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Nouryon and Gasunie study scale-up of green hydrogen project to meet aviation fuels demand

Nouryon and Gasunie are studying an expansion of a planned green hydrogen unit at Delfzijl, the Netherlands. The feasibility study follows a deal to convert sustainable electricity into green hydrogen for SkyNRG.

The plant, which would convert renewable electricity into green hydrogen via water electrolysis, could be scaled up from 20 megawatts to at least 60 megawatts—allowing for production of 9,000 tons of green hydrogen per year.

SkyNRG recently announced plans with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, fuels distributor SHV Energy and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to build Europe’s first dedicated production facility for sustainable aviation fuel at Delfzijl. Green hydrogen would be combined with waste and residue streams such as used cooking oil to produce 100,000 tons of sustainable aviation fuel and 15,000 tons of bioLPG per year.

Flying with sustainable aviation fuel (SAJF) delivers a reduction in CO2 emissions of at least 85% compared to conventional kerosene. It also results in lower ultra-fine particles and sulfur emissions. The output of the Delfzijl fuels unit would be equivalent to an annual reduction of 270,000 tons of CO2.

Green hydrogen is a sustainable alternative to fossil-based raw materials and makes new forms of green chemistry possible – relevant for many markets in which we operate. This project is an important step in scaling up the electrolysis technology and supports long-term growth in the market for sustainably produced hydrogen.

—Knut Schwalenberg, Managing Director Industrial Chemicals at Nouryon

Gas infrastructure plays a connecting and facilitating role in the energy transition. Also for aviation because it is used as feedstock for the production of sustainable kerosene. With the first Dutch electrolyzer of 1 megawatt, at Zuidwending, in the province of Groningen, we have started the use of sustainable produced hydrogen. The plans for a 20 megawatt electrolyzer—as we are currently developing with Nouryon in Delfzijl—already being scaled up, confirms the fast growing need for hydrogen and for hydrogen transport and storage. We’re developing this infrastructure together with our partners. This enables hydrogen to be used on a larger scale in the production of sustainable kerosene.

—Gerard van Pijkeren, Managing Director at Gasunie New Energy

Nouryon and Gasunie expect to take the final investment decision on the first phase of the Delfzijl project early 2020. A decision on the expansion to 60 megawatts is expected at the end of 2020.

Comments

HarveyD

Another major step towards future REs and H2 economy.

Improved lighter H2 storage and lighter FCs will benefit the arrival of near future clean flying eh-planes?

Roger Pham

Longer into the future, we will have jet planes using liquid hydrogen for fuel, that will be much lighter than existing jet fuel and the planes thus will be built with smaller wings, smaller engines, smaller landing gears and will be far more energy efficient than existing jet planes.
At the same time, high-speed electric train capable of 230 mph can serve high-density routes profitably, and can use RE directly without conversion to a fuel, which should boost efficiency of traveling significantly.
So, conversion of H2 into liquid hydrocarbon fuel will be only a transitional step and will be phased out, to be replaced by H2 and RE directly.

HarveyD

NASA agrees with Roger and is currently investing/researching liquid H2 planes potential. Yes, we also need 300,000+ Km of ultra high speed e-rail in USA/Canada. We may need technical and financial help from China and EU to do it ?

Alternatively, new high speed e-trains would be possible, without costly power lines, using the new EU FC/H2 passenger trains?

Engineer-Poet

Airbus published an artist's concept of a hydrogen airliner some time back.  The hydrogen tank was huge, much too big to go inside the wings like kerosene tanks are.  It was located in the top of the fuselage so that the much denser people and cargo could go below.  The plane looked like it had a bad case of hydrocephalus; just how practical it could be is an open question.

Hypedrogen is a solution in search of a problem.

HarveyD

The problem is well known and it is the use of bio and fossil fuels creating massive pollution and GHGs.

Clean electricity, more REs, more clean H2 production, storage and usage is part of the solution.

Of course, NPPs could also be part of the solution but it is too costly.

