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KTH Energy Platform hosts workshop on hydrogen’s role as an integral part of the energy system

group of people on stage
A panel discussion held during the hydrogen workshop arranged by KTH Energy Platform focused on the role of hydrogen in a larger systems perspective.
Published Mar 07, 2024

In February, KTH Energy Platform arranged a workshop on hydrogen with a particular focus on systems integration and sector couplings. Invitees included KTH researchers and students, Luleå University of Technology, (LTU), representatives from industry, and collaboration partners.

Ongoing research projects and the development of Swedish industrial projects in hydrogen gas were discussed during the full-day event. The day began with two keynote presentations by Göran Nyström, Senior Advisor at Ovako and Partner at FerroSilva, and Mikael Nordlander, Director Industry Decarbonisation at Vattenfall.

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The full-day event was organised by KTH Energy Platform, here represented by Director Lina Bertling Tjernberg in conversation with the day’s two keynote speakers, Göran Nyströn, Ovako, and Mikael Nordlander, Vattenfall.

Nyström gave an insight into the development of Ovako’s hydrogen plant in Hofors , which is the first in the world to heat steel using fossil-free hydrogen. At the plant, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is replaced with locally produced hydrogen. The project was launched in 2020 and today the hydrogen used at the plant is effective as LPG.

The plant has been developed in collaboration with the Swedish Energy Agency with funding from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), and has involved extensive digitalisation. Large numbers of sensors enable the facility to be operated efficiently and flexibly. Since it came on line in 2023, the plant has been brought into operation in phases, and today it uses hydrogen and LPG entirely interchangeably. The project has been made possible with partners including Volvo Group, Hitachi Energy, H2 Green Steel and Nel Hydrogen.

Man on stage
Göran Nyström, Senior Advisor at Ovako, delivers a keynote speech during the workshop.

Nyström said that the aim was to create a facility that works together with the local community on everything from transport to wind power production. He also spoke about the importance of more investment in fossil-free industrial heat to reduce society’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Woman in the middle talking with two people
The workshop focused on systems integration and sector couplings and included several opportunities for meetings. Mikael Nordlander, Vattenfall, Anna Karlsson, Vinnova, and Teodor Elmfeldt, KTH pictured.

More storage facilities needed

The next keynote was given by Mikael Nordlander, Director of Industry Decarbonisation at Vattenfall, who spoke about the considerable potential that hydrogen technology has as an energy supplement in today’s industrial processes. He highlighted the need for more hydrogen storage facilities and showed results from tests conducted at HYBRIT’s hydrogen storage facility in Luleå, where it has been possible to show how the variable cost of hydrogen production can be reduced by between 25-40 per cent even when electricity prices are low.

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HYBRIT’s hydrogen storage facility in Luleå was presented by Mikael Nordlander, Director of Industry Decarbonisation at Vattenfall.

The pilot plant has been built with the help of knowledge from KTH’s Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering , with support from Vattenfall, SSAB, LKAB and the Swedish Energy Agency.

A full-scale hydrogen storage facility is now planned at HYBRIT that can potentially hold around 120,000 cubic metres of hydrogen - enough to run a full-sized steel mill for up to four days.

Major investments in northern Sweden

This was followed by a presentation of research and knowledge initiative Centre for Hydrogen Energy Systems Sweden, ( CH2ESS ), at LTU. Joakim Lundgren, Professor of Energy Technology at LTU, visiting professor at KTH and Deputy Operations Manager for CH2ESS, first gave an insight into the many industrial hydrogen initiatives underway in northern Sweden. He spoke about everything from the extraction of phosphorus for agriculture to the extraction and mining of graphite and rare earths for batteries. Lundgren also described the urgent need for energy that northern Sweden faces in the future.

A group of people sitting and talking
The workshop brought together representatives from academia as well as business and authorities; pictured: Fredrik Granberg, LTU Green Fuels, Anna Karlsson, Vinnova, in conversation with Qianwen Xu, KTH.

CH2ESS takes a holistic approach to research and development of hydrogen technology and is involved in some 25 research projects. It also contributes to LTU’s MOOC courses - online courses that are free of charge and can be started at any time - and commissioned and independent courses. More than 400 students from all over the world have participated in the CH2ESS MOOC on hydrogen to date.

Lundgren mentioned several CH2ESS projects, including a pilot study on hydrogen infrastructure around Bottenviken ; Hydrogen Safety and Improved Permit Processes, H2SIPP , and FINAST – fossil free steel for a greener future.

Within the framework of CH2ESS, LTU Green Fuels  is also being developed, which is a pilot plant for the gasification of various types of bioproducts into synthetic gas and green fuels. Fredrik Granberg is Project Manager at LTU Green Fuel. He explained how the facility could play a key role in the ongoing energy transition because it takes a comprehensive approach to the entire value chain, from production to use in various modes of transport. 

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Project Leader Fredrik Granberg describes H2Labs testbed in Luleå.

This includes the construction of a megawatt-scale electrolysis testbed: H2Labs , which is being built in the immediate vicinity of LTU Green Fuels. H2Labs will run large-scale tests to build more knowledge about electrolysis in cold climates and make this knowledge available to research and education.

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The workshop attracted around 30 participants from academia, industry and authorities.

After a short break, Teodor Elmfeldt, Research Engineer at KTH, spoke about the Sector-coupling Green Hydrogen to Electrify Steel Production  project. The project takes a system perspective on Ovako’s facility in Hofors to investigate which system advantages  it can offer the electricity grid, the district heating system and the transport sector.

