Sustainable Chemistry and Renewable Energy

Power-to-X and Hydrogen Economy

ISC3 uses workshops as a part of a stakeholder dialogue to create communities of practice in our partner countries devoted to the focus topics. Our workshops bring together experts from different areas: academia, research, industry, international organisations, NGOs authorities and policy-makers.
ISC3’ spotlight is on Power-to-X (PtX) technologies, specifically Power-to-Chemicals (PtC) and green hydrogen economy. PtX treats the conversion of renewable energy into chemical products that can be used in other sectors, like food, cosmetics, fertilizers, chemicals, steel, cement, as well as modes of transport

an icon with a greenish lightning symbol that is surrounded by two arrows indicating a circularity

The new focus topic of ISC3 is devoted to the nexus to renewable energies

The strategical plans of the European Union and countries like Germany to foster a “Hydrogen Economy” aim to give an impulse for more sustainable way of production. Specifically in 2022 as the Russian war against Ukraine initiates a series of new crises related both to the political and energy-related dimensions, the questions of pollution, scarce resources and climate change are of enormous relevance.

Electricity can be stored in chemical bonds in the form of electrolytically generated hydrogen (H2) using carbon dioxide (CO2) as a carbon source. The use of “Power-to-X” technologies for example, “de-fossilises” carbon-based energy sources and chemical products and can enormously contribute to climate protection goals.

How can Sustainable Chemistry (SC) contribute to sustainable renewable energy systems and vice versa?

The new transformative processes require enormous changes in regulations, technical infrastructure, financial incentives, awareness etc. Also new technologies can create an unforeseen number of unwanted side effects for the environment, economy and labour. Those questions have a priority for ISC3 due to its work also in the fields of international cooperation and sustainable development. E.g.:

  • What do PtX technologies mean for land use?
  • Which rare resources will become scarce and endanger development in other economic sectors?
  • Can these new technologies compete with further essential social needs and concerns such as food security, the right to affordable drinking water or a just transition to more sustainable energy and mobility systems?
  • Can circular economy approaches provide new ways to cope with these questions?

 Father and daughter standing outdoors and looking towards a susnet scenery at a wind farm.

Case Study: Uruguay

Many countries are currently working on a hydrogen-strategy, and ISC3 aims to use this momentum to develop capacities there. Two of the countries which are on the top of the development the new hydrogen economy are Uruguay and Morocco. Both of them have a great potential of renewable energies that can be transformed to hydrogen and further products like ammonia and methanol.

Uruguay is currently at a very advanced stage in producing renewable energies. The country faces a surplus in energy that could be stored, transported and exported. The Uruguayan government recently prepared a roadmap strategy on hydrogen. The country has a big potential for a decarbonised energy sector with the energy produced from solar and wind facilities at low cost. Its access to harbours and the Atlantic Ocean gives possibilities for long-distance exports. There is demand for technologies and know-how in the decarbonisation of chemicals and raw materials. The aspects of sustainability, environment and safety are to be explored together with the potentials for various PtX technologies besides the production of hydrogen as well as an integration of the value chain for chemicals in the country and the dimensions of the SDGs such as environment, social aspects and economy.

PtX-Training

ISC3 started working with Uruguay on PtX in 2020 when it organised workshops together with the National Agency for Research and Innovation of Uruguay (ANII). In 2021, cooperation between ISC3, PtX-Hub Berlin (GIZ) and the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (MIEM) of Uruguay was established when the national roadmap for hydrogen in Uruguay was in preparation. ISC3 organised a 2-days-training consisting of eight modules on Green Hydrogen and PtX for 40 MIEM participants that was implemented by the PtX-Hub in October 2021.

The training was developed by the PtX Hub specifically for the decision makers from MIEM in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the entire green hydrogen and PtX value chain and to look at the opportunities of green hydrogen and PtX in future energy systems. The general goal of the training was to create a critical mass of well-versed experts who have a high level of professional competence in the subject of green hydrogen and PtX. The interactive training gave an overview about technical and economic aspects of PtX technologies, on one side, specifically on green hydrogen, it’s storage and transportation. On the other side, the training addressed further central environmental and social issues, with a dedicated attention to circularity as a distinctive path integrating the holistic and systemic view represented by Sustainable Chemistry. The training materials were later translated in Spanish to broaden the local access to the content.

