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HZI to develop first small-scale Waste-to-Hydrogen

In Switzerland, Hitachi Zosen Inova AG (HZI) and the Aarau-Lenzburg Regional Waste Disposal Association (GEKAL) have embarked on a joint venture project to build a commercial small-scale hydrogen production plant at the Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facility in Buchs.

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The Energy-from-Waste plant in Buchs, Switzerland
Hitachi Zosen Inova AG (HZI) and the Aarau-Lenzburg Regional Waste Disposal Association (GEKAL) have embarked on a joint venture project to build a commercial small-scale hydrogen production plant at the Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facility in Buchs (photo courtesy HZI).

The energy transition to renewable energies includes green hydrogen as a high density and low carbon energy carrier. Low-cost green hydrogen availability is key to facilitating the energy transition and can be achieved by providing low-cost, surplus electricity to nearby consumers, which also reduces expensive logistical costs.

As Energy-from-Waste (EfW) plants are intrinsically recycling facilities, using the electricity generated to produce hydrogen is a further step in enhancing the contribution of such facilities to the circular economy.

In addition, hydrogen production can be either baseload or fluctuating, in order to best match the availability of other renewable electricity generation, producing more hydrogen when wind and solar energies are high, and vice versa.

Since hydrogen can be stored without losses, this chemical storage is more effective and more scalable than battery storage.

Joint-venture project

With all this in mind, a joint venture project has been created by HZI together with the Aarau-Lenzburg Regional Waste Disposal Association (Gemeindeverband für Kehrichtbeseitigung Region Aarau-Lenzburg or GEKAL). It will see the Swiss-Japanese cleantech major constructing its first commercial small-scale Waste-to-Hydrogen (WtH2) plant.

HZI is in charge of all planning and construction work for the facility at the GEKAL site, and will also be the owner and operator over the first few years.

HZI will produce hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis using electricity from the Buchs Energy-from-Waste (EfW) plant. The oxygen will be released into the atmosphere, while the hydrogen will be compressed and stored in special tanks.

HZI will use an alkaline electrolysis process that can produce 550 Nm3/h of green hydrogen at 350 bar, meeting both the SAE 2719 and ISO 14687 quality standards for hydrogen fuel.

Industrial off-take

The PtH2 plant will also include a filling station. Its projected output is around 200 tonnes of hydrogen per year, equivalent to approximately 10-15 GWh of electricity.

The hydrogen produced will be used as technical gas for industry and for early mobility applications, for example as green fuel for local public transport and private vehicles.

Lenzburg-based industrial gases specialists Messer Schweiz AG has entered an agreement to take off the produced hydrogen and the new PtH2 plant will represent a valuable, and above all, local source of green hydrogen, enhancing the circular dimension of the thermal recycling facility.

For us as a buyer of hydrogen, the new facility presents an ideal opportunity to effect a considerable increase in the share of Green Hydrogen in our product portfolio. Once the Power to Hydrogen plant is up and running, locally produced, green hydrogen will make up almost a third of our current local trading volume, said Dr Hans Michael Kellner, CEO of Messer Schweiz.

Cost-effective grid balance

The new green hydrogen production facility will be integrated into the Swissgrid secondary control service framework, a novel concept for steering demand and oversupply within the Swiss power grid. When a primary producer goes offline, secondary producers such as the EfW plant in Buchs are brought online to stabilize the grid.

So-called negative compensation is also possible if too much renewable energy is produced compared with the planned volume. In this situation, the hydrogen facility will draw up to 2 MW from the grid, meaning that renewable energy producers such as wind farms will not need to be taken offline immediately or perhaps even at all.

Hydrogen production will allow us to be much more flexible. For example, when demand for electricity is low, rather than feeding electricity into the grid, we can use it to produce hydrogen which can be stored, commented GEKAL Chairman Christoph Wasser.

The installation of the hydrogen facility at the EfW plant in Buchs is planned to start in June 2022, with the first hydrogen being produced at the start of 2023. Full operations will commence a few months later in the spring of 2023.

The use of the energy produced by the Buchs EfW plant will be significantly improved by the hydrogen plant. This will contribute to reducing the plant’s CO2 balance by offsetting the production of fossil fuels, said Fabio Dinale, VP of Business Development at HZI.

This is HZI’s second innovative project in the canton of Aargau within a very short time span after the delivery of a carbon dioxide (CO2) liquefaction plant for a pioneering Swiss project in Nesselnbach was announced in September 2021.

Further attractive technical solutions are conceivable going forward, including combining the hydrogen with CO2 separated from the EfW’s flue gases to feed a methanation production cycle, ended Fabio Dinale.

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