Editorial Feature

Belgium's First Commercial-Scale Hydrogen Cogeneration Plant

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ENGIE and INEOS Phenol have teamed up to develop and maintain Belgium’s first hydrogen commercial-scale cogeneration plant.

The Hydrogen Revolution

Through a chemical reaction known as electrolysis, water is split into its chemical components, leaving two hydrogen molecules for every oxygen molecule produced. The hydrogen components produced from this reaction can be used to store and deliver usable energy in the form of electricity, power and heat.

Whereas grey hydrogen energy is produced from fossil fuels such as natural gas, renewable or ‘green’ hydrogen energy is produced from entirely renewable sources. Notably, however, is ‘blue’ hydrogen energy, which is also based on natural gas but is combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to minimize carbon emissions.

To date, common applications of hydrogen energy can be found in petroleum refining and fertilizer production plants. Within these industries, hydrogen energy is used for the generation of electricity and heating and various chemical and industrial processes. As the technology behind hydrogen energy production advances, this renewable energy source is expected to revolutionize how virtually all sectors of the economy operate.  

Renewable Energy in Belgium

By the end of the year 2020, Belgium relied on renewable energy sources for generating approximately 19% of their total power. Over the past year, Belgium produced 15.1 TWh of power from renewable energy sources, which is a significant increase from 2019, during which this country produced 11.5 TWh of renewable power.

By the end of 2020, Belgium had around 4670 megawatts (MW) of onshore and offshore operational wind power capacity and a cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity of 4788 MW, both of which rose considerably from the previous year.   

Belgium’s First Industrial Hydrogen Power Plant

Throughout Belgium, the interest in generating clean hydrogen energy was previously focused on developing hydrogen production plants into existing industrial gas hubs in Zeebrugge and Antwerp. By installing these plants directly on-site, the costs and risks associated with transporting hydrogen energy have been reduced significantly.

More recently, a joint pilot project between INEOS Phenol and ENGIE has been announced to further increase the production of hydrogen energy within Belgium by installing the country’s first commercial-scale cogeneration plant.

This project aims to replace the natural gas used by the INEOS gas turbine with hydrogen energy. This initiative is continuing the ambitious climate goal INEOS has set to reduce its emissions by 55% by 2030 and ultimately become carbon neutral by 2050.

INEOS currently produces around 300,000 tons of hydrogen energy each year. This joint project will significantly increase its hydrogen energy production rates, further supporting the reality of this company’s carbon-neutral future.

ENGIE, which currently operates in around 70 countries worldwide, will be primarily responsible for designing, installing, and maintaining the technology's everyday operation at the INEOS site.

For the past several years, ENGIE has emerged as a critical player in the global transition to renewable energy sources, particularly green hydrogen energy. The company has successfully worked in every step of the hydrogen value chain, beginning with how the renewable energy source is produced to incorporating hydrogen energy into its end-use application.

One recent success story of ENGIE has been the Coradia iLint in the Netherlands, which was the world’s first renewable hydrogen passenger train.

In addition to ENGIE’s role in the Belgium project, INEOS will also play a crucial role by incorporating its expertise in handling hydrogen as a raw material and providing the space needed to begin this hydrogen project.

The Impact of the ENGIE/INEOS Phenol Pilot

The ENGIE and INEOS project is expected to initially replace 10% of the natural gas feed with hydrogen energy. As the two companies become accustomed to producing and handling this new product, they anticipate that the hydrogen energy feed will gradually be increased to 20%.

In addition to expanding current hydrogen energy production within Belgium, the joint project between ENGIE and INEOS will also provide these energy companies with more information on how hydrogen energy can efficiently replace conventional energy sources for a wide variety of end uses.

ENGIE is already responsible for several hydrogen energy projects for Belgium's industrial and transportation sectors. Therefore, the insight it gains from this new venture will undoubtedly advance Belgium’s goal of truly achieving a carbon-neutral future.  

References and Further Reading

Hydrogen: A Clean, Flexible Energy Carrier [Online]. Available from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/hydrogen-clean-flexible-energy-carrier.

Renewables meet 18.6% of Belgium’s power demand in 2020 [Online]. Available from: https://renewablesnow.com/news/renewables-meet-186-of-belgiums-power-demand-in-2020-727303/.

The Potential of Clean Hydrogen: European and Belgian Opportunities [Online]. Available from: https://www.cliffordchance.com/briefings/2020/06/the-potential-of-clean-hydrogen--european-and-belgian-opportunit.html.

A first in Belgium: INEOS Phenol and ENGIE use hydrogen in industrial plant in Antwerp [Online]. Available from: https://www.ineos.com/news/shared-news/a-first-in-belgium-ineos-phenol-and-engie-use-hydrogen-in-industrial-plant-in-antwerp/.

Hydrogen – speeding up the transition towards carbon neutrality [Online]. Available from: https://www.engie.com/en/activities/renewable-energies/green-hydrogen.

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine; two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are used in anticancer therapy.

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