Paving the way to a sustainable future – with electrochemical energy storage and hydrogen production.

 

The renewable revolution is in full swing – and that’s a good thing. But the ever-increasing energy production from renewable sources naturally fluctuates as wind and weather do, so energy has to be stored for later use. Denis Krude, CEO of thyssenkrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers, explains how thyssenkrupp’s redox flow batteries and water electrolysis can fill the gaps between renewable energy production and demand, and how sustainable chemicals help to reduce CO2 emissions.

Denis Krude, CEO of thyssenkrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers

There are many ideas and technologies out there to store energy from renewable sources. What is special about thyssenkrupp’s solutions?


There are many factors but, for both redox flow batteries and water electrolysis, cost and efficiency key. This means in the first place economies-of-scale. Both technol­ogies are based on our large cell design and on our electrolysis technologies proven in over 600 plants worldwide. This makes our solutions the right choice for large­-scale projects. And we know how to build these plants very well.

In fact, all chlor-alkali plants produce hydrogen, so we are the world’s No. 1 supplier for electrolytic hydrogen production. This differentiates us clearly from small start-ups and shows that we know how to handle hydrogen as well as high currents, or the grid connections of large-scale energy consumers.



Why do you offer two different solutions?
Is one not enough?


They address different demands. The redox flow batteries are extremely flexible. In contrast to conventional batteries, they can be scaled independently in terms of power and storage time. This is ideal, e.g. for transferring solar power to nighttime, balancing out wind energy, but also for stabilizing the energy grid and many other applications for storage times of 4–10 hours. But this is just pure storage and release of energy. When power has to be stored for longer or if “green” hydrogen made from renewable energy is needed for sustainable chemicals, water electrolysis is the better option.

Could you give us an example of “sustainable chemicals”?


Hydrogen is a basic feedstock for many chemical “routes” that lead to products we all need and use: fuels or fertilizers are good examples. thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions can offer complete process chains from a single source, e.g. for ammonia and subsequent fertilizer production. With solar power, hydrogen from water electrolysis, and nitrogen from the atmosphere, we can produce ammonia out of sunlight, air, and water. This eliminates the CO2 emissions that would occur in the standard process, which uses natural gas as a feedstock.



This sounds great, but what about the economic side?


There we have many advantages, not only through the scale effects I mentioned, but also by providing our customers with additional revenue streams. It does not stop at renewable energy production, where you can fill the gaps between production and demand, or use the otherwise curtailed energy from a wind farm for hydrogen production. You can easily use the same solutions to reduce costs in energy-intensive industries like steelworks just by “shaving off” your peak energy demands and smoothening out your demand curve. You can operate micro grids in remote locations such as mines. There are many possibilities.

 

“When storing energy the scale effects are the key to profitability.”



Renewable energy is an important market. So what about the environmental aspects?


They are very good, especially if you look at the complete life cycle of our solutions. Both the redox flow batteries and the water electrolysis plants are expected to have a lifespan of at least two decades, with low maintenance efforts. And after that, the majority of the materials and components can be recycled very easily. Other battery solutions are much more problem­atic in this respect. In our redox flow bat­teries, even the vanadium electrolyte, which accounts for a large part of all the materials, is nearly 100% reusable.


The bottom line: thyssenkrupp’s redox flow batteries and water electrolysis technology can help answer the question of how to store energy generated from renewable sources. Cost efficiency is the key benefit of thyssenkrupp’s solutions – redox flow batteries for flexible storage of 4–10 hours, water electrolysis for longer storage periods or if “green hydrogen” is needed for sustainable chemicals. Customers benefit from economies of scale and additional revenue streams.