Technology and engineering multinational Siemens has been contracted to conduct an industrial-scale green hydrogen pilot project in Dubai – the first in the Middle East – which it aims to be producing the gas by the October 20, 2020, start date of Expo 2020 Dubai, a six-month-long global showcase that runs to April 2021.
The solar-photovoltaic- (PV-) powered project, being implemented for the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), entails electrolising water into oxygen and hydrogen using solar-generated electricity. Various uses for the hydrogen will be piloted during the project.
Speaking to a visiting international contingent of journalists at Siemens’ offices at the Masdar City sustainability-focused precinct on Sunday, Siemens Middle East senior VP for strategy and business development Manuel Kuehn averred that green hydrogen production had become commercially viable, given the decline in the cost of both intermittent and continuous renewable energy over the past decade. The levelised cost of utility-scale solar PV, for example, had fallen from about $394/MWh in 2009 to an average of $40/MWh in 2018, while Chile, Mexico and Saudi Arabia had achieved levels as low as $21.50/MWh, $19.70/MWh and $17.90/MWh respectively by 2017, Kuehn said. Owing to the declining cost, solar PV installations worldwide had increased from 15 GW in 2008 to 391 GW in 2017.
Kuehn said the levelised cost of wind-generated electricity had also declined sharply – from as high as $169/MWh in 2009 to as low as $29/MWh – prompting a surge in global installations from 115 GW in 2008 to 514 GW in 2017.
The falling prices of wind- and solar-generated electricity – as well as of continuous renewables such as geothermal, biomass and hydroelectricity – had assisted in facilitating the commercial viability of producing green hydrogen for various uses. These included industrial uses such as ammonia production, petroleum refinement, metal production and flat glass production; transport-related applications, including the use of the gas as an alternative fuel or as feedstock for green fuel production; or electricity generation. Some of these uses would be trialled during the pilot project.
Kuhn said that, given the falling prices of renewable power generation, a large-scale green hydrogen economy would be a viable proposition in the next five to ten years. Many countries had made significant strides in preparing for the envisaged era, including Australia and Japan and the US state of California.
The system to be trialled at Dewa is based on Siemens’ Silyzer 200 electrolyser, which requires 1.25 MWe of energy and produces 20 kg of hydrogen an hour, which translates into 240 kg of the gas in a 12-hour operating cycle.
The Silyzer 100 plant to be piloted in Dubai is the sixth to have been delivered by Siemens in the past four years, with three having been delivered to customers in Germany and one each to customers in Australia and Sweden. The Germany-headquartered multinational is also piloting a bigger system – the Silyzer 300 – in partnership with a customer in Austria. The Silyzer 300 is the world’s largest PEM cell.
Meanwhile, Kuehn said efforts to decarbonise the world should not focus disproportionately on power generation, which accounts for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, the highest of any sector. To achieve greater impact, efforts had to be as robust in all sectors of the economy, including industry, transport and buildings, which generated 24%, 21% and 10% of emissions respectively. The balance of 5% emissions was attributed to miscellaneous economic activities.
Siemens will be playing a significant role at Expo 2020 Dubai, where 190 countries will have national pavilions and companies from across the world will showcase ground-breaking innovations that can assist in addressing the challenges confronting the world, including climate change. United Arab Emirates Minister of State (UAE) for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimy described the expo as a test-bed for innovation and a blueprint for future smart cities.
Construction on the 4.4 km2 expo site started in 2014 and had reached the 80% completion mark, with all major building expected to have been completed by year-end, UAE officials said during a site visit on Tuesday morning, which Engineering News Online attended.
Besides the hydrogen pilot plant, Siemens’ participation in the world expo includes the optimisation of energy and building management on the site through its MindSphere App, a cloud-based, open Internet of Things (IoT) operating system, which will assist in ensuring sustainability, as well as comfort and security for exhibitors and an expected 25-million visitors during the six-month-long event.
Afzal Mohammed, head of Siemens’ MindSphere App for the expo, said the event would be the most connected world expo. Stressing the importance of connectedness, he said at a media briefing that, in a truly connected city – where systems shared the data they generated through the IoT – energy consumption could decline by 20% to 40%, emergency response times by 20% to 35%, city dwellers’ daily commute by 13 to 30 minutes, crime incidents by 30% to 40% and daily water consumption by 25 l to 50 l per person.
Meanwhile, Siemens managing board member and Smart Infrastructure CEO Cedric Neike, who spoke to the international media contingent from Munich, Germany, by video link, identified urbanisation as one of the key trends that the world had to deal with. He noted that, in China alone, up to 1-billion people would live in towns and cities by 2030. It was, thus, important that buildings were made more sustainable by reducing their energy demand, while making energy supply more efficient.
*Zhuwakinyu is in the UAE as a guest of Siemens.