Earl Goetheer

Dr. Thijs de Groot

Thijs de Groot is innovation technologist at Nouryon Industrial Chemicals, the branch of  Nouryon (formerly known as AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals) that is one of the leaders in chlorine and caustic in Europe. Thijs is responsible for the development of the electrification program of the company, for which he mainly focuses on hydrogen production by electrolysis. Since October 2016 Thijs is also part-time assistant professor in Electrochemical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). In his research Thijs focuses on the intensification of water electrolysis. Thijs is a (co-)author of 17 scientific publications and 8 patent applications.

Thijs studied Chemical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) where he obtained his master's degree cum laude in 2002. After that he performed PhD research on electrocatalysis at TU/e and Leiden University. At AkzoNobel he started working in Research, Development & Innovation, before moving to the business Industrial Chemicals in 2011, where Thijs has lead a wide range of innovation projects, such as production of sustainable methanol and organic carbonates, implementation of heat pumps and the capture of carbon dioxide.

Towards largescale cost-effective green hydrogen production

Green hydrogen will play a crucial role in the energy transition and the circular economy. It can act as a fossil free raw material for the chemical industry, can be used to generate high temperature heat, can decarbonize heavy transport and can be used for energy storage. For all these applications large amounts of green hydrogen will be needed, requiring tens of gigawatts of electrolysis in the Netherlands alone. To make the energy transition affordable it is critical that this green hydrogen production will not be too expensive. Since the main cost component of green hydrogen is electricity, it is very encouraging that the costs of offshore wind energy and solar power are rapidly decreasing. Another important cost component of green hydrogen are the capital costs of the electrolysis plants. At 1000 €/kW these costs are currently still too high. They need to come down to at least 350 €/kW for a completely installed plant to make green hydrogen competitive.

There are two methods that can contribute to cost reduction: scale-up and innovation. In scale-up we benefit from the fact that a 1 GW plant can produce hydrogen at a lower cost than a 1 MW plant, due to economies of scale in a.o. power conversion, cooling, drying and compression. Also, a scale-up of the green hydrogen technology is likely to lead to cheaper electrolyzers through cost reductions in the supply chain. As Nouryon we are therefore planning a gradual scale-up in hydrogen production, starting with 20 MW in 2021, 100 MW in 2023, ultimately leading to GW-scale around 2030. The first step in this process is the 20 MW plant Nouryon plans to build together with Gasunie in Delfzijl.

We also need innovation, since an issue with electrolyzers is that they do not “scale well”. This means that in contrast to other unit operations such as compressors, it is not possible to build a very large electrolyzer. Instead we need many small ones. Therefore the economies of scale for electrolyzers are less and innovation is needed to drive down the costs. Fortunately, there is still ample room for innovation in the two most competitive hydrogen production technologies: alkaline and PEM. In this presentation both technologies will be discussed and their development potential is addressed.     

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