Hydrogen is, just like electricity, an energy carrier. It can be used to store, supply and distribute energy. Today, hydrogen, which is mainly of fossil origin, is mainly used in the chemical industry to be combined into new substances, such as ammonia and methanol. In these plants, above all, natural gas is used as the first product, which is then converted to hydrogen and finally to ammonia, methanol or the like.
But as the demands for fossil-free energy sources increase, hydrogen is seen as a key component in the Swedish energy system. Hydrogen is becoming increasingly competitive thanks to lower costs for renewable electricity production. Hydrogen has great potential as an energy carrier in a renewable energy system where it is produced from, for example, sun, wind or water. It is the renewable hydrogen from Swedish electricity mix that we put our focus on.
Using fossil-free hydrogen is an important part of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in all industries and sectors. The reason why hydrogen is singled out as an important part of the transition is that both the societal benefits and business opportunities increase if hydrogen is used across all sectors. Hydrogen as an energy carrier and input is included in many existing and future parts of the value chain.
Hydrogen in the industry
Today, hydrogen is mainly used as raw material in the chemical industry. But thanks to increased demands to get rid of fossil fuels, hydrogen can become central in several new value chains to replace fossil energy. For example in the steel industry, where coal and coke are to be phased out, to instead use fossil-free electricity to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. HYBRIT and H2 Green Steel are two initiatives. In the chemical- and refinery industry, hydrogen is a prerequisite for change. Several initiatives are underway here, for example Preem and St1, which invest in the production of hydrogen from electrolysis.
Hydrogen in transport
By 2030, transport in Sweden is to be fossil-free. In order to reach the goal, the electrification of transport will be central. Electrification can be done with hydrogen, batteries or electric roads. The big advantage of using hydrogen in transport is that the only thing that is emitted is water. Hydrogen can be used for all types of transport such as vehicles of all types, planes, trains or ships. With the help of a fuel cell, the hydrogen gas is converted into electricity to power an engine. So far, the use of hydrogen in transport has been limited. But thanks to lower costs on, among other things, renewable energy and technology, the infrastructure is starting to be expanded. Compared to battery vehicles, refueling is quick and the range is longer. Read more about hydrogen in transport.
Hydrogen in the energy industry
The energy industry is moving towards freedom from fossil fuels through electrification in several sectors. With an increasing share of renewable electricity production, the need for flexible solutions to balance the energy system increases. Electricity producers are interested in hydrogen because it contributes to increasing the value of electricity production throughout the value chain. From electricity generation to hydrogen production, storage and use. To turn hydrogen into electricity or heat, a fuel cell, internal combustion engine or gas turbine is needed. Thanks to hydrogen’s storage capacity, electricity producers can adapt electricity consumption to prices on the electricity market. The residual heat generated from hydrogen production can be used for heating. Several energy companies are initiating collaborations across the sectors, including Liquid Wind and Sundsvall’s energi, Trelleborgs Energi which is initiating a roadmap for hydrogen, as well as Rabbalshede Kraft’s plans to produce hydrogen from its wind power. The hydrogen is then transported by truck to nearby industries.
Hydrogen in agriculture
The goal in the agricultural sector is to become 100 percent fossil-free for fuel, drying and heat by 2030. Which also means phasing out the use of fertilizer produced with fossil energy. Today, ammonia is widely used to manufacture artificial fertilizers. The chemical is usually produced with hydrogen from fossil sources such as natural gas, coal and oil, which are imported to Sweden. Now they are instead looking at using locally produced hydrogen from fossil-free energy sources, of which we have plenty in Sweden.
Hydrogen in real estate
The construction and property sectors’ climate goal is for the construction value chain to reach 50 percent reduced emissions in 2030 and free from fossil fuels in 2045. In the production of hydrogen through electrolysis, heat is generated that can be used to heat a building, an area or fed into the district heating network. With the help of hydrogen, you can store renewable energy from, for example, solar cells on the roof, to be used to heat properties even in winter. Decentralized hydrogen production is central to the development of self-sufficient houses, sustainable cities, so-called off-grid. Off-grid in the construction and property sector includes a variety of technologies, where small-scale renewable intermittent electricity production, electrolysis, hydrogen storage, fuel cells, local heat production and batteries are combined. There are several completed projects in self-sufficient properties. One is Hans-Olof Nilsson’s off-grid house outside Gothenburg. A similar example is self-sufficient houses in Sjöbo municipality. The municipality’s properties are self-sufficient in green electricity. Part of the hydrogen production is also used as fuel for the municipality’s fleet of vehicles.
Hydrogen as security of supply and preparedness
Hydrogen can also be used as islanding (for temporary operation). Instead of using reserves based on diesel or other fossil energy, fuel cell technology can generate silent and emission-free energy. It is central that Sweden builds robust electricity production and reduces its dependence on imported fossil energy sources. Islanding is already used today for socially critical functions, where it is critical to have electricity supply if the electricity grid cannot deliver for any reason. Hospitals, water and sewer facilities, server halls and telephone exchanges. Properties with islanding can be used by government staff in a crisis situation.