Energy sector integration has economic and environmental value. It is a continuation of sensible principles of efficient use of available resources. PtX-technological development, waste heat, and district heating are the recipe for efficient use of energy streams. District heating is a much more ideal strategic priority for warming houses in larger city areas than individual heating solutions. Especially as we phase out natural gas resources, district heating is important as a much more viable energy source for warming buildings than other valuable energy sources, such as hydrogen.
By Lars Juncher Ankersen, Communications Officer, TVIS,
Søren Schmidt Thomsen, Director, Triangle Energy Alliance (TEA),
Jørgen Nielsen, CEO, TVIS
As we phase out fossil fuel sources in the future, it is crucial to understand that hydrogen production offers a product of high value, which should be prioritized for heavy transportation sector purposes where electrification is improbable. Large-scale production to meet industry demand for realistic alternatives to fossil fuels are necessary to lower production and, thereby, consumer costs of flight, cargo freight, and so forth.
“Combined power and heat plants can evolve to power, heat, hydrogen, and carbon capture plants. But it is paramount to accept the value of waste heat resources and invest in district heating systems because the use of excess heat refines the value chain and costs of all end products”, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen, CEO of Triangle Energy Alliance. A Danish Power to X partnership between energy and infrastructure businesses, municipalities, and educational institutions.
The local collaboration of 27 business and municipal partners, Triangle Energy Alliance, aims to develop and repurpose the existing “fossil” infrastructure for the largest possible scale production and distribution of green energy for households and business consumption.
“The industrial symbiosis has a clear potential for the overall efficiency of the energy system, and with the same positive effect as when large scale combined heat and power generation was established in the 1980s in Denmark, Søren Schmidt Thomsen explains.
The awe-inspiring potential of energy ecosystems
The potentials of PtX-technology ecosystems are awe-inspiring. It is a realistic priority in Denmark and an important element of sustainability strategies. Excess heat, cross-sector compatibility, and city development with district heating in its core are essential focus areas supported by further power and heat production, but with the advantage of cheaper consumer prizes and high supply efficiency. Large volumes of surplus heat at practical high-temperature levels for district heating are already available at larger production facilities, which can be used for everyday purposes in nearby city areas.
“Since our goal is higher energy efficiency and decreased dependency on fossil fuels in our energy sector- but really all our societal infrastructures – it is increasingly more prudent to establish district heating pipelines, use excess heat, and dedicate hydrogen resources for further refinement with PtX-technologies, says Søren Schmidt.
It is not energy efficient to waste 30% of the primary sustainable energy source – solar and wind power – and then let it slip through our fingers and vanish in thin air in the form of excess heat loss from the electrolysis process. A valuable energy product such as hydrogen will hopefully never be considered a large-scale alternative to individual gas boiler heaters when a much more cost and energy efficient and well-proven option is available”, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
“As we have done in the Triangle area, I urge city development officials to collaborate with local businesses and qualified energy infrastructure specialists. They should look at your resources already available and realize that excess products from one production is a valuable resource for other purposes. Available resources could also mean land areas owned by the city because sector integration is reliant on compatibility between technologies, and distance is costly”, he says.
Heat is one valuable resource from Power-to-X. Another is to capture and use carbon dioxide from existing processes with carbon dioxide as a biproduct, such as biomass or bio-waste heat. Or oxygen from electrolysis for medical industries, agriculture, and so on. Low hydrogen production costs and hence low consumer costs will be the combined result of efficient use, storage, and repurposing of most byproducts.
“The brilliance of an efficient Power to X ecosystem is a basic principle of reducing waste by acknowledging the value for other purposes. These smaller and larger efficiency initiatives are lowering the business and consumer costs of the end products. The incentive for the high demand for e-fuels are lowest possible costs, and high demand is the motivation for large-scale production that can rival existing fossil fuel value chains”, according to Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
Repurposing fossil fuel infrastructures
The historical evolution of energy demand and distribution equipped the central region of Denmark with the ideal energy infrastructure for the production and distribution of liquid and gas fuels.