Workshop: Side Effects of Power-to-X and a Hydrogen Economy

The workshop Side Effects of Power-to-X and a Hydrogen Economy followed the training in October 2021, with about 50 experts from different countries.

The expert workshop opened a discussion on national and regional aspects and questions, and collected insights from experts fostering a cross-sectoral multidisciplinary exchange between experts and offered a platform for peer-to-peer experts learning processes. The discussion went around the topic of infrastructural needs and side effects, decentral and modular solutions as well as circularity and rare metals for fostering regional innovation as well as sustainability aspects of storing green energy implications as mentioned above. In the workshop experts analysed the new hydrogen plans along the environmental, economic, social and governance aspects (EESG).

Transfer-Workshop: SWOT-Analysis and Strategies for Uruguay

After the release of the Uruguayan green hydrogen roadmap, 40 participants of the training programme met again for a transfer workshop to discuss the national strategy and roadmap for PtX in Uruguay as well as to develop further strategies based on a SWOT analysis organised and moderated by the ISC3 in November 2021. The workshop attracted the attention of decision makers to consider aspects of sustainability already in the planning phase while national hydrogen roadmap was being prepared and revised.

The outcome of both workshops is a White Paper Hydrogen Economy and Sustainability: Towards a PtX Roadmap for Uruguay.

Hydrogen Economy and Sustainability: Towards a PtX Roadmap for Uruguay.

The white paper presents an outcome of the whole process based on contributions of international and local experts from Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador, Germany and Morocco on the one hand and experts from ISC3 and GIZ on the other, as well as specific presentations during the workshops in Uruguay, a groupwork and analyses conducted for and with the Uruguayan stakeholders.

The white paper focuses on Power-to-X (PtX), which embraces gaseous, fluid or solid energy carriers. Many issues concerning negative side effects and how to avoid them were raised during the workshops that can help to achieve a more sustainable development.

The white paper gives an overview of the situation in Uruguay. During the first stage of its energy transition, Uruguay achieved almost 98% of renewable energy and is now seeking to de-fossilise various sectors during the second stage of the transition towards green hydrogen.

Introductions represents general thoughts on the potential offered by the hydrogen economy and helps to understand the topic of PtX. Hydrogen and its downstream products will be utilised as storage media and as building blocks for the chemical and related industries. It is essential that the efforts towards energy security in importing countries consider the interests of exporting countries. These considerations go hand in hand with further questions that focus on Sustainable Chemistry.The main part of the paper consists of three steps of the PtX-value chain: input, process and output.

The Input Phase focuses on how and where to obtain the necessary energy, carbon source and water supply.The Process Phase looks at possibilities to reduce the use of precious metals, good water management, scaling options and integrating PtX plants in existing chemical parks.The Output Phase deals with the challenges of the storage and transport (and also cost aspects) of hydrogen and other PtX products, such as ammonia, methanol, methane and others.In the section “It is smart…”, common denominators based on economic, environmental, social or governance (EESG) factors are identified: For example, developing the demand side, creating jobs, protecting the environment, preserving resources, respecting social aspects, and regulations and incentives need to be part of an overarching strategy in order to develop a future-proof PtX-based hydrogen economy in the country.Finally, the Outlook section discusses whether these findings are transferable to other regions of the world. For example, Morocco is another case study – with totally different prerequisites considering its geographical position, energy sources, off-taker structures as well as social and political environment.

The White Paper Hydrogen Economy and Sustainability: Towards a PtX Roadmap for Uruguay

Harmful developments and consequences when introducinga whole new energy system along with new technologiesare foreseeable!This was a claim made by ISC3 within a consulting projectwith two workshops and participants from Uruguayaimed at navigating towards a sustainable hydrogenroadmap. The workshop focused on Power-to-X (PtX),which embraces gaseous, fluid or solid energy carriers.Many issues concerning negative side effects and howto avoid them were raised that can help to achieve amore sustainable development. The aspiration is that allthose who are preparing or planning a similar energytransition process will benefit from these reflections.