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How can we provide Water for Electrolysis?


GreenLab Skive


GreenLab Skive
Water for Electrolysis

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Why is this challenge relevant and important for us to solve?

One of the ways to reach lower environmental impact targets, is to produce green hydrogen from water using energy generated from renewable energy sources, creating greener alternative to fossil fuel. In fact, it is something that Denmark is heavily investing in. The green hydrogen is generated using a process called electrolysis, where electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen then be used as a green alternative to fossil-based products in various ways:

  • Direct use in industrial processes – displacing natural gas
  • Transportation
  • Refineries
  • Steel
  • Peak loads for electricity and heat

The green hydrogen also separates itself from fossil alternatives as its waste when burnt for heat is water and not CO2.

The hydrogen can also be used as a building block for other chemical processes, such as electro-fuels like methanol.

However, many challenges arise related to the water used in the electrolysis process to create the green hydrogen. The water needs to be ultra-pure before it can be used in the electroylsers, and the process of purifying the water can be energy intensive. This leads to many interesting questions;

  • Is it ok to use drinking water as feedstock to the electroylsers?
  • How pure does the water actually need to be? Does this generate additional waste?
  • How much energy can be used to purify the water? What are the trade-offs?
  • How do we supply this water? Can waste water sources be used? How about rainwater, or agricultural run-off? What should be the price placed on it? 

As we scale up the hydrogen economy these questions about water for electrolysis will need technological, social and economic solutions.

What are the problems we wish to solve?

What challenges do we have?

These questions are particularly relevant to us now. At GreenLab we are host to two large Power-to-X facilities; GreenLab Skive P2X and GreenHyScale.

The GreenLab Skive P2X:

The GreenLab Skive P2X is a 12 MW PtX-project  supported by the Energy Agency/Energistyrelsen. The purpose is to use the green hydrogen and combine it with carbon dioxide from the on-site biogas plan to create methanol.

The GreenHyScale project:

The GreenHyScale project is a 100 MW PtX-project with 11 international partners. The project is supported by EU GreenDeal under Horizon2020. The facility will use 100 MW of electrolysers to produce green hydrogen, and securing water for projects of this scale will become a more pressing challenge as more projects of this size are implemented around the world.

Both projects use renewable energy from the energy park operated by Eurowind in Skive, and both of the projects are using the same electrolyser technology provided by Green Hydrogen Systems.

Recently, the first 6 MW test-module unit was delivered to GreenLab as part of the GreenHyScale project, moving the project into the implementation and testing phase for this unit. The hydrogen economy is taking its first steps in Skive, so the question of how best to provide water for electrolysis needs answers now.

This wide-reaching challenge is not something that just one person, or organization can solve, and will need to be solved by many different actors tackling different aspects of the challenge. In relation to this GreenLab has partnered with DTU Sustain to fund a project where Wenjing (Angela) Zhang is a leads a team of university researchers addresses some of the technical related to the purification of water for electrolysis through a combination of modelling and in lab experiments.

Hearing about the work that Angela’s team was doing Søren Nøhr Bak is a Senior Expertise Director at Niras contacted us asking to be involved in the project. Niras are providing the water purification for the Power-to-X projects at GreenLab and are looking to the future of providing water for electrolysis.

As you can see this challenge is bigger than just one project can cover, and is something that we hope the students taking on this challenge can appreciate, tackling one piece of this problem, and through small contributions to the greater challenge, sharing knowledge that will help bring us one step closer to a solution. This idea of tackling problems from many different angles, utilizing the expertise of different fields is at the core of mission driven research, something that we at GreenLab strive to focus on when participating in research projects, as it aligns with our values of co-creation.

What should be the result – after we have implemented your solution?

Students tackling this challenge may want to look at the technical aspects of the project, the energy consumption needed for water purification, the difficulties in providing such high purity of water, or the benefits of the purity of water for the lifetime of the electrolysers.

Those with an interest in numbers and modelling could start to look at the amount of purified water needed to meet the targets set in regard to decarbonisation Danish and global energy consumption, and how much energy is then needed to purify that.

They may instead want to look at the social impact of such a problem, is it ok to use drinking water for industrial needs, should the water instead be purified from wastewater by the companies producing the hydrogen? What wastewater can be used? Are their regulations that govern this and if not, when do we need them?

Students who have a background in socioeconomics may instead be interested in the economy of providing this water from different sources, what price can be placed on it? Is there a business case for a combination of water treatment and water for electroylsers? Would this generate jobs for the local community?

We hope that students will engage in the problem, and potentially challenge our thinking on some of our current ideas. We want the students to see this as an opportunity to contribute to the shared knowledge and discourse we have when we talk about how Power-to-X technologies will impact society. To come with their ideas and allow us to learn from them. We are excited to see what they come up with.


Data and sources

Data for this challenge is provided by Center Denmark from their platform of unique data from the energy sector.

Download the data sheet

In this video Center Denmark explains how to understand and use the sheet.

How to find more data sources for the challenge

Translation of the data