ENEL Green Power Case study
In 2023, ENEL Green Power, the renewables arm of the ENEL energy group, launched a collaboration with RINA aimed at identifying the training needs of its technical personnel working in H2, both in Europe and worldwide.
The first step in the collaboration was to identify the professional profiles and skills that would be needed by ENEL for the management and maintenance (O&M) of green hydrogen production through electrolysis technology.
Based on the findings, the partners co-designed a modular training package for staff.
The training package proposed by RINA’s experts had several principal objectives:
- To transmit basic knowledge relating to green hydrogen to all ENEL employees and increase their awareness of the role of hydrogen in the energy scenario
- To promote safety practices in line with the relevant safety regulations and policies
- And to increase staff awareness of the guidelines, processes and procedures relating to operational maintenance, enabling a homogeneous work model and operational excellence
A modular and blended system was chosen to accommodate different skill levels, languages and time zones.
Meanwhile, the training included e-learning with free content and quizzes, live webinars and in-depth discussions with experts, as well as remote face-to-face training with an H2 plant to get practical experience on security and maintenance issues.
Hydrogen is set to play a key role in the energy transition due to its chemical and physical characteristics, which are significantly different from most common hydrocarbon fuel gases, such as natural gas and propane.
The risks associated with hydrogen use are closely related to its characteristics, and it is necessary to evaluate them carefully when designing, constructing, and operating plants.
In terms of fire and explosion hazards, hydrogen’s most distinctive characteristic is its flammability range, which is very wide, within 4 percent (LFL) and 75 percent (UFL), as well as its very low Minimum Ignition Energy (MIE) of 0.017 milliJoule. These two characteristics combined mean that hydrogen can easily ignite upon release.
At atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature hydrogen is gaseous with a very low density (0.0838 kg/m3), about 14 times lower than air. The low density of hydrogen results in high buoyancy (the tendency to disperse rapidly upwards) that can be an advantage in terms of safety, since in case of release hydrogen disperses upward and dilutes in air, reaching concentrations below the LFL in a short time.
The low density of hydrogen means, however, that it is necessary to compress it to a high pressure (up to 700-1000 bar) to reduce its volume and to be able to handle it within reasonable volumes, and there are safety issues related to the use of pressurized equipment (PED).
When burning, hydrogen flame emits low levels of radiation in the infrared range (no heat is perceived by people), and most of the radiation is emitted in the ultraviolet range. As a result, it is poorly visible to the naked eye, especially in daytime.
The design of plants and layout is crucial: attention must be given to the context, and it is recommended to proceed with a Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) to identify credible accident scenarios and assess the consequences.
Since concrete applications for green hydrogen plants are still limited, risk perception associated with this type of plant is limited. It is crucial not to underestimate the risks, and to rely on the applicable technical standards.
RINA has invested a lot in studying the safety of hydrogen, which is demonstrated by a recent collaboration. In 2022, RINA and the Dipartimento dei Vigili del fuoco del Soccorso pubblico e della Difesa civile signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the aim of carrying out studies and research into the field of energy transition and safety.
The agreement provides for initiatives related to the interchange of technical information and experience in the field of fire and explosion risk assessment, as well as the formation of study and research groups, thus enabling RINA and Vigili del Fuoco to enhance each other’s expertise.
Within this framework, in 2022 RINA participated as an external expert in the Working Group that led to the publication of the important Ministerial Decree of July 7, 2023, “Technical rule of fire prevention for the identification of risk analysis methodologies and fire safety measures for the design, construction and operation of hydrogen production plants by electrolysis and related storage systems.”
Since 2009, Europe has set renewable energy targets for its Member States. The current Renewable Energy Directive of 2018 (known as RED II) mandates that 32% of gross final energy consumption must be met by renewable sources by the year 2030, with a dedicated target share of 14% in the transport sector.
On 20 November 2023, the Third Renewable Energy Directive (Directive 2023/2413, known as RED III) entered into force. This is an amending Directive that does not modify all the articles of RED II. Member States have 18 months from this date to transpose the directive into national law.
RED III sets more ambitious renewable energy targets for 2030, in line with the EU carbon neutrality target of 2050 set by the Green Deal and its goal to reduce GHG emissions by 55% in 2030.
The new targets mandate at least 42.5% of gross energy by renewables by 2030, and 29% in the transport sector. Alternately, the transport sector can also comply by achieving a greenhouse gas intensity reduction of at least 14.5% by 2030.
The renewable fuels that count to reach the targets are: Liquid Biofuels (to be used in the transport sector); Liquids Bioliquids (in the power generation, and heating and cooling sectors); Solid and gaseous biomass fuels (in power generation, heating and cooling, and transport); Recycled carbon fuels (RCF) (transport sector); and finally Liquid and gaseous fuels from renewable non-biological sources (RFNBO) (transport sector, and subsequently all sectors including industry when RED III is adopted).
