AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, a subsidiary of Dutch paints and chemicals maker AkzoNobel, is teaming up with three groups in Sweden to explore the opportunities for producing green hydrogen (H2) and ‘electrofuels’ using renewable energy.

Converting excess renewable electricity into green H2 or electrofuels offers the potential to balance the fluctuations in supply and demand of electricity from renewable sources including wind and solar power.

The electrofuels concept is based on the process of electrolysis of water, which produces H2 and oxygen (O2). This can be further combined with carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce for example methanol, which is a key feedstock for the manufacturing of chemicals and can also be further processed into synthetic fuels. In this way, the process serves as a carbon ‘sink’ by effectively recycling CO2 emissions.

AkzoNobel said it is a major user of electricity in Sweden and will contribute its expertise in electrochemistry to the partnership. The Netherlands-based company is partnering with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), forestry group Södra and packaging materials company BillerudKorsnäs; the study is also supported by the Swedish Energy Agency.

“Sweden aims to have a 100% renewable electricity production in 2040, mainly to be achieved by expanding solar and wind-generated power production. More wind and solar energy brings a growing societal and industrial need to manage fluctuations in electricity supply and demand. At the same time the large-scale availability of cost-competitive renewable power opens opportunities,” explained Anna-Karin Jannasch, Focus Area Manager for Industrial Transformation at RISE.

“The interest in H2 for energy purposes as well as its application in the process industry has grown in the last few years. As a state-owned research institute RISE aims to ensure the international competitiveness of Sweden’s business community while contributing to a sustainable society, and this project is a good example of how we work as an innovation partner to industry.”

Emma Ringström, Sustainability Manager for Pulp and Performance Chemicals at AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, added, “Renewable energy, biobased and recycled raw materials allows us to further reduce our environmental footprint and to meet customer needs for more sustainable products. But to really drive change in the industry and society it is key to collaborate with like-minded business in and outside the value chain.”

Earlier this year AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals and Dutch gas network operator Gasunie joined forces to investigate the possible large scale conversion of sustainable electricity into green H2 via the electrolysis of water. Building on the company’s expertise in electrolysis and handling of H2, the partners plan to use a 20 megawatt water electrolysis unit, the largest in Europe, targeting a production capacity of 3,000 tons of green H2 a year – enough to fuel 300 H2 buses.

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