Landsvirkjun has begun the process to develop a hydrogen production facility at its 16-MW Ljósifoss Hydropower Station, about 70 km outside of Reykjavík. The Icelandic national power company has presented the possibility to the District Board of Grímsnes and Grafnings District, which can decide whether to permit the facilities in their master plan.
“We would produce green hydrogen at Ljósifoss, through the electrolysis of water with renewable power,” says Business Development Manager Nanna Baldvinsdóttir. “This carbon-free method of producing hydrogen is still too uncommon, with most of the world’s hydrogen supply currently produced from natural gas with its respective carbon footprint.”
The unit would be housed in a 700m2 building that would be adequate for maximum production at 10 MW, although the electrolysis will be built out in phases, increasing in capacity as demand increases. About 4% of Iceland’s automotive fleet is made up of commercial freight vehicles, which are the source of 15% of Iceland’s transport emissions on land. At full capacity, the station would produce enough hydrogen to power the Reykjavík area’s entire public transportation fleet. “Hydrogen production is relatively simple compared to the production of other fuels. Although our staff will receive some additional training, we at Landsvirkjun already have the basic knowledge required,” Baldvinsdottir said.
Because hydrogen, batteries and methane all have different characteristics, it is ultimately the needs of the user that determine which fuel is most suitable. Using hydrogen as a fuel has many benefits. Provided the electricity used to make hydrogen is renewable, it is virtually carbon-free. It has minimal environmental effect. Being lighter than air, it rises rapidly if a leak occurs. Baldvinsdottir states that one of the most appealing traits of hydrogen production to Landsvirkjun is the fact that production can be controlled to match the availability of power on the system. “Electrolysers are built to withstand varying production levels in accordance with both hydrogen demand and power availability, allowing the producer to adjust output levels to the needs of the market at any time,” she said.
In addition, hydrogen can be used for electricity production and heating and is a vital component in a number of industrial processes.
Despite hydrogen’s advantages, there are difficulties to be overcome in its use. It is low in energy per volume, making it expensive to store and transport. Hydrogen is flammable, so many of the safety rules applicable to oil and gas facilities apply to hydrogen as well.