A Hydrogen Mini Grid System (HMGS) designed as a ‘proof-of-concept’ installation for a future hydrogen economy is set to begin full demonstrations in the next three to four months.
Funded by regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward, it is hoped that the HMGS will demonstrate the potential for hydrogen to be used as a sustainable alternative to hydrocarbon fuels. TNEI Services and Pure Energy Centre are working together on the design and management of the system, which is based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire.
Jason Stoyel, TNEI’s technical manager, said: ‘The holy grail as far as the hydrogen industry is concerned is a full operating hydrogen infrastructure. So you generate hydrogen, through whatever means, and you distribute that hydrogen and store it and use it either as a refuelling fuel for vehicles or a fuel to generate on-site electricity. What the HMGS is there to do is to show that each individual element will work and together they have the ability to drive this hydrogen economy forward.’
The HMGS works by capturing wind energy to generate electricity from a 225KW wind turbine, which is estimated to generate more than 500MWh a year. Any excess electricity is then converted to hydrogen via electrolysis for later use by either a fuel cell during periods of low wind speed or as transport fuel. This is done using an alkaline electrolyser that has been specifically designed by Pure Energy Centre for use with renewable energy.
Stoyel said: ‘One of the key stumbling blocks is that electrolysis requires a nice constant source of power like you get from the grid, whereas renewable energy tends to vary. With the HMGS you can take all that variation into the electrolyser to generate hydrogen.’
The HMGS electrolyser generates hydrogen at a pressure of 30bar to 200bar, which maximises the potential amount of hydrogen that can be generated and allows it to be used for a wider range of applications.
Stoyel added: ‘We’re not claiming it’s the best ever system but it’s a working demonstration of what could be done. It’s using local products that are innovative. For example, the electrolyser hasn’t been done before and the storage system is based on a composite cylinder using technology that is still being proven.’
The HMGS is currently the UK’s largest wind-to-hydrogen installation and is the first system to enable electricity from both a hydrogen fuel cell and wind turbine to be supplied to the local distribution network. While the intention is to demonstrate a viable hydrogen infrastructure in the UK, Stoyel is aware that drivers for such a change are likely to come from further afield.
‘Hydrogen is such a diverse industry at the moment and there are a number of key players. Generally, they tend to be oil and gas companies who want to move into the renewable field. A lot of their technologies have a lot of synergy with hydro-technology so it is quite an easy changeover, but the technology is still at an early stage. To drive things forward there needs to be a rise in energy costs and changes to legislation.
‘At the moment, it’s a vicious circle because nobody is using hydrogen for cars and vehicles, because there’s no hydrogen available and no body is producing hydrogen because there’s no demand. So this is really attempting to break that cycle.’
HMGS plans to begin full-system demonstration by October this year.