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7 June 2022 | Article

Companies making progress in the utilisation of hydrogen

The first large-scale hydrogen projects have already been launched around the Gulf of Bothnia. The companies presented their projects between 5 and 6 May 2022 at the BotH2nia Goes Oulu & Raahe event. Some 60 people were on hand to listen to the presentations at the University of Oulu and Raahe Event House, with around the same number following the event remotely via webinar.

Image: Susanna Halonen/City of Raahe.

Companies making progress in the utilisation of hydrogen

Pasi Pitkänen, Director of Raahe Region Development, welcomed the participants of the BotH2nia event to the metal industry city of Raahe.Pasi Pitkänen, Director of Raahe Region Development, welcomed the participants of the BotH2nia event to the metal industry city of Raahe. Image: Susanna Halonen/City of Raahe.


The highest-profile hydrogen project on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia is Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (HYBRIT), which is a joint effort by SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall to produce steel using hydrogen, with virtually no emissions. Head of Group Rick Abrahamsson of Vattenfall welcomed the planned hydrogen pipeline around the Bay of Bothnia.

"Now is the time for us to both highlight the great potential of hydrogen and discuss the problems associated with it, the biggest of which are related to zoning. Many people lack adequate knowledge when it comes to hydrogen,” says Abrahamsson.

According to Abrahamsson, Vattenfall is now cooperating extensively with other large companies, such as SAS.

"Vattenfall is now investing large sums in hydrogen," says Abrahamsson.

The production of steel using hydrogen also has a direct impact on the Finnish side, particularly in Raahe, which is a large metal industry city. SSAB is the city's largest employer, with 2,700 local employees.

According to Process Development Manager Jarmo Lilja, SSAB has already delivered the first batches of fossil-free steel produced at a hybrid pilot plant in Lumad to its customers. SSAB intends to eliminate CO2 emissions from its steel industry operations by the end of this decade. The Raahe steel plant will also be updated to this end.

According to Lilja, the shift from fossil coal to green energy can generate an annual savings of SEK 700 billion, which they prefer to spend on new investments.

SSAB steel plant area in Raahe. SSAB steel plant area in Raahe. SSAB plans to adopt a technology in the Nordic countries that almost completely eliminates carbon dioxide emissions from steel production. Image: Susanna Halonen/City of Raahe.

Projects in North Ostrobothnia

There are already several companies in North Ostrobothnia whose business is growing thanks to hydrogen.

For example, Skarta has several projects running in both Finland and Sweden. Vikke Saarelainen, Executive Vice President of Skarta Energy, emphasised the benefits of local energy, reiterating the possibilities that solar energy also offers in Finland. In Utajärvi, for example, a majority of the energy will be generated by the sun.

At the national level, the technology of Q Power, which is involved in several hydrogen projects, is used to sustainably produce large quantities of methane in a bioreactor.

"The reactor's efficiency is over 80 per cent," says Director of Sales Sami Lakio.

Hydrogen produced from water and carbon dioxide recovered from industrial emissions can be used to produce methane. Q Power also operates at biogas plants and landfills, where high-quality fuels can be refined from low-quality landfill gases. The scalability of microbiological methanation units enables production from 1 MW to more than 100 MW.

Raahe is already preparing for the arrival of the new hydrogen industry in the municipality by exploring suitable locations. Environmental Consultant Karoliina Markuksela of Ramboll Finland presented a report on the investment areas suitable for the hydrogen industry in Raahe.

When looking for suitable areas for the hydrogen industry, consideration must be given to, for example, natural values, the minimum safe distance from inhabited areas, the transfer of hydrogen, transport connections required for production and the location of other infrastructure. The report on Raahe identifies three regions that will be suitable for use by the hydrogen industry in the future, such as in terms of good location and the size of a suitable area.

The Port of Raahe has become the largest import port for wind turbines in Finland.The Port of Raahe has become the largest import port for wind turbines in Finland. Image: Susanna Halonen/City of Raahe.

International companies also in Finland

Sunfire, a company specialising in electrolysis technology based in Dresden, Germany, offers electrolysis equipment for industrial applications. The range includes pressurised alkaline and solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC) for hydrogen and syngas production. Thus far, a 250 MW pressurized alkaline electrolyser has been installed, and Sunfire is increasing its production capacity to gigawatts.

Wolf Thyssen, Vice President Technical Sales, says that solid oxide electrolysers are best suited for reducing electricity demand, as they boast an efficiency of 84%. According to Thyssen, Sunfire's SOEC electrolysers have now grown to several megawatts in size and are being delivered to the Neste Rotterdam refinery. In Finland, P2X Solutions is expected to start hydrogen production with Sunfire's pressurised alkaline electrolysers in 2024.

Lhyfe uses water electrolysis to produce hydrogen with renewable energy. Operations are now being developed across Europe, as the aim is to rapidly reduce emissions from transport and industry.

"We already have the first plant up and running, where wind power and saltwater are used to feed the process," says Björn Santana Arvidsson, Area Manager Nordics & UK.

Lhyfe has delivery solutions for both onshore and offshore hydrogen production. The capacities of the hydrogen production units range from 200 kg to 50,000 kg of hydrogen per day. As an example, Arvidsson presented a small unit that produces hydrogen for Deutsche Bahn trains. Lhyfe is already involved in more than 90 projects in Europe, several of which are in Finland and Sweden.

One of the major hydrogen producers on the world market is Air Liquide. Its global hydrogen business, covering the entire hydrogen value chain, already totals EUR 2 billion per year. Production Director Juha Ahvenlampi anticipates that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will further increase interest in hydrogen in Europe, as EU member states are striving to reduce their dependence on Russian gas, oil and coal imports.

Vice President Technical Sales Wolf Thysse of Sunfire, which produces electrolysers, speaking via webinar to the audience at the Raahe Event House.Vice President Technical Sales Wolf Thysse of Sunfire, which produces electrolysers, speaking via webinar to the audience at the Raahe Event House. Image: Susanna Halonen/City of Raahe.

Greater benefit from biomass through hydrogen

Research & Business Developer Johan Sandstedt of Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), the Swedish counterpart to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, emphasised the importance of managing the carbon cycle and enhancing technology in the bioeconomy. According to him, hydrogen is a revolutionary factor in the wise use of limited resources.

"Twice as much biofuel can be produced from the same amount of biomass," says Sandstedt.

Efficiency is key. Competition for coal recovered from biological sources is intensifying, as this coal is increasingly being used in the production of fuels, while it is suitable as a raw material for industry, for example in the production of plastics.

There are several opportunities to apply for EU funding for hydrogen projects, as explained by Federica Polo, EU Affairs Manager for Merinova. Technology Centre Merinova coordinates and manages the EnergyVaasa cluster. Merinova is also currently seeking partners for a new hydrogen project application.

BotH2nia event participants visited Raahe on a guided bus tour of the port and steel industry.BotH2nia event participants visited Raahe on a guided bus tour of the port and steel industry. Image: Susanna Halonen/City of Raahe.