On March 16, 2023, WTZ e.V. organized a round table on the topic of water consumption in electrolysis and technical approaches for a resource-saving H2 production. Within the round table, technologies were discussed that may support the development of a hydrogen economy that is as resource efficient as possible.
Prof. Dr. Martina Flörke from the Chair of Engineering Hydrology and Water Resources Management at the Ruhr University Bochum opened the discussion with an impulse lecture on water resources as a significant factor of the energy transition on a local and global level. During her presentation, she addressed the issue of water scarcity as a driver of the energy transition as well as its impact on conventional energy systems. She highlighted the competition between water use and energy production using local and global practical examples and presented the so-called Water Scarcity Footprint as an indicator for evaluating and comparing case studies in terms of their local and global impacts. She pointed out the urgent need for a comprehensive analysis of the sustainability of energy projects along the entire energy supply chain to avoid problem-shifting of negative environmental impacts.
The first session of the round table was titled "Water Consumption in H2 Production" and was opened by Prof. Dr. Torsten Birth, Group Leader Energy and Resource Efficient Systems at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF, who addressed water as a critical resource in hydrogen production in his presentation. With a view to the European and National hydrogen strategy as well as water needs and quality requirements in electrolysis, he spoke about the water resources in Central Germany, the boundary conditions for electrolysis in the region and presented the PtX test field "ResearchField" in Saxony-Anhalt.
In the presentation Water Management for a Green Hydrogen Economy in Kazakhstan, Dr. Robert Stüwe, Senior Expert Hydrogen & Synthetic Energy Carriers, and Fabio Weiß, Expert Hydrogen and Synthetic Energy Carriers from the German Energy Agency GmbH (dena), considered hydrogen production against the background of scarce water resources. They presented approaches to water management and described the low level of regional harmonization of water policies in Kazakhstan. They also provided insight into untapped water conservation potential and its impact on local hydrogen production.
Another regional example was presented by Dr. Daniel Frank, Project Manager Water Management at DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e.V. in his presentation Technical Aspects of Hydrogen Production and Water Management in Namibia. After a brief overview of the framework conditions in Namibia, he presented two scenarios for inland and coastal PtX production. Within the second scenario, he discussed in particular the state of the technologies and the potentials of seawater desalination and concentrate treatment after electrolysis.
In the second session "Electrolysis Technologies in the Context of Water Consumption", Mr. Trung Ngo Thanh, Group Leader Seawater Electrolysis at the Laboratory of Electrochemical Energy, Catalysis and Materials Science, Department of Chemistry at the Technical University of Berlin, first presented electrolysis technology for direct splitting of seawater into hydrogen and oxygen. He explained the process steps in electrolysis, the current state of the art and addressed issues of components and materials.
Finally, Mr. Benjamin Buchholz, Project Manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems IWES, presented reasons for hydrogen production at sea using the example of hydrogen and electricity production costs in the North Sea and showed realization possibilities for offshore H2 using the example of the OffsH2ore project. He also presented the lead project H2Mare, in which a containerized H2 electrolyzer (seawater-resistant) is to be built for decentralized applications and the waste heat from electrolysis is to be used for water treatment.