EMEC boasts first tidal-powered hydrogen generation

EMEC hydrogen storage cylinders (Photo: Colin Keldie)

European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has produced hydrogen gas using electricity generated from tidal energy, demonstrating the sector’s potential to contribute to clean replacement for polluting fuels.

EMEC informed the generation of hydrogen from tidal energy took place in Orkney on August 25, 2017, representing the first time that this has been achieved anywhere in the world.

By harnessing the power of the tide at EMEC’s tidal energy test site at the Fall of Warness, prototype tidal energy converters – Scotrenewables’ SR2000 and Tocardo’s TFS and T2 turbine – fed power into an electrolyser situated next to EMEC’s onshore substation.

The electrolyser, supplied by ITM Power, uses the electricity to split water (H2O) into its component parts – hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2).

One of the most promising uses of hydrogen is as a fuel for transport as it emits no carbon when it is consumed and, providing it’s generated by clean renewable energy sources, it becomes a carbon neutral fuel source, according to Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, said: “The Scottish government is pleased to be supporting this innovative project which will help to partially overcome grid constraints in the Orkney Islands by enabling the storage of excess tidal power generated and using that electricity to produce hydrogen.

“The project also adds to our growing understanding of the potential role of hydrogen in Scotland’s future energy system – something we have committed to exploring in our draft Energy Strategy.”

Kermode added: “Whilst the initial driver behind buying an electrolyser was to provide a storage solution to circumvent local grid constraints, the purchase has sparked off other pioneering projects around Orkney looking to use hydrogen in various means. We could see green hydrogen, over time, replace polluting fuels in our cars, vans and ferries.”

ITM Power, which specializes in the manufacture of integrated hydrogen energy systems, won a competitive tender to supply a system to EMEC back in 2015.

The system’s principal component, a 0.5MW ‘polymer electrolyte membrane’ (PEM) electrolyser, comes with integrated compression and up to 500kg of storage.

One of the projects that will be using EMEC’s electrolyser is the Surf’n’Turf project being led by Community Energy Scotland in partnership with Orkney Islands Council, EMEC, Eday Renewable Energy and ITM Power.

The Surf ‘n’ Turf project will see the electrolyser producing hydrogen using electricity from EMEC’s test site as well as power from a 900kW Enercon wind turbine owned by the Eday community, according to EMEC.

The hydrogen will then be transported to Kirkwall, where a fuel cell installed on the pier will convert the hydrogen back into electricity for use as auxiliary power for ferries when tied up overnight.

The project is also developing a training program with a view to green hydrogen eventually being used as a fuel source on the inter-island ferries themselves.

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