El Centro Nacional del Hidrógeno publica el artículo A hydrogen research infraestructure en la edición digital de Public Service Review: European Union – Issue 23, en su sección de Medio Ambiente, Energía y Agricultura.
En este artículo se habla del futuro del hidrógeno y de las ventajas de su uso como complemento a las energías renovables, y de la necesidad y utilidad de tener una instalación dedicada a la experimentación de tecnologías de hidrógeno y pilas de combustible como lo es el CNH2 – ICTS.
A hydrogen research infrastructure
Hydrogen can be the perfect companion for renewable energy and thereby eliminate the consequences of its intermittent production by acting as energy storage or as the energy carrier used in transportation. This future, where fossil fuels are replaced by energy from renewable sources, is the horizon in which distributed generation combined with effective energy distribution will take an active role, with users being both energy producers and consumers participating in the energy exchange within a smart grid.
Working for this future, the Spanish National Hydrogen Centre or CNH2, is dedicated to experimenting with unique technology using hydrogen as energy carrier in addition to other energy sources, carriers and storage systems.
The CNH2 is a scientific and technological singular infrastructure also called ICTS, it is a facility that will be supplied with energy from different renewable energy sources combined with existing energy resources as fossil fuels. The use of all possible energy resources is intended to demonstrate its usefulness as energy storage and carrier, both today and in the future. The ICTS will work in five specific areas: hydrogen generation, hydrogen storage, hydrogen conversion into energy, integration and safety.
Hydrogen will be generated by three different means:
• Electrochemical hydrogen, produced from energy resources that can be directly transformed into electricity or even using electricity from the grid. Thermally generated hydrogen is included here, provided that no biomass or fossil feedstock is used;
• Biochemical hydrogen, which will be produced from all types of biomass using different processing technologies;
• Chemical hydrogen, which will be produced from fossil resources.
The differentiation of these three hydrogen production paths intends to foster the knowledge on gas separation technologies, hydrogen purification and handling under different conditions of pressure and temperature.
Similarly, all known hydrogen storage technologies will be employed in the facility, and also, for electrolytic processes, oxygen storage will be considered. The hydrogen rich gas flow obtained from biomass or fossil fuels will be purified by downstream separation processes.
Different storage technologies will be linked with hydrogen production and hydrogen conversion technologies. The ICTS will also work with a seasonal storage system to facilitate the use of hydrogen produced in previous months. Of course, these storage systems will include all kinds of experimental hydrogen handling in order to foster the development of technologies oriented to the distribution of hydrogen for its use in transportation. Besides, performance of storage systems for all types of mobile devices will be demonstrated.
The third area of the facility will be oriented to the conversion of hydrogen into energy. All the fuel cells’ experimental possibilities under various operational conditions will be covered. The ICTS is designed so that these fuel cells could operate independently or connected with a smart grid while using the generated heat into high, medium and low temperature heat circuits. The main interest of the hydrogen conversion area is the study of the performance of fuel cell-based cogeneration systems that are able to produce electric power and heat. Additionally, the ICTS will also have the capacity for testing combustion systems fed with pure hydrogen or mixed with other fuels.
To support all the related experimentation these three areas will be equipped with test benches and specific work positions provided with all the necessary connections for devices like electrolysers, fuel cells and several storage tanks and systems operating in a wide range of power and capacity. In the future, the ICTS will be able to validate, standardise and certify these devices.
In addition to these three sectors, all possible forms of hydrogen integration into energy systems will be tested. The electricity obtained from the fuel cells or other devices will be added to the electricity generated in the facility by renewable sources in order to supply electricity to the ICTS buildings that will act as energy load. Any shortage or excess in the power supply that could not be absorbed by the facility will be compensated by the grid.
Experimentation with power electronics will occur at three different levels: the connection to the grid, the connection to the facility installation and finally with smart grids.
The heat generated will also be incorporated into the facility services that will have three different managing levels according to the process temperature. The referent temperature will be given by the fuel cells’ operating temperature.
Both electricity and heat will have the possibility of additional storage enabling us to save energy and to ease the energy management, contributing in this manner to the compatibility of the future energy system with distributed generation facilities.
Obviously, the combined system of hydrogen, electricity and heat makes the installation unique and this uniqueness is complemented when all the elements of the facility could become experimental systems incorporating external or homemade developments.
Experimentation with most of those external developments will be part of the main objectives of the facility: to facilitate access of scientific, technical or industrial researchers and to foster the development of hydrogen technologies.
Together with the experimental facility, the ICTS is completed with the facility buildings that will act as energy load of all the formerly described systems. With this purpose, the building’s design facilitates low consumption and high energy efficiency. All these systems will be operated by the technical department.
All the experimentation and activities that will be carried out at the ICTS technology testing facility will be complemented with the work of five technology units covering different complementary aspects in order to guarantee the maximum experimentation service. These activities will be carried out by the research department that will deal with material behaviour, electrochemistry, power electronics and control, thermal fluid dynamics and process engineering.
The aims of the units:
• The materials technology unit will focus its activities on the performance of materials. It will study structural components of the systems and their behaviour during their use and end-of-life. The objective is to get cheaper and more efficient materials, to lengthen their lifetime, and to guarantee their availability;
• The electrochemical technology unit will assist in optimising internal designs of electrolysers and fuel cell components, studying electrochemical kinetics and optimising electrolytic processes and their performance;
• The thermal fluid dynamics technology unit will be responsible for optimising the design of electrochemical systems aiming for the maximum use of space, ensuring the adequate cooling, looking for the maximum utilisation of the generated heat and assuring the system reliability;
• The power electronics and control technology unit will focus its activities in the control of processes, devices and components so that they become more user-friendly. As well as in power electronics they will facilitate the managing of energy with converters, inverters, transformers, power units, or loads;
• The process engineering technology unit will investigate and develop technologies to scale production methods and manufacturing processes to foster the mass production of all elements and components.
The ICTS staff work in a matrix structure, and projects involve teams from different units. This matrix operation is supported internally by the management department and the external management is carried out by the external relations department.
Nowadays, the CNH2 is working in six cooperative projects supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. Three of them aim to improve the hydrogen generation from renewable energy sources, another two are oriented to obtain a better connection of a hydrogen cycle to the grid and to a smart grid, and the last one is related to solid oxide-based devices. Besides, the centre is a member of several international networks like the Safety of Hydrogen as an Energy Carrier (Hysafe) and the N.ERGHY association that represents the interests of European universities and research institutes in the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (FCH JTI).
The facility has a clear experimental and technology demonstration component. At the same time it will have to be flexible and evolutionary, in continuous operation, supplied by renewable energy sources and supplied with enough hydrogen and fuel cells, able to perform different experiments with scientific and technological advances developed by the scientific community and required by the productive system.
Publicado: 30 de Marzo de 2012.
Más información: Public Service Review: European Union – Issue 23