The kernel of the story is this: Battolyser B.V. is taking a step forward with the battolyser, its eponymous energy storage technology. On June 12, Battolyser B.V.’s joint venture partners Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Proton Ventures announced that they had secured a €480,000 grant from Waddenfonds, a Dutch public-sector funding agency, to build a 15 kW/60 kWh version of the battolyser. The installation will take place at Nuon’s Magnum generating station at Eemshaven in the Netherlands. The move makes tangible the vision of the battolyser as an integral part of an energy supply system based substantially on renewably generated electricity.
The battolyser is a battery that stores electricity in the conventional galvanic manner until it is fully charged. At that point, the device uses any additional electricity supplied for the electrolysis of water and evolution of hydrogen. If the device is integrated with hydrogen buffer storage and an ammonia production train, the result will be a versatile and highly scalable energy storage system that can provide responsive grid support on all time scales from seconds to months. (Ammonia Energy last posted on the battolyser on March 1, 2018.)
The Magnum plant has been designated as the site of an early demonstration of the power-to-ammonia (P2A) concept that has been under study in the Netherlands since 2016. In February 2017, the Dutch research agency Institute for Sustainable Process Technology completed a “feasibility study for the value chains and business cases to produce CO2-free ammonia suitable for various market applications.” As described in an Ammonia Energy post, the study evaluated among other topics the business case for switching the Magnum plant’s fuel from natural gas to ammonia. The study considered several discrete scenarios and concluded that, given certain conditions, conversion to ammonia could indeed be “economically feasible.”
Initial engineering studies are now underway for the first step in the Magnum conversion. This will involve modification of one of the plant’s three natural gas combustion turbines so that it can run on hydrogen. The project’s timeline calls for the conversion to be completed by 2023. As detailed in a subsequent Ammonia Energy post, “Nuon’s next step would be to source its hydrogen from ‘sustainably produced ammonia’” — the definition of which could now include hydrogen produced by battolysers. The post went on to mention that Nuon’s partners in the undertaking will include Norwegian oil major (and carbon sequestration expert) Statoil and European pipeline operator Gasunie.
The Waddenfond grant for battolyser deployment is not the whole story, however. An additional dimension comes to light with a visit to Vattenfall’s on-line press room, where a press release on the topic can be found. Vattenfall owns Nuon along with a number of other energy companies across northern Europe, and is itself owned by the Swedish state. Its net sales in 2017 were $15.0 billion. Vattenfall’s press release makes clear that the company wants to be identified with the battolyser project, undoubtedly because of its potential fit with Vattenfall’s ambitious sustainability strategy:
At Vattenfall we want to become fossil-free within one generation. To realize this goal, we are on a sustainable journey transforming our own production portfolio and help our customers power their lives in ever climate smarter ways.
We are phasing out fossil production, invest[ing] in renewables and innovating with new ways of energy storage.
We aim to realize 4 GW wind in 2020, be climate neutral in Nordic in 2030 and realize fossil-free within one generation.
Vattenfall’s sustainable production Web page
The press release characterizes the battolyser initiative as “another step towards fossil-free gas power production.”
In yet another layer of the story, the Vattenfall press release reports that a second multi-billion-dollar European company is associating itself with the battolyser project: Yara (2017 sales of $11.4 billion). The release says only that Yara will “contribute to the [battolyser] development,” but it seems reasonable to assume that the company’s ultimate interest will be in turning the hydrogen produced into ammonia. (In the near-term, the battolyser hydrogen will displace conventionally sourced hydrogen in the cooling system for the Magnum generators.)
And in one final layer, the Vattenfall press release reported that the battolyser announcement came on the heels of an action taken by the Dutch Hydrogen Coalition that involved presenting a “manifesto” to Eric Wiebes, the Netherlands’ Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. The release describes the Coalition as “an initiative of Greenpeace Netherlands,” that includes 23 members including “network operators, industry representatives, energy companies, environmental organizations and scientists” – and both Vattenfall and Yara themselves. In the manifesto, the Coalition calls on the government “to stimulate the use of hydrogen produced from renewables to decrease the need for fossil fuels.”
Proton Ventures’ announcement of the Waddenfonds grant lays out the timeline and actions for the development of the battolyser technology. The goal for the Eemshaven battolyser is to commence operation in the beginning of 2019. And then, “after the test phase, a follow-up plan will be drawn up to subsequently upscale to installations of 1 and 10 MW. These can be placed at industrial partners or at locations where electricity from offshore wind farms is coming on shore on a large scale, for example at the Nuon power plants in Eemshaven and Velsen.”