The Green Utility: Tomorrow’s Utility, Today
One of the largest energy service providers in Northern Germany, the HanseWerk Natur, is on a relentless mission. HanseWerk Natur wants to provide its customers the most reliable energy while making sure they are protecting the environment. In their search to find the optimal path to deliver energy with the lowest carbon emissions possible, they began to look at hydrogen. Specifically, HanseWerk Natur wanted to see if it would possible to build a power plant that is CO2-neutral. Their search led them to a hydrogen-fueled gas engine that not only could generate 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity, but it could also provide heat…all CO2-neutral.
Sounds too good to be true?
Well, it turned out that one company not only could build such a gas engine, but it also has a global fleet of engines that are already prepped to run on a hydrogen-natural gas fuel mixture. In November of 2019, HanseWerk Natur reached out to INNIO Jenbacher to collaborate on the development of a hydrogen-fueled combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Since then, both HanseWerk and INNIO Jenbacher have turned the idea into a reality. Today, a pilot power plant capable of running on 100 percent hydrogen sits in the heart of Hamburg. The pilot power plant is set to deliver industrial level power generation in the 1-megawatt (MW) range. The power plant can run on natural gas, a mixture of hydrogen-natural gas blend and on 100% hydrogen. With the plant capable of operating on 100 percent of hydrogen, that will translate into the power plant being CO2-neutral. Once framework conditions are met for green hydrogen at industrial scale for power generation, the power plant will effectively transition into a Green Utility.
Thomas Baade, Technical Director of HanseWerk Natur GmbH
A glimpse into the future
This Green Utility underwent field testing with up to 100% hydrogen, demonstrating that a greener, more reliable, more flexible and future-orientated energy supply for Hamburg is technically feasible. “By field testing this Jenbacher CHP plant with up to 100% hydrogen, we are demonstrating that a greener, more reliable, more flexible, and future-orientated energy supply for Hamburg is technically feasible,” explained Thomas Baade, Technical Director of HanseWerk Natur GmbH. The CHP plant provides 30 residential buildings, a sports center, a daycare center, and the Othmarschen Park leisure complex with a reliable supply of local heating that equates to 13,000 megawatt hours every year. The electricity generated is fed to electric vehicle charging points in Othmarschen’s multi-level parking garage as well as to the local power grid. While heat and power needs have been met on natural gas fuel traditionally, these needs can be met with 100 percent Hydrogen fuel once it is made available for year-round operation. This project provides a glimpse of how INNIO Jenbacher hydrogen-fueled gas engines can power the utilities of the future.
Proof that pure hydrogen operation is no longer a pipe dream, even at industrial scale, can be seen at the INNIO pilot plant at the HanseWerk Natur site in Hamburg-Othmarschen.
The Green Utility offers Northern Germany significant opportunities given its vast wind resources and increasing importance as an energy storage medium. As the energy industry continues to look toward wind-generated electricity conversion into green hydrogen, it is also seeing how it can be deployed across the power, heat, transportation, and industrial sectors. In January 2020, the German government responded to the efforts of energy companies like INNIO Jenbacher by approving Germany’s nationwide phaseout of coal generation by 2038.
By definition, green power sources, such as INNIO Jenbacher’s and HanseWerk Natur’s 100 percent hydrogen fueled pilot power plant, operate as CO2-neutral energy sources. Essentially, green energy sources produce no additional carbon dioxide nor other greenhouse gases across the power generation process. This flagship pilot project will not only drive forward the large-scale use of hydrogen technology in CHP plants, but it will complement the city of Hamburg’s goal of ensuring that all interested customers in the power, heat and transportation sectors can be supplied almost entirely with Green Hydrogen by 2035.
A path to a greener future
Green Hydrogen can be reconverted by flexible gas engine power plants into dispatchable renewable power. Like natural gas, it is ideally suited for CHP applications and can provide heating and cooling while achieving a fuel utilization rate of up to 90% and more. Gas engines running on hydrogen are a mature technology, these engines do not require high hydrogen purity, they are available at extremely competitive CAPEX and OPEX, and they provide necessary operating flexibility while achieving very low emissions. Further, Hydrogen gas engine power plants are CO2 neutral and can achieve more than 80% lower NOx emissions compared to natural gas. This solution will put the world on the path to a greener future.