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Fuel cell using gas from world's first tidal-powered hydrogen producer unveiled

29 Sep 2017 11:04 GMT

Electricity to be provided on demand for ships calling at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.



A Scottish project involving the production of hydrogen gas using electricity generated from tidal energy has unveiled a newly installed hydrogen fuel cell at Kirkwall Pier, Orkney, this week.

The fuel cell installation is the final aspect of the hydrogen generation system being developed in Orkney as part of the Surf 'n' Turf project - a pilot project looking to circumvent local grid constraints by generating hydrogen from tidal and wind energy.

Last month, local firm European Marine Energy Centre Ltd (EMEC) managed to produce the world's first tidal-powered hydrogen. By harnessing the power of the tide at EMEC's tidal energy test site at the Fall of Warness, Eday, Orkney, prototype tidal energy converters - Scotrenewables' SR2000 and Tocardo's TFS and T2 turbine - fed power into an electrolyser situated next to EMEC's onshore substation.

The electrolyser uses electricity to split water into its component parts - hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). During the process, the electrolyser takes in water, then passes electricity through it and collects the hydrogen and oxygen that is subsequently made. The pure oxygen is then released back into the atmosphere with only the hydrogen being used.

The electrolyser is housed in a standard 20-foot by 10-foot ISO container with hydrogen generation capacity of up to 220 kilogrammes (kg) every 24 hours.

EMEC's investment in hydrogen production capability was made possible by funding of GBP 3 million from the Scottish Government, made available through Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Discussing the applications of the technology, Neil Kermode, managing director of EMEC, commented earlier this month: "One of the most promising uses of hydrogen is as a fuel for transport as it emits no carbon when it is consumed and, providing it's generated by clean renewable energy sources, it becomes a carbon neutral fuel source. Therefore, we could see green hydrogen, over time, replace polluting fuels in our cars, vans and ferries."

ITM Power, which specializes in the manufacture of integrated hydrogen energy systems, won a competitive tender to supply a system to EMC back in 2015. The system's principal component - a 0.5-megawatt (MW) polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyser - comes with integrated compression and up to 500 kg of storage. PEM electrolysers are designed to handle variable energy inputs more readily than other electrolyser technologies.

Surf 'n' Turf

One of the initiatives that will be using EMEC's electrolyser is the Surf 'n' Turf project being led by Community Energy Scotland in partnership with Orkney Islands Council, EMEC, Eday Renewable Energy and ITM Power. The initiative was officially launched during a ceremony this week.

The Surf 'n' Turf project will see the electrolyser produce hydrogen using electricity from EMEC's test site as well as power from a 900-kilowatt (kW) Enercon wind turbine owned by the Eday community. The hydrogen will be compressed and stored at the EMEC site and then transported to Kirkwall, where a fuel cell installed on the pier will convert the hydrogen back into electricity for use as auxiliary power for ferries when tied up overnight.

With the EMEC electrolyser rated at 500 kW, this means it can take over half the entire output of the 900 kW wind turbine, when that is curtailed, to keep it turning when otherwise it might have to stop or run slow.

The Surf 'n' Turf fuel cell is supplied by Arcola Energy and will provide electricity on demand for ships in Kirkwall Harbour. Heat produced by the fuel cell as a by-product will be piped into nearby buildings.

The Surf 'n' Turf project is also developing a training programme with a view to green hydrogen eventually being used as a fuel source on the inter-island ferries themselves.

Following the unveiling of the fuel cell on Wednesday, a public seminar on 'Orkney's Hydrogen Future' was held at the Pickaquoy Centre with a turnout of over 100 people looking to find out more about the developments taking place in Orkney around hydrogen.

To view a video about the Surf 'n' Turf project, please click here.




Related Links:

Germany christens first ship to be powered by methanol fuel cell
Scandinavian JV to develop hydrogen solutions for ships
EU funding for hydrogen fuel cell project expected in December
Fuel cell project partners target international regulation
San Francisco 'enthusiastically supports' hydrogen bunkering
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