"The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterras after the COP25 in Madrid. Can P2X (Power-to-X) technologies and hydrogen economy help the world with the climate change challenge by enhancing the decarbonisation?
Electrification of our societies and cities is one of the main drivers globally. The global decarbonisation needs the electrification of practically everything possible. In P2X technologies, cheap renewable excess electricity is used to produce carbon dioxide from the air, hydrogen from water or nitrogen from the air. Also, the excess and waste gases and substances can be used. As a result methane, methanol, hydrogen, ammonia etc. can be processed. These synthetic end-products can be used as raw materials in the chemical industry or as transportation fuels in ships, cars and heavy machinery. If needed, electricity can be produced as well. P2X is also solving the long-term storage challenge whereas batteries are much more efficient for short-term storage solutions.
According to Frost & Sullivan, in North America a broader interest in P2X technologies has begun to grow. Government strategies and renewable energy sources implementation support this development. Europe has been more active in the implementation of P2X pilot plants. The driver has been the increased share of wind and solar power. Investments from governments have also contributed to the development of this technology. Frost & Sullivan states that in the Asia Pacific, the first pilot P2X facility was built in Japan. Also, energy companies and research institutes in China and Korea are undertaking active research in this field.
In Europe, Germany is aiming at becoming the number one in hydrogen technology. The federal government will decide on hydrogen strategy by the end of 2019. Several large companies and operators in the different industrial sectors are focusing on developing the P2X ecosystem.
The Netherlands and the Groningen area specifically are actively working to become the European hub for hydrogen technologies. Here, the priorities of the hydrogen economy are manufacturing and transportation industries. In the Seaports-area in Groningen there are currently 33 active projects to develop, scale and commercialize hydrogen solutions.
Decarbonisation targets have also resulted into growing interest towards hydrogen buses. E.g. new fleets in Paris and Dublin should run with hydrogen.
In Finland, lots is happening in this field. As an example, the technology group Wärtsilä launched in 2019 a SparkUp Challenge for start-ups in the field of P2X. The solutions sought included Power-to-Gas, Power-to-Fuel and Power-to-Water. The winner, Carbon Recycling International, focuses on taking CO2 and hydrogen made with renewable power and turning these components into synthetic methanol.
Another example is the co-operation between energy company St1 and Q Power, a renewable energy start-up. They focus on developing a novel way of making synthetic biomethane from CO2. In the pilot project, Q Power's biological methanation technology utilises the CO2 recovered from the production of waste-based ethanol at St1's biorefinery. Q Power's technology allows producing biomethane from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Biomethane can be used as a renewable fuel in traffic, as biogas and in liquified form in shipping.
Also, the universities and research in Finland are operating in this field. E.g. LUT University has researched the subject on multiple levels from global modelling of the energy transition to technologies for capturing CO2 from air, chemical synthesis methods and catalysts. LUT started the research in 2014 four year strategic research project NeoCarbon together with VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland. VTT has e.g. studied food from the air, hydrogen economy as well as fuel cells with very promising results.
Within Business Finland's Smart Energy Finland program, the global development of P2X is in the focus. Developments and drivers on a global level are gathered via our own Energy Core Team. More information from the German and Dutch initiatives is collected. There are discussions going on e.g. with the Canadian counterparts. The findings will be presented and discussed with the Finnish businesses next spring in the Smart Energy Finland day. Additionally, webinars on the topic will be organized with Frost & Sullivan. The P2X ecosystem development has been going on for a while and it will continue in 2020. In my own plan for 2020, the P2X entity was mentioned to be the largest most influencial entity we need to focus on.