MechChem Africa

Nel Hydrogen’s Eric Dabe recently visited South Africa in support of southern African agency, RTS Africa Engineering. MechChem Africa talks to Dabe and RTS Africa MD, Ian Fraser.

Electrolyser hero Nel HydrogenNel’s history goes back to 1927 when, as Norsk Hydro, it developed and installed a large-scale hydrogen production plant for an ammonia fertiliser plant in Rjukan, Norway. As Norsk Hydro Electrolysers (NHEL) the company delivered its first hydrogen refuelling station in 2003. Acquired by Statoil in 2007, the company sold its 500th water alkaline electrolyser in 2008.

“We left Statoil in 2011 and were renamed Nel Hydrogen. In 2014, a group of highly regarded Norwegian investors came in and listed Nel Hydrogen on the Oslo Stock Exchange. This has enabled us to raise capital for development, most notably for the strategic acquisition of Denmark-based H2Logic, the leading global developer of hydrogen refuelling stations. We are currently building a factory in Denmark with the capacity to manufacture and deliver 300 hydrogen refuelling stations per year,” says Dabe.

Nel Hydrogen is now split into three divisions: Nel Hydrogen Electrolyser; Nel Hydrogen Fuelling; and the newly established division, Nel Hydrogen Solutions, set up to accommodate the increasing need for integrated systems and solutions

The new division targets emerging hydrogen markets, such as the mobility and energy sectors that are increasingly looking to hydrogen as a storage solution “Dabe tells MechChem Africa.

Generally known as ‘power-to-gas’, he says that the use of hydrogen as an energy storage medium for renewable energy systems has been successfully demonstrated over the past three to four years. “Power-to-gas arises from the deployment of renewable energy, most notably in Germany, which has the world’s most ambitious renewable energy programme. Germany is currently producing 25% of its electricity needs from renewable sources. The target is to reach 50% by 2030 and, by 2050, hopes are that 80% of the country’s energy requirements will be met via renewables,” notes Dabe.

The intermittent nature of renewable energy sources such as PV solar and wind creates instability and balancing issues if grid-connected. The low capacity factors also drive the tendency for the installed capacity to be higher than the demand. “This means that, at certain times, the system experiences enormous energy surpluses, which cannot be accommodated by the grid. The only current solution is curtailing, which is the equivalent of throwing away substantial quantities of high-value green energy,” Dabe suggests.

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