Particularly favoured, with additional sub-targets, are fuels deriving from feedstocks like waste or residue or non-edible raw materials (listed in Annex IX of the RED II) and RFNBO. This is because they do not compete with the food sector, and the derived waste does not go into landfill. Furthermore, procuring the waste involves little to no cost, and is sourced locally.
There remain, however, concerns about the wider impact and true sustainability of individual fuels over the full supply chain. What are the total greenhouse gas savings, what is the impact from changes in land use, the social impact, the threat to biodiversity, and in the case of waste and by-products, the risk of fraud?
To meet these concerns, the Renewable Energy Directives set criteria under which these fuels can be certified. These cover the entire supply chain and provide a guarantee of fuels’ real sustainability. Complying with the criteria is a prerequisite for receiving government support.
RINA Services S.p.A, is the ideal partner for the certification of fuel sustainability according to the Renewable Energy Directives. Specialised in environmental certification, inspection, testing for the agro-forestry, energy, environmental, chemical sectors, it is accredited by a range of certification schemes*.
By verifying the true benefits of renewables over the entire supply chain, certification will contribute to an efficient energy transition, in line with Europe’s targets.
* RINA Services S.p.A. is accredited by ACCREDIA for the certification of biofuels and bioliquids, according to the national scheme established by Decree 14.11. 2019 and is recognised, respectively by ISCC System GmbH and by 2BS Consortium, for the certification of biofuels, bioliquids, biomass fuels for uses other than transport, advanced biofuels, biofuels with low ILUC risk, renewable fuels of non-biological origin for transport, known as RFNBO* and fuels from recycled carbon, known as RCF*, according to the voluntary schemes approved by the European Community according to the RED 2 Directive (Directive 2001/2018/EC) ISCC EU and 2BS. (*for RFNBO and RCF, recognition of the schemes by the European Community is pending). RINA Services S.p.A. is also recognised by ISCC System GmbH for the certification of sustainable aviation fuels, known as SAF, according to the ISCC CORSIA scheme, one of the schemes approved by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) for certification according to the sustainability criteria defined by CORSIA.
In the quest for a sustainable and eco-friendly future, hydrogen has emerged as a promising solution to decarbonize energy systems.
The TH2ICINO project, which stands for ‘Towards H2ydrogen Integrated eConomies In NOrthern Italy’, is a groundbreaking initiative aimed at supporting the deployment of micro hydrogen economies in the European Union (EU).
This prototype hydrogen ecosystem in Northern Italy has the potential to set the stage for replicable micro hydrogen ecosystems across Europe.
The TH2ICINO project focuses on four key pillars of the hydrogen value chain: hydrogen production, storage, distribution, and consumption. Its holistic approach to sustainable hydrogen production and utilization sets it apart as a pioneering effort in the region.
At the core of the TH2ICINO project is the creation of an innovative concept for green hydrogen production. Utilizing the potential of renewable power sources and local assets, the project aims to decarbonize at least two sectors within the region. The objective is to produce a minimum of 500 tons of hydrogen annually, with the potential for even higher production.
To ensure the feasibility, scalability, and replicability of the micro hydrogen ecosystem, TH2ICINO utilizes the Master Planning Tool (MPT), based on the Artelys Crystal Super Grid platform1.
This tool is custom-tailored to the requirements of EU Hydrogen Valleys (H2V) and will be integrated into a comprehensive software suite.
The MPT serves as a guide for local and regional decision-makers and companies within the hydrogen sector to develop and deploy similar micro hydrogen economies while adapting to geographical constraints and leveraging existing assets.
Emissions monitoring and CO2 savings are vital aspects of the TH2ICINO project. The goal is to reduce emissions by a substantial 4,400 tons of CO2 annually. This reduction will not only establish the valley as an eco-friendly zone but also set a benchmark for tracking the technical growth strategy over time.
The TH2ICINO project’s demonstration phase is a pivotal step in showcasing the feasibility and practicality of the proposed micro hydrogen ecosystem. It involves various demo cases, and use cases to define business models, diversify the valley’s assets with different technology choices, and identify non-technical barriers for future expansion.
Notably, the involvement of SEA Milano Airports, operating Malpensa International Airport (MXP), presents an exciting opportunity to integrate hydrogen into aviation.
The proximity of MXP to hydropower stations along the Ticino River positions it as a pioneer in decarbonizing air travel. Passenger mobility companies operating in the area also have the potential to become hydrogen consumers, strengthening the entire value chain.