In the 1960s, SHELL established an oil refinery in the Middle of Denmark in the city of Fredericia – at a time in history when oil companies began to place refineries closer to consumers than oil sources.
“For centuries, economic growth has been closely intertwined with fossil fuel consumption and infrastructure. But today, in our common transition towards sustainability in energy and transport sectors, the existing fossil infrastructure in Fredericia and neighboring municipalities can be adapted and developed to green fuel and green energy infrastructures.
Technical facilities in close vicinity and ambitious partner collaborations will utilize and construct new means of production and distribution of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen-based fuels, oxygen, and so forth”, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
The Refinery has new owners and a new name, the Crossbridge Refinery Fredericia, and has embarked on a journey to be repurposed from fossil fuel refinement. Today the Refinery is supplying a third of the Danish oil product demand into a chemical plant, producing carbon-based sustainable, synthetic fuels and chemicals.
Soon, large amounts of wind power from the North Sea energy island and land-based solar and wind energy sources are being built. These can be transmitted to Fredericia for green fuel production and storage, for which local partners are preparing the production facilities and infrastructures.
A sustainable neighborship requires good chemistry
Everfuel is building a 20 MW hydrogen production plant in Phase 1 next to the Crossbridge Energy Refinery, which will be in production in late 2022. They will supply the Refinery with hydrogen for fuel production through electrolysis, which is currently utilized in the existing refining processes. One ton of hydrogen based on sustainable sources, such as wind or solar power, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 tons – compared to hydrogen produced with fossil sources.
In Phase I, the heat from the hydrogen plant in Fredericia will cover the annual heat consumption in 1.500-1.800 average Danish households. Of equal value or even more are the practical experiences gained on the heat potential of PtX-technologies, which are valuable for short- and long-term heat supply strategies. Heat utilization will increase the operational hours of the hydrogen plant because the district heating water is used to cool the technical facilities.
Phase II consists of a plant expansion to 300 MW in 2025, in three expansion phases of 100 MW, each with an expected excess heat resource of 50.000 MWh. It is one of several collaborations that improve the financial benefits of both sectors end products. Danish technical advisory company COWI estimates that using surplus heat from PtX-technologies can reduce hydrogen prices by 5-10 percent, thus making the hydrogen plant more competitive.
“The next step might be 1 GW hydrogen production facilities, but finding capacity in the existing heat infrastructure, power grid and supplying it with enough green carbon dioxide is a real challenge. Maybe in the future combined heat and power plants, CHP’s, could convert to – CHPC’s – Combined Heat, Power, and Carbon-plants, if you will“, says Jørgen Nielsen.
Ideal regional infrastructure
At the regional airport, Billund Airport, approximately 100.000 tons of kerosene is fueled annually, which equals 10% of the total jet fuel consumption in Danish airports before Covid19.
“Same volume is necessary in the case of e-kerosene, which requires 535.000 tons of carbon dioxide in the chemical process. Local waste, power, and heat plants, biogas plants, and the Refinery also have available sources of surplus carbon that can be utilized. Our consumption of fuels is hard to process, and most likely, it will not decrease in the future, so the solutions should be equally addressed with dedication and humility. But probably dedication first and foremost, which is precisely the purpose of our collaboration across private and public partners in the Triangle Area, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
The Refinery, technical expertise, existing pipeline infrastructures, harbor facilities, an airport and investment-willing airline and energy trading companies, valuable sources of carbon dioxide, and decades of surplus heat utilization traditions are all interconnected in the middle of Denmark. Ideal terms for the realistic pursuit of a viable fossil alternative to suit aviation and maritime market demands for sustainable e-fuels.
“Businesses, municipal partners, and educational institutions in the Triangle Area of Denmark have agreed to develop electrolysis and hydrogen production technologies and facilities. Sustainable gas products and liquid fuels. Capture and use of carbon from sustainable sources such as biogas, power and heat production based on biomass, and biodegradable waste fractions. Distribution of sustainable fuels for aviation, shipping, and road cargo through Denmark’s transport and logistical center, the Triangle Area”, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
Sector integration and proactive sustainable transitions
Power-to-X is highly valued and prioritized in the Danish Climate Agreement of 2020 and municipal climate action strategies. The European Union is working toward sector integration initiatives, which pinpoint the significance of current hydrogen production in the Triangle Area. The technology is already available but needs a large scale to mature the potential market.
