Research brings results: Vantaa hydrogen plant is a big step toward commercialising hydrogen technology

Blog post
Antti Arasto,
Olli Himanen

As action taken by Finland and the EU on the climate intensify, the value of decades of persevering research at VTT will become increasingly apparent. Hydrogen offers a market worth billions of euros, as well as new solutions, especially for companies involved in heavy industry and transport, as well as the field of energy.

Vantaa Energy announced in June that together with Wärtsilä, it would start initial planning for the building of an electric fuel plant that utilises hydrogen technology. With the help of hydrogen, the upcoming power-to-gas plant will produce synthetic methane (or natural gas), out of renewable electricity and carbon dioxide. The plant is to be taken into use in 2025.

The news is significant because no comparable power-to-X (P2X) plants have been built in Finland on an industrial scale before. In addition, it was a great step forward in the commercialisation of hydrogen technology.

At VTT we are pioneers, having started our research in hydrogen technology already in the late 1990s. Both fuel cells and electrolysers have been developed at VTT. While a fuel cell converts hydrogen or methane, for example, into electricity, an electrolyser uses electricity to produce hydrogen. 

Great demand in EU for hydrogen technology

Although the fuel cell research programme funded by Tekes concluded in 2013, we at VTT staunchly believed in the possibilities of hydrogen technology. For this reason, we continued our research with the help of both our own funding and that of the EU. We believed that hydrogen technology would offer great opportunities for curbing climate change.
 
VTT has helped bring hundreds of millions of euros in research funding to Finland. Tens of millions of this funding has been spent on research and development of fuel cells and electrolysis. Now that skills and knowledge are needed, we and our partners already have it available. 

The advance of climate change has brought stricter governmental action to control it, leading to growing demand for hydrogen technology both in Finland and the EU. The Finnish Government has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035. The European Union is currently handling the Fit for 55 legislative package, aimed at reducing the EU's greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from the 1990 level to 2030.
 
These goals are so difficult to reach that several different technologies will be needed to achieve them. Pure hydrogen is one way to seek the goal. 

There is demand for hydrogen technology especially in targets where electrification is difficult, such as industry and heavy transport, especially ships. In addition, hydrogen can help to even out peak production of wind power, for example. Hydrogen also enables long-term storage of energy.

This is a business worth hundreds of billions of euros, in which participation is worthwhile for Finland.

Skills and knowledge bring societal resilience

In research work that examines new things it is hard to know in advance what invention or chosen path will later lead to something important. When the United States began its Apollo space programme in the 1960s, the goal of the project was to send a human to the moon. Space travel has yet to become a great economic success. However, space research has produced much that is good for humanity, starting with satellite navigation. 

This is another reason why research is needed. Skills and knowledge are an absolute value that we at VTT are also pursuing. Persevering research produces societal resilience, the ability to act under changing conditions, and to confront different kinds of disturbances and crises. 

Now that global demand for green energy solutions is growing, and hydrogen technology is on the cusp of a breakthrough, we at VTT already have the skills and knowledge. We have designed, built, tested, made mistakes, and learned. We want to share our skills and knowledge with companies. 

For example, we are designing a pilot project together with Vantaa Energy in which we are looking for practical lessons and experiences about new technological solutions in a real industrial environment.

Contact us if you are wondering what hydrogen technology, P2X, and electrolysis might be able to offer your business.
 

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Antti Arasto

Antti Arasto

Vice President
Olli Himanen

Olli Himanen

Research Team Leader