Barcelona will host a hydrogen laboratory and a pilot plant to produce green hydrogen

Catalan Economy · Chemistry & Sustainability

14 Nov 2023

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech (UPC) has launched its hydrogen laboratory and green hydrogen production pilot plant. These state-of-the-art facilities serve as a living lab to advance research and innovation in hydrogen technologies, a pivotal energy vector in the transition toward decarbonization.

Catalonia's President, Pere Aragonès, and the Minister for Business and Labour, Roger Torrent, inaugurated a hydrogen laboratory and green hydrogen production pilot plant at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) last week.

This event marks the debut of Spain's first-of-its-kind facility and positions it at the forefront of similar European initiatives. It offers a showcase of hydrogen technology for both the corporate sector and academia.

The hydrogen laboratory and green hydrogen production pilot plant are at the forefront of developing new hydrogen technologies (H2). These facilities not only advance research but also offer technical support and durability testing services to the industry.

Specifically, the laboratory researches hydrogen production, compression, transportation, storage, and utilization. The hydrogen and electricity used for experiments in the laboratory are locally, sustainably, and modularly produced. This configuration establishes the laboratory's microgrid, optimizing both hydrogen and electricity consumption and production.

“It is a unique infrastructure in Spain and one of the few currently operational in Europe, which positions Catalonia at the forefront of green hydrogen and the energy transition”

Daniel Crespo, Rector of the UPC

During the inauguration of these facilities, the speakers addressing the audience were the President of the Government of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès; the Mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Collboni; the Mayor of Sant Adrià de Besòs, Filo Cañete; the Rector of UPC, Daniel Crespo, and the Vice-Rector for Research, Jordi Llorca. The event also featured contributions from researcher Maria Serra, the Director of the Specific Centre for Hydrogen Research (CER-H2), and researchers Attila Husar and Lluís Soler, who serve as deputy directors at the same research center.

President Pere Aragonès asserted, "The country's reindustrialization must go hand in hand with a new energy model, and hydrogen plays a fundamental role. We are inaugurating a cutting-edge, benchmark infrastructure that will contribute to developing the green hydrogen ecosystem in Catalonia". He further stated, "We are committed to transferring the knowledge generated in universities and research centers to the productive economy to enhance competitiveness".

The Rector of UPC, Daniel Crespo, highlighted, "It is a unique infrastructure in Spain and one of the few currently operational in the European Union, which positions Catalonia at the forefront of green hydrogen and the energy transition". He also emphasized that “Barcelona and its metropolitan area can increase the critical mass of projects to bolster their position as a hub for low-carbon economic development”. The Rector encouraged the President of the Government of Catalonia to continue placing trust in universities and allocating resources, as he stated, "It is an excellent national strategy". He concluded by affirming, "The UPC and universities, in general, multiply the impact of the funds invested in them, creating both economic and social value".

Innovation hub and pioneering research

One of the critical challenges in hydrogen technologies for the coming years is the decarbonization of industry and transportation. Facilities like this pilot hydrogen plant are fundamental in progressing toward this goal.

In this regard, in recent years, UPC has secured approximately 6 million euros in funding for projects directly related to hydrogen. In 2022, the university established the Specific Centre for Hydrogen Research (CER-H2), consolidating its research activities in this field. CER-H2 boasts a team of over thirty researchers from nine research groups and has become a prominent research hub. The center offers a range of technological and research capabilities to enable companies to explore innovative paths in this field. These capabilities encompass everything from green hydrogen production using renewable energy or combined with emissions absorption for blue hydrogen, as well as storage, distribution, and final applications in both industry and transportation.

Some of the innovative projects carried out at CER-H2 through the hydrogen pilot production plant are focused on developing new liquid hydrogen storage systems, transforming them into synthetic liquid fuels for zero-emission aircraft propulsion, or creating bimetallic catalysts for the production of green and blue hydrogen. Also, hydrogen fuel cells are being designed for hybrid electric vehicles and intelligent hydrogen combustion systems to decarbonize the glass, cement, steel, and ceramic industries.

Simultaneously, the laboratory explores the use of hydrogen as a chemical product in ammonia manufacturing. The goal is to produce ammonia using green hydrogen without emitting harmful pollutants. Currently, ammonia production typically relies on grey hydrogen derived from natural gas, which emits greenhouse gases. The research also examines its application as a fertilizer and a fuel for maritime transportation.

Source: UPC

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