“The green energy and sustainable fuel market need a jolt. Our partnership is based on the common vision that the Triangle Area can become the North European center of green and sustainable energy production for the transportation sector, households, and industry”, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
“Large-scale power production from sustainable sources, mainly wind and solar, will be refined locally through electrolysis to be stored as green fuels, like green hydrogen, e-methanol, green aviation fuels, or even green fertilizers for the farming industry. Still, potential obstacles need to be addressed”, Søren Schmidt Thomsen explains.
“Several PtX-reliant products are dependent on a carbon source that reacts with hydrogen, which highlights the necessary discussion of carbon capture and use from different sustainable sources like agriculture and forestry to avoid a shortage in the future as fuel production volumes increases. In the long term, maybe also by extracting CO2 from the atmosphere called Direct Air Capture”, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
The potential for sustainable change is enormous and plausible in pursuing a truly carbon neutral society, as the partnership envisions.
“Existing pipelines and new infrastructures need to be developed for storage, distribution, and utilization, which also means that the potential of new local job opportunities is an added value. The list is long with meaningful purposes by advancing PtX-technologies”, says Søren Schmidt Thomsen.
Effect of revenue from district heating on the operation of an electrolysis plant
Distribution of revenue for 20 MW∈ electrolysis plant with a district heating connection. Source: PWER-TO-X AND DISTRICT HEATING, report by COWI, Grøn Energi, Dansk Fjernvarme & TVIS, 2021
Heat from Hydrogen Production – a collaboration called HySynergy (Source: Everfuel)
- The hydrogen production facility comprises eight electrolysis units, reaching temperatures of 80 degrees Celsius. When the hydrogen plant is in production in the fall of 2022, it will produce 0,6 MW of heat in year one, increasing to 3 MW in 10 years as electrolysis cells decrease efficiency over time and excess more and more heat. Heat corresponds to 5-600 houses demand
- A heat pump is a cooling machine for all the “outside equipment.” It helps to ensure the “balance of the plant.” The heat pump delivers down to 25 degrees cold cooling water to the two main compressors, the four rectifiers, the two deoxo units, the oxygen cooler, and the scrubber. The project partner AEA purchased the heat pump system, which is also part of the HySynergy collaboration. The heat pump cooling is critical to factory operations.
In the heat pump, the energy from the heated cooling water is used to heat TVIS district heating return water from 40 degrees to 80 degrees. It thus contributes 4.5 MW of heating power distributed over three compressor units. Heat corresponds to approximately 1300 standard house consumption.
TVIS is a district heating collaboration across four municipalities, district heating companies, and local industries, and for nearly 40 years they have ensured stable distribution of district heating by use of local energy resources as efficiently and environmentally conscientious as possible. TVIS owns and operate the main artery of district heating transmission in the Triangle Area, and ensures affordable, sustainable, and stable heating by thorough planning, heat market analysis, efficiency improvements, and investments in green technologies. TVIS has engaged in close and equally advantageous collaborations with local energy companies, and future use of surplus heat from power to x-technologies improves economic advantages for both energy consumers and producers.
Triangle Energy Alliance is an ambitious collaboration centered in the heart of Denmark, the Triangle Area. Energy facility operators, specialists, and seven visionary municipalities seek to pave the way for sustainable e-fuels based on Power-to-X technologies. The Triangle Area is defined by the ultimate production, distribution, transportation, and energy infrastructure, which is a golden opportunity to lead the transformation to sustainable fuels based on wind and solar power.
- 20 MW Hydrogen plant in production 2022
- Operational hours per year: 5000
- Hydrogen: 3.880 Nm3/h (ca. 350 kg/h)
- Surplus heat – Direct: 10.000 MWh per year.
- Surplus heat – Heatpump: 18.000 MWh per year.
- 1-ton green hydrogen will reduce 10 tons of CO2 emissions at the Refinery compared to fossil-based hydrogen