Clean Energy

'Green' hydrogen boosting coal-to-chemical industry

Updated: Sep 21, 2023 By Hou Liqiang,Hu Dongmei and Yuan Hui China Daily Print
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An employee of the Ningxia Baofeng Energy Group checks products made at the hydrogen plant. CHINA DAILY

More programs launched

The demonstration project is just one of a number of similar hydrogen programs that have been launched at the base, the management committee said. For example, in April 2021, the Ningxia Baofeng Energy Group put into operation a hydrogen plant that is supported by a 200-megawatt solar power station. The plant uses electrolysis to make hydrogen from water.

"Currently, Baofeng's annual green hydrogen output has reached 600 million cu m. Every year, the hydrogen can replace 800,000 tons of feed coal and reduce carbon emissions by 1.4 million tons," said Liu Yuanguan, Baofeng Energy's president, in an interview with Economic Information Daily earlier this year.

According to the Ningdong management committee, the base produced 22,100 tons of green hydrogen last year.

The base plans to raise the capacity to 80,000 tons by 2025, cutting the use of standard coal by 900,000 tons and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2 million tons.

Its production of green hydrogen is set to shoot up to 300,000 tons as of 2030, reducing consumption of standard coal by 3.6 million tons. By the same year, 9 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions will either be reduced or used in processes at the base.

Practices at the Ningdong base show that for every ton of green hydrogen that replaces hydrogen made from coal, an average of 10 to 11 tons of standard coal will be saved and 25 tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be prevented, according to the base.

Despite that, Zhao Rui, deputy general manager of Ningdong New Energy Industry Development, a company affiliated with the management committee at the base, said, "Many of the hydrogen projects at the base are still small-scale ones for demonstration purposes."

Currently, the cost of green hydrogen made from renewable energy is at least twice that of hydrogen made from coal, he said.

With the exception of maintenance work, facilities for chemical production in Ningdong should work nonstop, he added, noting that the suspension of work not only brings financial losses for the operators, but also results in a higher level of safety risks.

However, the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy poses great challenges for the application of green hydrogen in the chemical sector, and while power storage provides a solution to the problem, its cost remains high for the Ningdong base, he said.

Pumped storage is currently the most cost-effective way of storing power, but conditions don't allow for the construction of such facilities at Ningdong, he added.

As a traditional method of storing power, pumped storage sends water to higher locations using surplus power during off-peak consumption periods, then regenerates it to meet emerging power requirements.

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