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Luleå University of Technology gives full throttle to the hydrogen society

Published: 18 May 2021

Luleå University of Technology is now making an extensive research and education investment in close collaboration with leading basic industries and energy producers. The focus is on hydrogen in industrial processes and energy systems. The core is the university's advanced pilot plant for large-scale industrial experiments, LTU Green Fuels.

– Hydrogen is the key to a fossil-free energy system and Luleå University of Technology is involved in securing that development in Sweden. We are implementing our hydrogen investment in order to be a strong research and education partner for the Swedish hydrogen industry, and to contribute to the global goal of replacing fossil fuels and managing climate change, Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn says, Vice-Chancellor at Luleå University of Technology.

Partners in CH2ESS (Center for Hydrogen Energy Systems Sweden) are initially: LKAB, SSAB, Vattenfall, Hybrit, H2 Green Steel, Skellefteå Kraft, NTNU Energi Team Hydrogen at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Piteå municipality. In the long run, more stakeholders with a hydrogen interest will be included.

The university is investing 60 million

Luleå University of Technology is investing 60 million over 6 years, but the ambition is to double the budget with funding from external actors. Common to the players is an interest in the important research, innovation and pilot initiatives in the hydrogen area that are being implemented in northern Sweden. The starting point in CH 2 ESS is real needs and important challenges linked to these hydrogen investments.

Hydrogen as an energy store

– We take a positive view on LTU building competence in Norrbotten in the hydrogen area, as this is a key to LKAB's transition. LKAB will make carbon dioxide-free sponge iron using large volumes of hydrogen gas and thereby reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tonnes, corresponding to two thirds of all of Sweden's emissions. This puts great demand on the expansion of renewable electricity supply and the power grid. The hydrogen gas functions as an energy storage, for example in combination with wind power where gas is produced on windy days and stored underground for use on windless days, Lars Ydreskog says, senior vice president of strategic projects at LKAB.

Hydrogen production, storage and use important

The research investment in CH 2 ESS takes a holistic approach to the production, storage and transport of hydrogen and includes process integration and the electric power system.

– Electrification and a phase-out of fossil fuels is a crucial point for Swedish industry to achieve not only the climate goals, but also to attain a leading position in global climate protection. Hydrogen production, storage and use will play an important role in this transition, to solve the biggest challenge of our time and enable a fossil-free life within a generation, Mikael Nordlander says, Head of R&D Portfolio Industry Decarbonisation, at Vattenfall.

Heavy experimental core

Luleå University of Technology is planning a core of heavy experimental activities in the university's pilot plant for fuel synthesis, LTU Green Fuels. There is the capacity to study electrolysis systems on an industrially relevant scale, to simulate industrial sub-processes and to carry out experiments that are too advanced or expensive for commercial plants. CH2ESS also invests in sub-projects that are theoretical or that use the advanced lab scale equipment available at the university.

– Together with Luleå University of Technology, we want to work out an efficient process integration of our hydrogen plant. By increasing and lowering hydrogen production, we will be able to balance the electricity grid. In this way, we minimize the total impact on the network and at the same time achieve a lower production cost. This is an important part of being able to produce competitive fossil-free steel, Maria Persson-Gulda says, Chief Technology Officer at H2 Green Steel.

500 engineers with a MSc degree with hydrogen expertise

The large-scale investments in the hydrogen area, not least in northern Sweden, need a large number of engineers with a MSc degree and other qualified personnel with relevant skills. In collaboration with companies within CH 2 ESS, Luleå University of Technology further develops its research and education so that they match the needs for hydrogen competence. Within ten years, Luleå University of Technology CH 2 ESS has trained 500 engineers with a MSc degree with broad basic competence and relevant cutting-edge competence in the hydrogen area, starting with the educations in the autumn of 2021.

Eliminates fossil emissions in steelmaking

– At SSAB, we have a long tradition of improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions. Now we are going to take a completely decisive technological leap that no one else has made and eliminate fossil emissions in steel production. This will require systems with new types of fossil-free energy, such as hydrogen. Research at the forefront and close collaborations will therefore be crucial, which is why this initiative is very welcome, Monica Quinteiro says, site manager at SSAB Luleå.

Luleå University of Technology is also investing in tailor-made commissioned training for professionals and in a new scheme called the CH2ESS trainee, where students together with the companies' employees solve specific challenges in the energy transition with hydrogen. For graduate engineering students at Luleå University of Technology, CH 2 ESS is a unique opportunity to become directly involved in the sustainable “Klondike-like” environment with research and development around hydrogen technology that is now gaining momentum in northern Sweden.