Hydrogen technology for the future

Hydrogen technology is playing a key role in the energy transition. With its integrated solutions, Bilfinger is driving this evolution and helping industrial companies to retrofit their plants and processes for tomorrow’s energy supply.

In his novel The Mysterious Island published in 1870, Jules Verne wrote that “water will one day be employed as fuel.” He further predicted that by using electricity to split it into hydrogen and oxygen, these two elements would provide power on the planet indefinitely.

A hundred and fifty years later, his vision looks set to become reality. Because hydrogen could play a leading role in making a success of the energy transition. Hydrogen makes it possible to store and transport energy so that it can be used anywhere. If produced with renewable energy, the resulting “green hydrogen” could act as fully carbon-neutral fuel source.

This is why a number of initiatives promoting hydrogen technology have been launched in recent years. Within the framework of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has also defined a hydrogen strategy, after individual member states had already prepared national action plans and batteries of measures. This is currently an incredibly dynamic market.

A key application area for hydrogen technology is industry. For several decades now, it has been harnessed – albeit as gray hydrogen – in reforming crude oil as well as producing ammonia and methanol, among other things. If gray hydrogen can be successfully replaced by green hydrogen in the future, this would help to drastically reduce the current process- related CO2 emissions. What’s more, green hydrogen could also be employed in carbon-neutral steel production. Exploiting hydrogen technology would also help other industries, including chemicals and concrete, with decarbonization by reducing their process- related emissions.

In order to make the most of all of hydrogen technology’s benefits, existing infrastructure will, however, need to be adapted on both the supplier and consumer sides. On this front, Bilfinger offers its customers a broad spectrum of solutions ranging from assisting with hydrogen production, through storage and distribution, to its use. Products and services specifically created for this purpose facilitate industrial- scale hydrogen production, storage, transport and on-site supply.

“As Europe’s biggest industrial services provider, we are able to provide services at every link in the hydrogen value chain,” says Tom Blades, Chairman of the Executive Board of Bilfinger SE. “We are already actively involved in numerous hydrogen projects and processes, providing customers with consulting and engineering, plant construction as well as inspection and maintenance services. Hydrogen is the energy source of the future. That’s why we will continue to significantly expand our range of solutions in this field going forward.”

There is a lot of overlap between hydrogen technology and fields such as renewable energy, power to gas, carbon capture and storage as well as many more. “As far as possible, we aim to serve as a single source for all of our clients’ needs,” says Blades. “This is why we have incorporated our hydrogen-related activities into our energy transition services. That way, we can be sure to always provide integrated, forward- looking customer solutions.”

Hydrogen colors

Green hydrogen: Produced using renewable power to electrolyze water. It currently accounts for around 4 percent of global hydrogen production.

Gray hydrogen: Derived from steam-methane reforming, partial oxidation or fossil fuel gasification. It currently accounts for around 95 percent of global hydrogen production.

Blue hydrogen: Blue hydrogen: Gray hydrogen where the carbon emissions have been captured and stored.

Turquoise hydrogen: Turquoise hydrogen: Produced through methane pyrolysis.

Published in issue 03.2020

Further articles from issue 03.2020

3 questions for Ulrich Trebbe

Ulrich Trebbe is head of H2 sales at Bilfinger EMS

Mr. Trebbe, how important do you believe hydrogen technology is for the future?

Green hydrogen is poised to become increasingly important in the coming years. It will be a mainstay for reducing our carbon footprint – both in industrial applications and in daily life. At the moment, it’s still early days for this development. But there are already industrial-scale projects that will go a long way to cutting carbon emissions released during the burning of fossil fuels. In the foreseeable future, hydrogen produced from non-fossil sources will be as common a fuel as natural gas is today.

How can Bilfinger support its customers in transitioning to hydrogen technology?

Today, Bilfinger is already advising its customers on investing in green hydrogen. From the early engineering stages, we can walk customers through selecting the right technology and integrating it into their systems. Once the investment decision has been made, we guide them through implementation or take full responsibility for delivering a turnkey project. After commissioning, we continue to assist customers by providing maintenance services or, if necessary, operating the facility.

What is Bilfinger’s special area of expertise in this field?

Bilfinger has a presence in many countries around the world, so we are always close to customers. This is especially important when operating a plant over many years. Thanks to our extensive experience in maintenance, these insights are incorporated into plant design from the engineering stage. That means we are able to keep operating costs to a minimum. What’s more, we see ourselves as systems integrators, who dovetail hydrogen production with existing customer plants.