Hydrogen in mining: technological trends

Hydrogen technology is now taking advantage of unprecedented political and business momentum, with many strategies, policies and hydrogen projects expanding rapidly worldwide. In the mining sector, hydrogen is part of many miners’ decarbonisation routes, either as a carbon-free fuel to shift diesel to heavy equipment or to generate electricity for a power plant, with testing already under way and the potential for wider use before the end. of the decade.

The following are key technology trends affecting the hydrogen industry, as identified by GlobalData.


Electrolyzers are growing rapidly, increasing from megawatts (MW) to gigawatts (GW) as hydrogen technology continues to evolve and advance. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the price of electrolyzers, from $ 840 / kW today, has fallen by 60% since 2010 and could fall by another 40% in the short term and 80% in the long term.

Achieving these reductions depends on innovation to improve cell performance, increase production capacity, standardize along with growing economies of scale. This could lead to a price of green hydrogen of less than $ 2 / kg – a major breakthrough in cost competitiveness – and a 40% reduction in the price of the cell, which is $ 336 / kW by 2030, by more than 100 GW deployed capacity. By 2030, IHI Engineering Australia Pty Ltd (IEA) estimates that renewable hydrogen (green hydrogen) will be the cheapest option to supply pure hydrogen for many green uses.

There were many new entrants, such as H2PRO and HyNet, focused on improving the capacity and technology of the cell. Energy leader Iberdrola, in partnership with Ingeteam, has set up a company called Iberlyzer, dedicated to electrolysis technology.

Electrolyzers are expected to play a key role in shaping areas of application such as industrial hydrogen production, power-to-X strategy management, and energy grid stabilization.

Hydrogen energy storage

Hydrogen produced with the help of renewable electricity – obtained through an electrolyzer – can allow the integration of large volumes of variable renewable energy, such as wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) in the energy system. Electrolyzers can allow the integration of variable renewable energy into electricity energy systems, as their electricity consumption can be modified to follow the production of solar photovoltaic and wind energy, with hydrogen serving as a source of energy storage for renewable energy.

They provide flexible loading and offer grid balancing services, such as up or down frequency control, while operating at optimal capacity to meet the industry’s hydrogen demand with the transport sector or for injection into the natural gas network.

Hydrogen storage demonstrates its benefits outside the laboratory through real-world projects. In the United States, Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), a natural gas supplier to Southern California, is involved in several partnerships related to hydrogen storage projects. The company is a leader in the supply of gas-powered (P2G) technology in the United States. With the National Fuel Cell Research Center (NFCRC) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), SoCalGas has installed an on-campus solar-powered electrolyzer that supplies renewable hydrogen to the campus’s power plant.

Improvements in renewable technologies

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy are expected to be a building block for the realization of a green hydrogen economy. Therefore, the economy of renewable energy production is crucial for the growth of green hydrogen consumption. According to an analysis by the Lazard Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) in 2020, technologies, including onshore wind and solar energy in general, are becoming increasingly competitive with the marginal cost of existing conventional production technologies. The price of energy from renewable sources, especially new wind and solar projects put into operation in 2021, has fallen below the cost of more than 800 GW of existing coal-fired power plants worldwide.

Technological advances in wind energy such as larger wind turbines and longer wind turbine rotor blades; together with the increasing efficiency of solar photovoltaic cells, they would prove useful for the implementation of green hydrogen projects. The cost of new solar photovoltaic projects has fallen below $ 1,000 per kWh, while the average cost of new wind projects has fallen to about $ 1,400 per kWh. This improves the equalized costs for green hydrogen projects.

Growing implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCS technology is a potential answer to global carbon problems in the energy sector, as it prevents the release of large amounts of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere from fossil fuel power plants. CCS technology involves a three-step process in which anthropogenic CO2 emissions are captured, transported and stored in deep geological formations to prevent the release of hazardous gas into the atmosphere.

CO2 capture processes can be considered new to the energy sector, but have been used for the last 60 years in the oil, gas and chemical sectors. The technology has the potential to capture 90% of CO2 emissions from conventional fossil fuel installations.

Hydrogen is seen as the clean energy fuel of the future and will play a crucial role in decarbonising the industrial segment. A process involving the reform of natural gas with carbon capture technology itself serves as the lowest cost for producing pure hydrogen. This process produces blue hydrogen by reforming natural gas in H2 and CO2; CO2 the by-product will then be captured, transported and stored in deep geological formations.

Waste to hydrogen technologies

Hydrogen can be generated from biomass as well as from biowaste. A new niche has developed on the market for the conversion of waste into hydrogen. The available capacities of the project are limited in terms of size. But the prospect of waste elimination is being tested in several low- to medium-level hydrogen projects. The municipality of Wuppertal in Germany has adopted hydrogen fuel cell buses in its jurisdiction to reduce emissions. The raw material for hydrogen production is obtained from household waste collected by waste separation.

Suppliers such as Ways2H, SGH2 Energy and Standard Hydrogen are developing new hydrogen transfer technologies. Ways2H has developed hydrogen waste projects in Asia, Europe, and the United States. Biomass to hydrogen projects are suitable for large agricultural districts, while cities can rely on municipal waste generated after careful separation.

This leads to an almost constant source of production, while addressing the issue of waste generation. Such small-scale projects can be implemented in various cities around the world, especially with government cooperation.

This is an edited excerpt from Hydrogen in mining – case studies report prepared by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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