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Electrolyser systems for green hydrogen production in Australia need to be as efficient as possible, in order to generate hydrogen with the smallest possible quantity of renewable primary energy, while at the same time being able to be deployed in areas of varying water quality.

Hydrogen is the most common chemical element in the universe and when it is produced using renewable energy or processes, is an emissions-free fuel and becomes a way of storing renewable energy for use when it is needed.

While there are a number of traditional methods of producing hydrogen, interest has now firmly shifted towards so-called green hydrogen production utilising electrolysis of water, with the electricity generated from renewable sources. There are several processes used for electrolysis, with alkaline electrolysis historically being one of the most commonly used method for large-scale hydrogen production. In recent years proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis has gained in importance as it is more efficient, requires less maintenance, and is suitable for decentralised applications.

In Australia, the government, industry and researchers have undertaken a substantial amount of work to quantify the opportunities of renewable hydrogen production. The Australian Government has also established a $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart initiative, which will aim to scale up large green hydrogen projects in Australia.

According to research conducted by ARENA, demand for hydrogen exported from Australia could be over 3 million tonnes each year by 2040, which could be worth up to $10 billion each year to the economy by that time.

Controlling the process
Like any industrial process, the aim for electrolysis is to be as efficient as possible, in order to generate clean hydrogen with the smallest possible quantity of renewable primary energy. To do this demands exact and reliable control of all important parameters, such as flow rates and pressures on both the anode and the cathode side.

Bürkert offers valve and sensor solutions that can ensure that the electrolysis process is low-loss and low-maintenance, and will be operated safely, including:

  • Direct-acting motor valves that can reliably and safely control the flow of cooling water, with minimal energy demand through low power consumption in holding mode.
  • Reliable flowmeters to continuously determine the quantity of the deionised water supplied, as well as the cold-water supply for the cooling circuit.
  • Innovative process control valves to precisely and dynamically control the outlet back pressure on the anode and cathode side of the electrolyser.
  • Precise pressure sensors to determine the pressure of the oxygen discharged at the stack with high accuracy, as well as the hydrogen supplied to the dryer, in corrosion-proof stainless steel.
  • Solenoid safety shut-off valves for safe shut-off of the deionised water supply when powered off, as well as the oxygen and hydrogen gases.
  • Digital networking components and gateways for simplified wiring and higher-level control system communications.

Hydrogen production needs clean water
The water used to fuel a hydrogen electrolyser must be pure deionised water, so the source of the water and its purification is a serious consideration in the design of the plant.

Australia is however the driest inhabited continent, and the effects of climate change are set to exacerbate the problem of water scarcity in the future – something which may present challenges for the development of green hydrogen production.

For this reason, the development of hydrogen production facilities will depend on utilising various sources of water that may require additional pre-processing, particularly if the hydrogen production is to be located in an inland regional area.

According to research from Deakin University, to maintain community support for hydrogen generation projects “it may be necessary for hydrogen producers to rely on non-potable sources of water to ensure they retain community acceptance and support. This may result in additional production costs to purify the water to a suitable standard for hydrogen production, which could be achieved via reverse osmosis or desalination processes.”

Any given hydrogen generation facility will therefore need to be designed with appropriate water purification and recycling facilities, making each facility a potentially unique design.

Bürkert here to help
The field of water treatment demands the best instrument performance and networkability. For 40 years Bürkert Australia, has become a preferred supplier for innovative digitalised fluid control solutions to the water industries, and though Bürkert’s systemhaus, a forward thinking and innovative team can help support hydrogen generation facilities in solving the unique challenges of their application, utilising the latest advanced digital process control technologies.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Bürkert. For more information, visit www.burkert.com.au/en.

Featured image: Bürkert Hydrogen Generation. Image/Bürkert

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