even impossible retrofits in old buildings, which are responsible for 90% of CO2 emissions from buildings. Full direct electrification would also lead to large seasonal imbalances in electricity demand, which in turn would require a large-scale electricity storage mechanism.
Hydrogen circumvents these obstacles and can serve as a complement to heat pumps. Manufacturers can distribute some of the hydrogen by feeding it into the existing grid without the need for major conversions, but much more is possible: ultimately, utilities can convert grids to run on pure hydrogen. Alternatively, natural gas can be replaced by synthetic natural gas (SNG), which is produced from hydrogen and CO2. All gas-based heating systems can increase their energy efficiency by using (fuel cell-based) combined heat and power (CHP).
Balancing generation and demand
As electricity meets higher energy demand and more and more energy comes from renewable sources, both short- and long-term imbalances between supply and demand will increase. This necessitates increased balancing throughout the year and seasonal energy storage. While batteries and demand-side measures can provide short-term flexibility, hydrogen is the only technology available on a large scale for long-term energy storage. It can use existing gas grids, salt caverns and depleted gas fields to store energy for longer periods at low cost.
Hydrogen is a link between regions with low-cost renewable energy and centres of demand - for example, as a link between regions with abundant geothermal and wind energy in northern Europe and the mainland, or as a means of importing renewable energy from North Africa. Hydrogen allows energy to be transported long distances in pipelines, ships or trucks, whether gaseous, liquefied or stored in other forms, at much lower cost than power lines.
Third, the transition to hydrogen is aligned with customer preferences and convenience. This is crucial, as low-carbon alternatives that do not meet customer preferences are likely to have difficulty in adoption. In transport, hydrogen offers the same range and refuelling speed as internal combustion engine vehicles. Energy companies can feed hydrogen or synthetic methane into the gas grid via power-to-gas plants, with the conversion being "invisible" to consumers. A later conversion to 100 % hydrogen requires upgrading of equipment and pipelines, but the current heating infrastructure in buildings remains intact.
Why is SANHA committed to hydrogen?
SANHA has long pursued an active, ambitious CSR policy. In addition to social and cultural commitment, this corporate social responsibility naturally also includes behaviour that is as ecologically sustainable as possible with regard to environmental and climate protection. Since hydrogen has considerable potential to limit global warming for the reasons mentioned above, its widespread use in industry and commerce, housing and transport and many other sectors is very important.
This is why we have been actively working on the development of suitable piping systems for years - with success, as the SANHA®-Press Gas series was already certified by the KIWA certification institute for the use of up to 100 % hydrogen in 2020. All the tests carried out were successful. This makes SANHA the first manufacturer of piping systems to have a hydrogen certificate. We are also working in various national and international committees to quickly achieve the greatest possible standardisation and harmonisation of technical regulations and standards - this is an indispensable prerequisite for establishing a sustainable CO2-free and flexible hydrogen economy.
Versatile energy source
The energy transition in the EU requires almost completely decarbonised electricity generation, which brings with it the need to integrate renewables into the grid. Hydrogen is the only large-scale 'sector coupling' technology that can convert electricity into a usable form, store it and transport it to end users to meet demand. In other words, electrolysers can convert electricity from renewable sources into a gas that has the flexibility of natural gas but produces no CO2 emissions.
This flexibility makes hydrogen attractive for almost all sectors and applications. So far, hydrogen has mainly been used in the chemical industry, for example in the production of nitrogen fertiliser, in petroleum refineries for refining mineral oil or in the production of synthetic fuels. Industrial processes that can only be electrified at great expense (steel production or ammonia production) are particularly suitable for H2 use.
In addition, there is the heat supply for residential buildings. In new buildings, this can be done in the future with fuel cell heaters. But there is also great potential in existing buildings. For example, modern heating appliances are increasingly suitable for supplying natural gas with a hydrogen content of up to 20 % and are DVGW-certified.
Hydrogen in mobility: (heavy-duty) transport without CO2 emissions?
In transport, too, electric propulsion is not always an option: Heavy goods traffic in particular requires a lot of energy due to the weight of the vehicles. Accordingly, a relatively large amount of electricity would be needed to cover the required ranges. With a fuel cell, however, these problems can be circumvented.
Hydrogen can - with further process steps - also be processed into synthetic fuels, which are then used in combustion engines. There are initial projects for train transport, while electric propulsion is virtually out of the question for aeroplanes and helicopters. Here, too, H2 can be a viable solution.
Especially in rural areas, where there are no overhead power lines and diesel locomotives currently run, emissions could be saved in this way. The same applies to shipping, where the use of heavy oil can be replaced.
Our solutions for the transport of hydrogen
Thanks to early research into and engagement with the topic, we can now offer various piping systems that are suitable for hydrogen supply in buildings. can be replaced by heavy oil.
Let's talk about it!
Are you a planner or engineer? Then contact us today!