Roger Pham

@EP--You have to design a LH2 plane with a clean-sheet approach in order to appreciate the lightness of LH2. Keep in mind that the latest jet engines are far more fuel -efficient than the low-bypass engines of several decades ago.
Look in Wikipedia for the specs of the Boeing 787-9:
Max Takeoff Wt (MTOW): 560,500 lbs with a max fuel load of 223,378 lbs. This means that the fuel weight is almost HALF of the MTOW, with Max payload of 116,000 lbs only, with range of 7,635 nmi.

Now, with LH2 weighing a third that of jet fuel, your fuel load will be only 74,000 lbs, giving you additional 148,000 lbs of pay load on top of the 116,000 lb payload, we can increase the pay load almost 2.5 times. But we can't, because we don't have the room for additional passengers. So, we will design the plane with smaller wings and tail planes, smaller engines, and smaller landing gears...and these components weigh about ~ 2/3 the empty weight of the plane. The weight of the empty 787-9 is around 221,000 lbs, and 2/3 of this weight would be 147,000 lbs. Take this and divided by 2 ( due to 50%- reduction in MTOW) = 73,000 lbs.

So, the MTOW of the new 787-9 using LH2 would be fuselage weight of 73,000 lbs + Wings tail engine LG wt of 73,000 lbs + fuel weight of 37,000 lbs + payload of 116,000 lbs = 299,000 lbs...or a little more than HALF of the MTOW of the jetfuelled version.
So, now we are able to reduce the LH2 fuel weight to ~ HALF of the previous 74,000-lb fuel load due to a complete clean-sheet design approach. Density of LH2 = 70 kg per M^3. Total fuel weight is 37,000 lbs or 16,818 kg would take up a volume of 240 M^3.
Cabin width of 5.5 m and cabin length of ~50 m, would give you a volume of V = pi x r^2 x length = 1187 M^3.

Passenger floor of this plane would take space 1/2 way up the height of the fuselage, thus taking up only 1/2 of the total internal space of the fuselage, which is around 600 M^3, giving space of almost 600 M^3 underneath the seating floor for fuel and cargo, of which, the LH2 fuel only takes up around 240 M^3 of space. Entirely doable!

Engineer-Poet
You have to design a LH2 plane with a clean-sheet approach in order to appreciate the lightness of LH2.

Yes, you do.  One of the things you lose is the ability to distribute the weight of your fuel along the span of the wing.  You also lose the ability to use the aircraft skin as the wall of the fuel tank; you can get away with this in a rocket which burns off its fuel in a few minutes and shakes off its coating of frost at liftoff, but you can't do this with an airliner.  You are going to need a lot of heavy insulation both to keep boiloff to an acceptable rate and prevent icing.  Locating all fuel in the fuselage means more flex loads in the wing and a heavier wing structure.

Keep in mind that the latest jet engines are far more fuel -efficient than the low-bypass engines of several decades ago.

I'm not denying that there are some amazing things you can do with hydrogen.  Look at the SABRE engine for one example.  But unless you are going to completely re-engineer the propulsion system as well as the airframe, hydrogen just isn't your fuel.

Roger Pham

@EP--You're a good aero-engineer to consider the weight distribution of the fuel in an aircraft. Yes, the concentrated weight in the fuselage can increase the wing's structural weight, but since the fuel only weighs merely 12% of MTOW, the increase in wing's structural weight won't be much .
NASA has used low-density polyurethane foam as insulation for H2-containing sphere with success. A spherical container of 1 foot diameter and 1 inch-thick polyurethane foam can hold LH2 for about 10 hrs. If we would extrapolate this to the vast size of a jumbo-jet's fuselage with much higher volume-to-surface ratio, then we won't need more than 1-inch thick polyurethane foam as insulation, which is very light and can also confer structural strength as well. So, a modern carbon-fiber composite aircraft fuselage can have an 1-inch thick foam in between two layers of carbon-fiber composite skin for both strength and insulation. So, the aircraft fuselage skin can serve as LH2 tank as well, with the internal bulkheads of the fuselage will serve as the transverse walls of the LH2 tanks.