The TH2ICINO project aspires to contribute to the broader goal of establishing sustainable hydrogen-based economies in Europe. Its replicable nature, coupled with the development of the Master Planning Tool (MPT), offers valuable insights and practical guidance for the implementation of micro hydrogen economies and their potential for scalability.
By focusing on emissions monitoring and the demonstration of various use cases, the project emphasizes its contribution towards achieving a clean energy future. The journey towards hydrogen integrated economies in Northern Italy is not only a regional endeavor but also a pioneering example for Europe and the world.
In July 2023, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) revised its initial 2018 greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy and set a new net zero target of 2050 for shipping.
In parallel, the “Fit for 55” package, a comprehensive set of directives designed by the European Parliament, will ensure Europe becomes the first climate neutral continent by 2050.
This new era for shipping will require companies to closely monitor their fleets in order to meet progressively more stringent emission requirements, while avoiding pollution penalties.
Each shipping company will be required to adopt a ‘techno-economic’ strategy that is appropriate for its individual business model and fleet operating profile, and the use of alternative fuels and advanced technologies will play a leading role going forward.
In the shipping industry, nuclear solutions are now being viewed with increasing interest as a potential means of meeting decarbonization goals.
In 2022, RINA Consulting was commissioned by CETUD (the Executive Council of Urban Transport of Dakar) to study the technical, economic and financial feasibility of a biofuel conversion chain to supply Dakar’s bus fleet using local vegetable, animal and household residues.
RINA conducted a multi-criteria analysis of the different potentially exploitable biofuel chains in Senegal, and proposed recommendations on the final choice based on project diagnosis and benchmarking. The study also assessed the feasibility of such production, with an identification of the entire supply chain up to final user.
After the diagnostic phase, attention was focused on the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to biomethane chain, considered the most promising for urban transport use in Senegal and in particular in the Dakar metropolitan area.
Indeed, the anaerobic digestion process of these wastes and the valorization of biogas into biomethane offers obvious advantages by exploiting widely available materials that are generally directed to landfills.
Furthermore, the method promotes a virtuous recovery of dangerous and polluting materials, with the additional benefit of reducing CO2 and GHG emissions over the life cycle. By making available by-products (digestate) which can in turn be resold and reused, the method contributes to the creation of an economy circular (residues > biofuel > fertilizer > agricultural raw materials > residues).
Wastewater and food industry waste can also be used in these proposed production units without modification. While they are not a necessary addition, they could be added to the raw materials in the production units, were they to become more readily available in the coming years.
Given that the technology needed for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to biomethane production is largely proven and carries few technical uncertainties, it was not considered necessary to consider a small-scale pilot installation.
On the contrary, the direct construction of an industrial-sized facility was considered suitable for the pilot plant, using three development phases:
- An initial pilot plant for 365 m³/h biofuel production for 127 buses, requiring a raw material quantity of 22 thousand tons per year of MSW;
- An expansion of this production site to service a total of 381 buses, requiring two additional plants of the same size on the same site;
- A second full-size production site needing more than 110 thousand tons per year of MSW, enabling the operation of another 635 biomethane buses.
Based on the implementation of these three phases, total production of biomethane could reach approximately 24 million m³ per year. This capacity could potentially power the entire fleet included in the CETUD project for the Dakar bus network.
As the world moves towards net zero by 2050, green hydrogen will play an important role in the future sustainable energy mix. However, generating large volumes of green hydrogen also requires large volumes of water, together with large amounts of renewable electricity.
Crucial questions regarding water utilization are beginning to emerge: How much water is required? What level of water quality is necessary? And from what sources should the water be obtained?
From a stoichiometric perspective, 1 kilogram of hydrogen requires the input of 9 kilograms of ultrapure water. This value increases to approximately 20 kilograms when inefficiencies are considered.
In addition to this, we need to account for the cooling water used to control equipment temperature. Here, it is more difficult to calculate an exact figure, but as a general rule of thumb, it is roughly twice the amount required for electrolysis.
For most of the smaller projects completed so far, water from the drinking water network is used. However, as hydrogen plants increase in size, this approach becomes unsustainable and the other main raw water sources have to be adopted: groundwater, treated wastewater and seawater.
The projected 409 million tonnes of green hydrogen needed by 2050 in IRENA’s 1.5°C pathway would require around 7–9 billion cubic metres (m3) of water per year, less than 0.25% of current freshwater consumption. According to these figures, water does not present a bottleneck for scaling up electrolysis.
However, it’s interesting to note that many regions rich in the renewable sources that are fundamental for green hydrogen production also face water scarcity issues. More than 70% of green hydrogen projects are planned in Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and Latin America.
For large installations in these countries, it is likely that seawater will be the only viable sustainable source of water. The desalination of water can as a byproduct also address critical local needs like the generation of tap water, providing communities with access to freshwater. However, conversely the issue of disposing of the wastewater or brine produced by the seawater treatment has to be carefully managed, in particular for large scale (GW) installations.
