ITM Power is undoubtedly in the right place at the right time.
Thanks to its focus on the “most promising” markets – mobility and power-to-gas, the integrated hydrogen energy solutions manufacturer has grown considerably over the last 12 months, with its tender opportunity pipeline currently standing at a record £330m ($416.2m).
This has been helped by the accelerating interest in hydrogen as a clean alternative to gasoline cars and lithium-ion batteries.
Hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum and is receiving strong support from governments and businesses around the world, with the number of policies and projects expanding rapidly.
It took centre stage at the G20 summit in Japan last month when the International Energy Agency (IEA) launched a report explaining how hydrogen can help to tackle various critical energy challenges, including helping to store the variable output from renewables like solar PV and wind to better match demand.
Titled The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities, the report also says hydrogen offers ways to decarbonise a range of sectors, can help to improve air quality and strengthen energy security.
“The whole world has woken up to the fact that we need to decarbonise not only electricity, but particularly transport and heat,” ITM Power’s CEO Dr. Graham Cooley (right) tells gasworld in an exclusive interview.
“This is not a fool’s storm, this is the real thing, and now you don’t have large energy players resisting this resolution, you have them completely endorsing it. It’s a very exciting time for hydrogen.”
“I think ITM Power is in such rapid growth partly to do with having the right products at the right time, but it’s also to do with this shift in thinking from major energy companies who now see hydrogen as a key component in decarbonising the whole of energy.”
But why is the adoption of hydrogen gaining such strong international industrial momentum all over the world?
“It comes down to energy storage,” Cooley explains. “If you want to get to a net zero future, you need electrolysis and the production of green hydrogen.”
“In the UK, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently predicted the country will need between six gigawatts (GW) and 17GW of electrolyser capacity by 2050.”
“That’s a huge amount of equipment and a build rate over the next 30 years of 500 megawatts (MW) a year.”
“Why are they predicting that demand? Well its very, very difficult to store electrons and it’s very, very easy to store molecules.”
“If you want massive scale, long duration energy storage, you turn the electrons into molecules.”
“That means you use rapid response electrolysis – you split water and you store hydrogen. Either you use it directly for industrial processes or you put it straight in the gas grid.”
“What that allows you to do is it to store renewable power in massive volume for very long periods of time.”
“This is the thing that everybody has been searching for in the area of renewable power because the wind isn’t always blowing, and the sun isn’t always shining.”
But it’s not just an exciting time for hydrogen, ITM Power has also been involved in some ‘world first’ projects, including the “world’s largest” hydrogen electrolysis plant.
Together with Shell, Sintef, Thinkstep and Element Energy, ITM Power held the groundbreaking ceremony in Germany at the end of last month.
Construction of the new plant at Shell’s Rheinland Refinery in Wesseling is expected to be completed in the second half of 2020.
Featuring advanced polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) technology, the plant will produce up to 1,300 tonnes of hydrogen per year when operating at peak rates.
“ITM Power is building a 10MW electrolyser for this project,” Cooley explains. “What’s really important about this is first of all it’s the world’s largest PEM electrolyser and second we’re building it in a refinery where there are very strict codes and standards.”
“When you look at the development of electrolysis or indeed many components in the hydrogen industry, what you need to do is move to a product that can be deployed within an industrial environment, such as a refinery. And that’s what we’ve been able to achieve with Shell.”
“Working with Shell on the project and all the design and compliance work we’ve been doing has been very important for ITM Power. It’s been a really important collaboration.”
ITM Power also announced last month it had built the electrolyser for Gasunie’s HyStock green hydrogen plant in Veendam, near Groningen, in the Netherlands.
The first step in creating the hydrogen supply chain of the future, the plant converts 1MW of sustainable electricity to green hydrogen and is the first to apply this process on a serious scale.
“This was another important project for ITM Power. Gasunie are an important gas company because they are an early adopter of the concepts of power-to-gas energy storage,” Cooley tells gasworld.
“I would say Gasunie are thought leaders in the area of power-to-gas energy storage.”
“There is a really coherent strategy for the development of green hydrogen in the North of the Netherlands and Gasunie published a green hydrogen pathway document which I think is really well thought through.”
To Cooley, it’s clear there has been a “massively renewed interest” in hydrogen over the last year or two.
“As I’ve previously said, there are now big companies endorsing the use of hydrogen, governments are endorsing the use of hydrogen and it’s now a real imperative for the UK to get to net zero as voted for in the UK parliament.”
“There are some misconceptions: I think everybody thinks it’s simply a race between hydrogen vehicles and plug in electric vehicles, and it’s not about that. It’s about decarbonising the whole of the energy industry.”
“The hydrogen story is about storing renewable energy for long periods of time in massive volume and decarbonising all industries, not just transport.”
“I think hydrogen is the solution to the energy transition from fossil fuels to a clean future and the future is looking bright for ITM Power.”