- By Swapnil V Adkar
- June 10, 2021
- Honeywell IAC
OEMs will need the right automation partners to successfully serve a fast-growing market.
Hydrogen has been the fuel of the future for decades. General Motors developed its first hydrogen-powered vehicle during the space race: The 1966 Electrovan. Now, though, that future has finally arrived. In Europe, hydrogen’s share in the energy mix is projected to grow from less than 2% today to 14% by 2050. In fact, countries around the world are embracing the gas as they move to a carbon-neutral future.
On the campaign trail, President Biden committed to bringing green hydrogen costs down to those of conventional hydrogen within a decade in the US. Zhengzhou, a city in China with a population similar to London, has replaced its buses with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Nanjing in eastern Jiangsu province is following suit. Many cities in Europe are also rolling out plans for hydrogen-fueled buses. In Australia, May saw green hydrogen fed into the gas distribution grid for the first time in Adelaide. Test of hydrogen injection into gas grids are also underway in Germany, the UK and Netherlands.
A range of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be tasked with ensuring this growing demand is met. Electrolyzer manufacturers will be at the heart of that. However, the green hydrogen value chain encompasses everything from the wind power plants and water demineralization facilities to compressors, storage and fuel stations. OEMs established in other markets are adapting designs or materials to make them suitable for hydrogen or simply to scale them up in response to this growing market.
This also provides an opportunity for OEMs to invest in and upgrade automation technologies, however. Doing so will allow them to benefit from modern technology trends to improve cyber security, provides remote monitoring and services capabilities, to greatly enhance their ability to serve this growing market.
Choosing a partner
There are several areas OEMs will need to focus on when choosing their technology partners to meet the growing demand for green hydrogen.
The first is reliability. Green Hydrogen is a high value fuel and potentially hazardous when handled. It is highly flammable, explosive over a wide range, and transported and stored at high pressure. The choice of instruments to provide safe storage and transportation and accurate measurements to ensure reliable operation of equipment is essential.
Honeywell’s SmartLine® instruments, gas, H2 and water analyzers, as well as its Experion® DCS, ControlEdgeTM PLC, ControlEdgeTM RTU and Safety manager SIL 3 safety systems, for instance, are designed for such hazardous and harsh environments. They are also field proven over decades in hazardous industry applications across refining, chemical and oil and gas industries. This sort of experience is essential. OEMs need partners that understand design practices and execution methodology and, crucially, know how to run processes reliably with tight control. They are essential criteria for OEMs building highly reliable equipment for green hydrogen.
The second key criteria–and equally important–is cybersecurity. The recent ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline is just the latest to underline the vulnerability of energy infrastructure to attacks by criminals or state actors. As the IEA has outlined, despite the gains digital technologies bring, they have significantly expanded potential vulnerabilities. Modern, leading solutions such as Honeywell Experion DCS, Safety Manager and ControlEdge PLC have embedded cyber security capabilities that are ISASecure certified. This offers robust cybersecurity built into OEM package control systems so that end users can build cyber-secure plants. OEMs and end users also benefit from secure remote connectivity to their assets, while mitigating the threat from bad actors.
The third area H2 equipment OEMs could look for greater support is in execution. Delivering projects quickly to meet rapidly growing demand will require standardization. Honeywell’s OEM program supports efficient operation and delivery of projects with toolkits to help OEMs standardize their designs on latest technology while they focus on critical project deliveries. Support through the OEM program also includes consultation, training, engineering expertise, remote support and migration services. The benefits of using a single provider are not just those of standardization, either. Tight integration brings additional advantages in implementation and use, such as automatic device commissioning of SmartLine instruments with the Experion control system.
There is another area that is key specifically for green hydrogen by electrolysis. Electrolyzers are pre-engineered for a certain capacity. Individual “stacks” are made from 5MW, 10MW or 20MW per stack. Many projects in coming years will therefore grow by adding stacks, and a system’s ability to grow seamlessly by adding modules will be key. Experion PKS achieves this through asset model-enabled SCADA, distributed server architecture, remote project services, virtual engineer platform and remote operating centers – all of which make it possible to gradually add electrolyzers to an existing facility.
A flexible future
More generally, OEMs need a partner with the right portfolio. A comprehensive portfolio suitable for the entire green hydrogen value chain enables easy integration between equipment when delivered to site, reduces training requirements, and simplifies the handling of parts and spares. Honeywell has proven experience and a portfolio for the full range of equipment used in hydrogen value chain, including solar and wind power generation, electrolyzers, compressor, storage, fueling stations and industrial packages.
OEMs can benefit from a single-source provider of leading technology across instruments, gas meters, analyzers, PLCs, RTUs, distributed control systems, safety systems and advanced software for process optimization and remote monitoring.
Finally, a broad, comprehensive portfolio also delivers another quality OEMs are likely to need, particularly in the early days of this move to hydrogen: Flexibility.
For all the big plans, green hydrogen produced with renewable energy remains in its infancy in many respects. Many industries are only starting to shift to sustainable sources. The economics of transportation, the benefits of decentralized or centralized generation, and the best scale and location of facilities (near renewable generation or consumer demand) all remain open to debate. The energy industry has yet to fix on an optimal business model.
As it does so, OEMs will need to respond quickly to changing requirements. Partners that can help with the range of needs for projects as they emerge will be crucial to their success. By choosing the right partner, OEMs can ensure they take full advantage of the opportunities in a growing market. And the world can ensure its hopes for hydrogen don’t end up misplaced.
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