The EU considers clean hydrogen to be one of the backbones of its future, sustainable energy system. European Hydrogen Week is an annual event that acts as a hub for discussions on the latest developments and innovations in hydrogen at a national, European and global level. It is co-organised by the European Commission, Hydrogen Europe, and the Clean Hydrogen Partnership.
SINTEF conducts research and development activities in a number of areas that are crucial for the development of a working clean hydrogen value chain. SINTEF leads and is involved in numerous hydrogen projects at both a Norwegian and international level.
The backbone of hydrogen and ammonia research and innovation in SINTEF is FME HYDROGENi, a Norwegian research and innovation centre for hydrogen and ammonia. HYDROGENi addresses numerous knowledge and technical gaps across the hydrogen value chain, in order to help establish a sustainable hydrogen economy. HYDROGENi was also the main driver for SINTEF’s participation in European Hydrogen Week.
“[European Hydrogen Week] is a key arena for SINTEF to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones with the common goal of establishing a European hydrogen value chain,” said Nils Røkke, EVP of sustainability and director of HYDROGENi. “It is also the natural place for HYDROGENi to display our results, engage with stakeholders, and deliver on the European hydrogen agenda. HYDROGENi may be a Norwegian centre for environment-friendly research (FME), but it certainly strives to be integral to hydrogen development at a European and global level.”
“EU and nationally funded research need to be aligned to provide synergies. One important and very successful Norwegian platform for research and innovation is the so-called centres for environment-friendly energy. These are flagships projects for energy research in Norway and provide a competence base that has paved the way for a substantial portion of the Norwegian success in the H2020 and now HEU,” said Steinar Grynning, who heads SINTEF’s Brussels office.
HYDROGENi Coordinator and SINTEF Research Manager Kyrre Sundseth also spoke on the importance of adopting a holistic approach to hydrogen research that considers the entire value chain during a panel discussion at the Norwegian Pavilion, hosted by Innovation Norway. He argued that more research at a lower technology readiness level (TRL) facilitates the technology’s uptake by industry:
“Small gains in research means significant cost savings when it comes to upscaling,” he said.
Research is critical for de-risking technologies and unlocking investments
SINTEF’s main activity at European Hydrogen Week was a dedicated booth in the exhibition hall. Due to the expo’s location in Brussels, SINTEF promoted several of its European projects and two hydrogen research infrastructures at its booth over the course of the week, in addition to FME HYDROGENi.
The booth had numerous visitors throughout the expo, who expressed a particular interest in our work with ammonia, electrolysers for green hydrogen production, and hydrogen transport and storage.
“Relevant research infrastructure is crucial for ensuring the safe transport and storage of hydrogen gas,” said Senior Research Scientist Vigdis Olden, who represented SMART-H at the booth. SMART-H is a joint SINTEF and NTNU research infrastructure for investigating hydrogen’s impact on different materials. It officially opened in June 2023.
“The hydrogen atom interacts with materials at the nano level, and it affects the closing properties of both metals and non-metals, so leaks and breaks can occur more easily. We must stay on top of this, and SMART-H will help us do just that. With SMART-H, we can observe nano and micro mechanisms, measure uptake and diffusion of hydrogen in materials, and examine mechanical properties at both a micro and macro level. This is how we build a solid knowledge base that will enable us to, for example, set the correct design and operational requirements for pipelines for hydrogen transport,” she continued.
“Research has a critical role in de-risking the technologies for H2 applications to unlock investments,” said Research Manager Chiara Caccamo. “The success of use cases implementation is essential.” Chiara coordinates the H2Glass project, which she also represented at the booth. H2Glass is a European project that seeks to advance hydrogen technologies and production systems for the purpose of decarbonising the glass and aluminium sectors.
“Energy transitions and upscaling of environmental innovations are societal challenges as much as they are technological challenges. This applies especially to innovations such as hydrogen, which need to build zero-carbon value chains almost from scratch,” wrote Research Scientist Tuukka Mäkitie in a LinkedIn post after the event. Tuukka represented the competence building part of HYDROGENi’s activities at the booth. “I was very happy to notice that there is a growing recognition that environmental innovation must be fair as well as green.”
We need more hydrogen infrastructure and a better understanding of safety
Chief Scientist Petter Nekså represented SINTEF in a panel discussion during the closing session of European Hydrogen Week, just after Commissioner Iliana Ivanova’s summary of the week. The discussion focused on how hydrogen technologies can continue to be competitive, and the role of the EU in ensuring this.
Petter stated that hydrogen has significant potential to reduce our greenhouse emissions, as a lot of technology is already available. For example, liquid hydrogen has the potential to replace fossil fuels in energy demanding transport applications, such as trucks, maritime transport, trains and aviation. However, in order for hydrogen to fulfil this potential, we need to address several challenges, such as the lack of infrastructure to support this use and close gaps in technology elements, such as pumps for different capacities.
Petter also said that we have an insufficient understanding of safety and individual components. As an example, Petter referred to the concluded SH2IFT project, led by SINTEF, which aimed to increase competence related to the safety of hydrogen technology. During a test of spilling liquid hydrogen into water, a cloud of hydrogen gas ignited unexpectedly. The fundamental phenomena behind this is something that still needs to be understood.
How can we help make hydrogen a key player in the European transition?
In addition to a booth, SINTEF also hosted an exclusive networking side event at the Brussels office. Entitled “How can we help make hydrogen a key player in the European transition?”, the event focused on what needs to be done in order to enable hydrogen to fulfil its potential in the green shift.
To start, SINTEF scientists Chiara Caccamo (H2Glass), Steffen Møller-Holst (H2Accelerate TRUCKS), Tuukka Mäkitie (HYDROGENi), Anette Brocks-Hagen (HyLine 2), Vigdis Olden (SMART-H), and Patrick Fortin (Norwegian Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Centre) each gave a five-minute pitch to explain how their projects are contributing to achieving this goal.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to SINTEF’s activities at European Hydrogen Week!