Power-to-X: A 100% Renewable Energy System
The talk about decarbonization of the planet is ‘literally’ the buzzword that is humming within the energy sector. After all, the shift from fossil to renewable energy sources is quite inevitable. Climate change is obvious and the continued damage caused by the emission of greenhouse gases is nothing short of a slow catastrophe in the beckoning. This is probably one of the main reasons why we see global leaders and companies scrambling to find an immediate solution.
It has now become imperative to attaining a ‘zero-carbon emission‘ target to prevent further damage to our ecosystem. There is a significant effort taken to limit global warming to well below 2 oC, as per the Paris agreement, and close to 174 countries have signed to limit emissions substantially and move to a more decarbonized economy. This would mean a significant reduction in the usage of fossil energy and an increase in the usage of alternate or renewable sources of energy, without having to compromise the power output.
Power-to-X (P2X) is one such energy that is seen as an important catalyst towards achieving a carbon-free world. P2X provides the opportunity to convert energy from renewable resources into a chemical form for long term storage and use, with e-Hydrogen being an important component. In simple terms, the excess energy produced from the Sun and Wind can be stored and used to power the transport segment and certain industries – eventually saving fossil fuels.
What is Power-to-X?
The world is now taking every positive step towards renewable energy and more electricity is being generated from the Sun and Wind. Renewable energy used to be a costly affair but with the advancement of technologies the price of renewable power is reducing considerably, but the reach is still scanty. Many industries are still dominated by fossil fuels especially heating, transport, and industrial processes sector rely heavily on fossils fuels for energy consumption. P2X is going to be the key to unlocking the true potential of this sector-coupling concept.
Power-to-X a Snapshot
P2X involves a process of converting surplus electric power into heat, hydrogen, and synthetic fuels. To give an example, a wind turbine in Germany sometimes produces excess power and they are disconnected from the grid to prevent overloading. However, this surplus energy can be stored in different formats and utilized when there is a spike or diverted elsewhere. Through P2X the excess power can be used to split water into Oxygen and Hydrogen, through electrolysis. The hydrogen can be stored and diverted to industries that rely on fossil fuels.
But does this trend sound practical? It is a long haul to get the confidence of the mobility segment especially those who are into heavy-transportation, aviation, and shipping. But to look at it rather positively, ‘e-fuels’, energy-dense synthetic fuels generated through this process, should be able to replace fossil fuels significantly soon.
The Cost Factor
Cost plays a significant role in any new technology to take shape and come to fruition. High costs are probably the biggest down player for P2X to take the energy sector by storm. At present, hydrogen is still produced from crude oil and natural gas which is far cheaper than sourcing it from renewable sources. It is just a matter of time this technology becomes affordable similar to how photovoltaic solar power was expensive. But with growing demand and mass production led to a significant drop in prices.
The soaring demand for power will require companies to explore alternate methods of generation. Renewable energy is taking the front seat when it comes to change. Germany and Japan are exploring hydrogen fuel stations and are actively promoting this alternate method. Synthetic fuel, produced with green electricity through electrolysis, could very soon be an alternate for aviation fuel replacing the highly polluting kerosene-based jet fuel. The future looks open and bright for P2X fuels which would see a great demand if implemented properly and availability is not hampered.
“The quest for recovering and utilizing wasted energy has been a continuous & prominent one for engineers & scholars globally for many years. This quest is what led to Turbochargers in Engines, Heat recovery boilers in power plants, and so on. P2X is the evolution of this quest and is set to revolutionize the way we define truly sustainable, clean sources of energy.” says Navin Kumar, Managing Director, Navsar Engineering International Pte. Ltd.
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Article References: www.dw.com, Siemens