The Federal Government has prioritised clean hydrogen as one of the central pillars of its Technology Investment Roadmap. Several major green hydrogen projects are currently in development, including the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which would be one of the world’s largest renewable energy projects. The country aims to become a global leader in this emerging sector, and factors such as its vast expanse of land, the availability of existing infrastructure for renewable energy sources (e.g., wind and solar power), along with the Australian Government’s support, make the country an exceptional choice for potential players.

Hydrogen water treatment at a glance

Generating hydrogen through electrolysis requires a substantial amount of purified water. Without it, there is a risk of equipment failure and poor performance. A 100MW plant typically requires about 20m³/h of deionised water and about 60m³/h of cooling tower make-up water (if cooling towers are used). 

Every production site must therefore have a reliable water source and the means to purify it. Water can be drawn from many different sources for green hydrogen production. While tap water might seem like the easiest source for treatment, it may be more cost-effective to utilise surface water, seawater, groundwater, or even wastewater. For these reasons, Veolia works closely with electrolyser manufacturers and hydrogen producers to consider all the key project requirements to design efficient water treatment plants to feed their water source into. 

Maximising electrolyser performance 

Electrolysers are one of the most expensive aspects of green hydrogen production. Poor water quality can affect them in several costly ways. 

When water carries pollutants into the electrolyser cells, it causes damage over time and leads to downtime when repairs become necessary – costing the operator both time and money due to delays in production. 

More concerning is the risk to electrolyser cell service life. When poor quality water shortens this by a few years, production costs can become higher than expected. Poor quality water can lower electrolyser productivity and can also increase the energy consumed to produce the same amount of hydrogen. This presents yet another avoidable cost challenge to the production process. 

Cost efficiencies from processed wastewater

With the right technology in place, water from cooling tower blowdown and other process streams may be recovered and reused. As a result, the overall water intake (footprint) is reduced together with the overall cost of hydrogen production.

Oxygen emitted from electrolysis and the thermal heat generated may also be used within the water treatment process. With the usage of hydrogen production by-products within plant operations, companies can create a more sustainable process while minimising the cost per kilo of hydrogen produced.

Balancing OPEX and CAPEX

From water source choice to treatment plant installation and maintenance, these decisions impact the balance between capital and operational expenditure. For example, opting for a water treatment plant design that requires a higher initial capital expenditure could be justified by the potential for lower operating costs in the years ahead.

For example, a thermal solution could be ideal for a remote location, such as an offshore plant, where maintenance provision such as electricity would be more expensive. The use of wastewater or seawater as a water source instead of tap water would also be a more cost-effective option in this case. 

Working with a water solutions provider with a good understanding of water-related risks and opportunities will allow plant owners and operators to implement better project approaches and ensure greater success and cost-effectiveness for any hydrogen project journey. 

Leno Cavarra, Client Executive Manager at Veolia Water Technology, Australia & New Zealand, shared, “Veolia firmly believes that early engagement with a specialist water treatment technology provider can help to ensure the project design balances the varied requirements for performance, CAPEX, OPEX, and environmental sustainability, and can truly add value to any Green Hydrogen plant looking to be built.” 

“Creating efficient water treatment plants can help to guarantee a reliable water source for electrolysis,” added Cavarra. 

“By mitigating the risks associated with challenging water quality, we can protect the performance of electrolyser cells, minimising downtime and maximising productivity. This way, we can build a sustainable future where water reuse concepts and by-product utilisation further drive costs down, making green hydrogen a formidable force in the global energy landscape for years to come.”

Veolia Water Technologies provides total water management solutions and support, including the services required for operations and maintenance, and proven expertise to help operators strike the right balance between CAPEX and OPEX investments. 

Veolia will be holding a presentation at Asia-Pacific Hydrogen 2023’s H2 Tech Series on Friday, 27 October, from 3:30pm to 3:45pm, at the ICC Sydney, Australia. 

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Veolia Water Technologies. Find out how Veolia can help to improve the cost-effectiveness of your hydrogen production project here:

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