With $500 billion in the investment pipeline, the hydrogen economy will take off in 2022. Data-led development will help us build a responsive and resilient clean hydrogen energy sector, says Harpreet Gulati, Senior Vice President, Planning, Simulation & Optimization Business at AVEVA
The world has shown its determination to slash greenhouse gas emissions and bring global warming levels down to 1.5°C on the road to tackling climate change. Achieving our ambitions will be the task ahead of us in 2022 and beyond, and the global community will need to use every available tool in its arsenal to do so.
Technologies that utilize hydrogen to create energy show great promise. Deployed effectively, hydrogen gas can power households and factories, and serve as a fuel for cars, ships and planes. In the process, it could play a vital role in reducing the use of fossil fuels and minimizing carbon emissions across several industries facing strict climate targets.
Hydrogen may well be the missing link in the clean energy transformation.
The gas, the simplest and most abundant element on earth, burns clean when mixed with oxygen. Pound for pound, hydrogen can deliver nearly three times the amount of energy as fossil fuels. Green hydrogen – created using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels – can be produced wherever there is water and renewable electricity. Not only does it help decarbonize the chemical, industrial and transportation sectors, but since it can be produced during peak cycles, green hydrogen can be a way of storing excess energy to be returned to the grid when demand rises.
A McKinsey study for the Hydrogen Council, a confederation of the sector’s major players, estimates that the gas could help cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent between now and 2050. It could also satisfy 15 to 20 percent of energy demand.
There are now 359 hydrogen fuel projects in development worldwide, with a total investment pipeline worth $500 billion. That includes $150 billion in mature investments.
The digital road to the green hydrogen sector
More companies will begin to seek a place in this new hydrogen economy in 2022 and beyond.
Producing green hydrogen, however, will require a multipronged approach that maximizes efficiency gains at every step along the way through optimized value chains and consistent operations.
As a sector that has come of age in the digital era, the new hydrogen economy will naturally depend on advanced technologies – including data, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) – to achieve the scale necessary for a true transformative effect. And by applying digital learnings from other sectors, we can avoid costly mistakes that could have a long-term legacy effect.
Let’s look at four technological advancements making the most of the hydrogen transformation.
- Promote shorter engineering and design cycles. Producing hydrogen gas requires building new electrolyzers. Given the tight deadline to realize our low-carbon goals, these facilities must be designed and constructed to function at the highest level with sustainability in mind, right from the outset. Short but effective design cycles are therefore key to success. In greenfield projects and brownfield renewable energy plants alike, digital process simulation can bring agility to the entire lifecycle of design, prototyping, training, and operations to accelerate the engineering cycle. Integrating design and build processes onto a single platform will allow businesses to function with global business footprints and remote working models so engineers anywhere can explore all dimensions of a potential design and quantify its impact on sustainability, feasibility, and profitability.
- Unify data to improve decisions and optimize collaboration.In the modern industrial organization, every aspect of the production process is monitored and analyzed with sensors that can generate hundreds of thousands of data points. When collated across siloed departments and geographies, this information improves edge-to-enterprise visibility, while promoting integration and collaboration across functional departments to enhance daily activities and processes. Along the way, operational inefficiencies are exposed, empowering critical decisions and adjustments that directly impact the bottom line.
- Stay responsive with optimized value chains. The hydrogen economy rises in a complex scenario, at a time when it is essential to optimize every element of the value chain to derive maximum operating profit while satisfying regulatory requirements. Using cloud and Digital Twin technologies, industrial data can be harnessed to improve responsiveness across the value chain. On the one hand, by closely monitoring operations in real time, optimisation techniques can sharpen plant performance and profits, while enabling troubleshooting of production processes and rapid analysis using rigorous models. At the same time, advanced supply chain oversight enables predictive responses to fluctuations in demand and available resources.
- Expand plant reliability through AI-infused predictive analytics. Reducing downtime is a constant challenge for industrial organizations and it is not different for hydrogen production plants. Early warning notifications and diagnoses of equipment performance are essential to ensure that plants can operate to capacity when required, preventing mechanical or process failures. AI goes a long way to helping asset-intensive organizations reduce equipment downtime and increase reliability – while reducing operations and maintenance costs.
The lack of historical data here could pose initial challenges to reducing downtime. But by applying lessons from related industries and embedding process simulation with predictive analytics from the start, staff can foresee equipment failure from the outset.
Green hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum, with an increasing number of policies and projects around the world promoting and incentivizing its use. Demand for hydrogen to power industrial processes has grown more than threefold since 1975 and supplying the gas is now a major business sector worldwide, the International Energy Agency reports.
Unlocking the enormous potential of green hydrogen will help us get to our climate goals faster. In order to do so within a limited time window, it is vital that organizations arm themselves with the most advanced tools available.
We have been presented with the rare opportunity of building a new industry from the ground up. We must seize the moment to create the cleanest, greenest and most resilient energy sector.
The article has been written by Harpreet Gulati, Senior Vice President, Planning, Simulation & Optimization Business at AVEVA