The project analyses the facility in its current state and its potential future expansion to show which cost savings and emission reductions are possible. In addition, concrete system advantages and sector couplings are shown that make it possible to deliver support services to the electricity grid, produce hydrogen at a low marginal cost for hydrogen-powered trucks and provide waste heat for the district heating network.

This is a feasibility study led by KTH in collaboration with Ovako and partners Hitachi Energy and Volvo Trucks, and financed by Vinnova.

Two woman talking
The workshop provided opportunities for meetings across sectors and organisations involved in the role of hydrogen in society.

Hydrogen’s role in microgrids

This was followed by a presentation by Qianwen Xu, Associate Professor and Research Director for the Intelligent Sustainable Grid (ISG) Lab at KTH. Xu develops new ways to regulate microgrids: small local grids with multiple energy sources, such as wind turbines, solar cells and fuel cells. Xu pointed to the role of hydrogen in these systems, including as a technology for energy storage and balance. In particular, she has focused on Arctic communities to demonstrate the potential of renewable energy and hydrogen.

Various electrolysis techniques and fuel cells have been tested in several projects with the aim of developing highly efficient sustainable systems with long service lives. In particular, differences between alkaline electrolysis and proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis have been demonstrated. This project has been recognised in the Nordic Energy Challenge competition.

The next presentation was given by Klas Engvall, Professor and Head of Department for KTH’s Division of Process Technology. He offered an overview of the BIO-FlexGen project in which KTH contributes in several ways, including together with RISE.

BIO-FlexGen  is an EU project that focuses on developing processes for the gasification of biomass to produce hydrogen. The goal is to develop a flexible heating and power plant system able to switch between heat and hydrogen production depending on the season.

woman in glasses talking with two participants
Qianwen Xu, Associate Professor and Research Leader at the Intelligent Sustainable Grid (ISG) Lab at KTH, in conversation with workshop participants.

Hybrid hydrogen production technology

Göran Lindbergh, Director PUSH research centre , then spoke about the centre’s activities and how it is striving towards more efficient hydrogen production using new methods and materials. Technologies being developed at the centre include a hybrid form of electrolysis technology that offers a number of advantages. Known as Anion Exchange Membrane Water Electrolysis (AEMWE), it can be both more cost-effective and sustainable than existing systems.

PUSH was among the first research centres in Sweden to focus on hydrogen. It also works on issues related to hydrogen production, storage, distribution and fuel cells with the aim of contributing to more sustainable hydrogen production that complements the energy system in general.

Networking lunch brought participants together

During lunch, participants were able to engage in in-depth conversations. In three different rooms, the focus was on research and development at LTU, KTH and Ovako. These discussions focused on issues such as the need for a systems perspective where hydrogen is used as one of several technologies in the energy system, and career opportunities created by the wider use of hydrogen. Comparisons were made between Germany and Sweden and the tendency for companies to operate in places where energy is available. 

group of people sitting at a table eating
During lunch, participants were able to engage in in-depth conversations.
groupe of people on stage
Lunch discussions were followed by a round-up led by Teodor Elmfeldt, KTH, with Göran Lindbergh, KTH, Göran Nyström, Ovako, Mikael Nordlander, Vattenfall, and Fredrik Granberg, LTU Green Fuels.

The day concluded with a panel discussion attended by Lina Bertling Tjernberg, KTH; Göran Nyström, Ovako; Mikael Nordlander, Vattenfall; Cecilia Wallmark, Director of CH2ESS at LTU and Jazaer Dawody, Senior Programme Officer at the Swedish Energy Agency. The session was moderated by KTH’s Teodor Elmfeldt.

Two people talking one with a microphone
Cecilia Wallmark, Director of CH2ESS at LTU and Jazaer Dawody, Senior Programme Officer at the Swedish Energy Agency were among those who participated in a panel discussion.

The role of hydrogen was discussed in terms of a systems perspective with sustainable energy supply in focus. Among other things, the role of hydrogen as an energy storage medium in the form of long pipelines that can connect different facilities with different needs was highlighted. 

Several challenges were also highlighted, especially in financing, where uncertainty causes financiers to hesitate before investing in new ventures. The step to mass production of electrolytic tubes remains to be taken, which also creates obstacles for further investment. In addition, there is a pressing need for an improved skills base more broadly, the panel argued.

The panel also addressed the need for the various forms of hydrogen. The panellists believed that green hydrogen should be prioritised over fossil-based versions as this offers a more sustainable choice in the long term. However, the panel noted the increased use of blue fossil-based hydrogen gas, especially in countries that have historically been major oil exporters.

3 woman talking
The panel discussion was followed by further discussions, here with Anna Karlsson, Vinnova, Jazaer Dawody, the Swedish Energy Agency and Lina Bertling Tjernberg, KTH Energy Platform.

At the same time, progress does not benefit from limiting the choice of energy sources. To successfully address climate change, it is important to be open to the use of technologies that best meet specific needs in specific applications.

The panel concluded with a call for more investment in additional hydrogen storage in Sweden. Even though such investments are very costly, they offer substantial benefits in the form of increased cost-effectiveness and flexibility in terms of developing the role of hydrogen in the energy system.

Text: Magnus Trogen Pahlén
Photo: Fredrik Persson

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