An alternative to seawater desalination could be direct sea water electrolysis, a technology under development that may play an important role in the future.
For a fast and secure development of large-scale green hydrogen production, it is crucial to take into account water usage requirements at an early stage of the project.
This will encompass elements such as the risk related to water security, environmental and social concerns, and the need to adopt an integrated approach that considers water supply and disposal, power needs, cooling technologies, and project location.
The energy transition is a complex and challenging process that will require significant investment. The European Union (EU) is committed to supporting this transition, and has a number of funding programmes in place to help businesses, governments, and other organisations invest in clean energy and decarbonisation technologies.
These programmes include (non-exhaustive): Horizon Europe, dedicated to research and innovation, with a budget of €95.5 billion, covering the period 2021-2027; LIFE Programme, entirely focused on environmental, climate, and energy objectives, with a total financial envelope of €5.43 billion within the period 2021 - 2027; Innovation Fund, dedicated to the demonstration of innovative low-carbon technologies. The budget is linked to EU-ETS (Emission Trading System) and may amount to €40 billion from 2020 to 2030; Modernisation Fund, supporting the moderinisation of energy systems and improvement of energy efficiency in 13 lower-income Member States. The total revenues amount to €57 billion from 2021 to 2030, assuming a carbon price of €75/tCO2; Just Transition Fund, supporting the areas most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality and for preventing an increase in regional disparities, with a total budget of €19.32 billion from 2021 to 2027.
There are also smaller funds such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), Cohesion Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
In addition to EU funding programmes, there are also several national schemes available in Europe to support the energy transition. These vary from country to country, but they typically cover a wide range of areas, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grids, clean transport, and carbon capture & storage (CCS).
The funding programmes help to:
- bridge the funding gap. This is especially important in developing countries and regions, where the cost of clean energy technologies may be prohibitive.
- de-risk investments in clean-tech. This is important because clean energy technologies are often new and unfamiliar, and investors may be hesitant to invest in them without financial support from the government.
- scale up investments in clean-tech. By providing financial support to a large number of projects, EU funding instruments can help to drive down the cost of clean energy technologies and make them more competitive.
It is important to underline that applying to EU and national funding programmes requires the integration of different skills and competences, including:
- Strategic planning skill to create specific business strategies and models in regard to the company’s overall long- term goals aligned to the funding programme objectives.
- Technical skills to assess project feasibility from a technical point of view.
- Financial skills to assess project feasibility from a financial point of view.
- Environmental impact assessment competences to assess the project impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change. For instance, “Do No Significant Harm (DNSH) assessment” is required in all tenders by the Italian Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR).
RINA provides comprehensive support in the preparation and submission of applications for the main EU and national funding programmes.
If funding is granted, RINA can also contribute to the subsequent implementation of projects using its specialist technical-engineering and economic-financial skills.
In the battle for cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, methanation has emerged as a captivating technology that could play a pivotal role in reducing carbon emissions.
Methanation, with its magical transformation power, is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) into methane (CH4), with a side release of pure, sparkling H2O.
In other words, with methanation, villainous carbon dioxide is transformed into desirable methane and, furthermore, the process exploits the excess energy from renewables, converting it into a substance that can be stored and used when most needed.
The science behind methanation is compelling. With a metal-based catalyst, the so-called Sabatier reaction allows the transformation of the primary reactants into methane and water. This can be tapped for many useful purposes, the most obvious ones being the reduction of greenhouse gases and the storage of precious excess energy into valuable methane.
Methanation could potentially play an even bigger role by being not only net zero but carbon negative. Methanation can reduce the overall quantity of circulating CO2, for example, in association with the popular Direct Air Capture technology.
What are the drawbacks? Why has methanation not yet made a bigger impact in the fight for decarbonization?
There remain several challenges still to be addressed before we can exploit the full potential of methanation. These include: the cost of (green) hydrogen production, the efficiency of the methanation process, the economic viability of methanation, and the actual scalability of the technology to larger industrial levels.
These days, governments, research institutions and private organizations including RINA are investing increasing time and money to overcome these challenges, in a bid to advance the adoption of methanation technology, and reduce the associated capital and operational costs of methanation.
Policies and incentives are being introduced in Europe and beyond to support the development and deployment of green hydrogen and methanation technologies, as part of efforts to achieve climate targets.
Various demonstration projects are also being developed worldwide, aimed at showcasing the feasibility and benefits of methanation.
All of these projects will play a vital role in increasing the general awareness and acceptance of the technology.
In this generations-long fight against climate change, we can only hope that the challenges are overcome in order that methanation can take its place in the panel of technological solutions which can work to make the world a greener and safer place.