When the LH2-plane is on the ground, the on-board fuel cell can use the LH2 boil-off to produce electricity to serve the air-conditioning an lighting requirement of the cabin, and can be plugged-in the power grid to release any excess electricity not needed by the cabin. In this way, there will be no waste of energy, and no H2 released in the atmosphere.

Indeed, the SABRE engine has illustrated the concept of using LH2 for cooling intake air, thus achieving higher engine performance and even higher fuel efficiency due to lower compression work and higher pressure ratio possible. I would predict thermal efficiency increase from 50% of current core-turbine to go up to 65% efficiency as the result of pre-cooling, and this would further reduce the mass and volume of LH2 required. Thus, an LH2 plane can achieve 2.5 times the fuel efficiency per lb of payload in comparison the current jets. So, if jet fuel now costs $2.25 per gallon, then we can tolerate LH2 costing $5.6 per kg.

From Wikipedia "Hydrogen economy", "As of 2002, most hydrogen is produced on site and the cost is approximately $0.70/kg and, if not produced on site, the cost of liquid hydrogen is about $2.20/kg to $3.08/kg.[33]" So, even adjusting to today's $, it is not too far-fetch to produce LH2 profitably at $5 per kg using Solar or Wind electricity at $0.02-$0.03 per kWh. Producing LH2 from electrolysis requires about 60 kWh per kg, so at 3 cents per kWh electricity, the electricity cost will be $1.80. Adding other costs and we can achieve a cost of $4 per kg, and adding $1 of profit on top of that will give us $5 /kg for LH2 at the airport gate.

Engineer-Poet
You're a good aero-engineer to consider the weight distribution of the fuel in an aircraft.

I'm not an aeronautical engineer at all (one-time pilot I'll plead guilty to).  I'm not even a mechanical engineer (other than practically).  But that doesn't mean I can't see the problems inherent in the scheme.  Others have obviously done so as well, explaining why none of the last several DECADES of concepts have given rise to a single flying example despite the hype.

the concentrated weight in the fuselage can increase the wing's structural weight, but since the fuel only weighs merely 12% of MTOW, the increase in wing's structural weight won't be much.

You've got a large increase in skin area and consequent parasite drag as well.

NASA has used low-density polyurethane foam as insulation for H2-containing sphere with success. A spherical container of 1 foot diameter and 1 inch-thick polyurethane foam can hold LH2 for about 10 hrs. If we would extrapolate this to the vast size of a jumbo-jet's fuselage with much higher volume-to-surface ratio, then we won't need more than 1-inch thick polyurethane foam as insulation, which is very light and can also confer structural strength as well. So, a modern carbon-fiber composite aircraft fuselage can have an 1-inch thick foam in between two layers of carbon-fiber composite skin for both strength and insulation.

Difficulties with the composite LH2 tank were the (alleged) reason for NASA's abandonment of the X-33 SSTO project.  I'm not sure what the glass transition temperature of polyurethane is, but I strongly suspect that it would be very brittle and subject to damage during thermal cycling.  And as I mentioned, the heat transmission rate has consequences on the outside of the aircraft as well.  Icing is going to be a major issue on the ground, and unless there is enough frictional heating to keep the skin well above the dew point it could be a problem even in flight above clouds.  Ice is a literal killer.

When the LH2-plane is on the ground, the on-board fuel cell can use the LH2 boil-off to produce electricity to serve the air-conditioning an lighting requirement of the cabin, and can be plugged-in the power grid to release any excess electricity not needed by the cabin. In this way, there will be no waste of energy

So let me get this straight:  "sustainable" (unreliable) electricity is supposed to make the hydrogen (minus conversion losses) in the first place, and then the hydrogen boiloff on the aircraft is supposed to be consumed by the APU and sent back (minus losses again) to the electric grid to make more "sustainable" hydrogen?

I'll give Nouryon and Gasunie this much:  they are avoiding all these pitfalls.  Both their waste-fat feedstock and their products (hydrogenated fatty acids and propane from deoxygenated glycerol) are storable indefinitely at room temperature with negligible losses.  This allows them to consume hydrogen immediately as it's generated, eliminating the need for any complex and lossy storage.

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