Power-to-X, also known as PTX or P2X, is a viable route of securing our energy future and addressing renewable energy challenges, but what is it?
First of all, what does ‘X’ mean?
‘X’ stands either for end-use applications direct electrification, for instance power-to-mobility in the case of electric vehicles, power-to-heat or energy carriers and intermediate feedstocks such as hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol.
The concept of Power-to-X is converting renewable energy to a range of services and energy carriers.
Why is it important?
The focus on which energy sources we rely on is shifting increasingly towards renewables and away from fossil fuels. However, particularly in the transport sector, liquid fuels will continue to be required (e.g., for shipping and aviation). According to the IEA, by 2026 global renewable electricity capacity is forecasted to rise more than 60% from 2020 levels to over 4800 GW – equivalent to the current total global power capacity of fossil-fuelled and nuclear power plants combined.
What is the challenge with renewable energy?
One of the main challenges with renewables is their intermittent nature. To cope with these fluctuations, grid flexibility and demand-side management are required, as well as technologies that store energy and release it when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. Power-to-X provides multiple options to meet the challenges ahead, playing a role in accelerating the energy transition. PtX provides additional routes for integrating renewable power and supporting the energy requirements of various industries and processes.
Hard to abate industries still depend on fossil fuels. To meet targets set from the Paris Agreement, these industries will have to adapt to environmentally friendly energy sources. PtX technologies enable sector coupling, supporting the use of renewable energy for these industries.
What does this mean for hydrogen?
Excess power that is generated from renewable sources may have to be curtailed at times when there is too much power generated, relative to grid capacity and demand. Additionally, in some cases the permitting process for renewable power projects is hindered by the inability to expand regional grid capacity within the project time frame. A route for excess power could be using it to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, through electrolysis (also labelled as power-to-gas). Hydrogen production through water electrolysis is an attractive approach since it leads to the production of a sustainable energy carrier. Green H2 can be used directly in hydrogen fuel cells, it can be burned for high-temperature heat applications, used as feedstock to produce synthetic fuels and molecules (power-to-liquids), or converted back to electricity, reducing carbon dioxide emissions across various industries. Cost-effective hydrogen storage is necessary to support the continued implementation of hydrogen in current and future industrial applications, including transportation, portable and stationary power.
Howden’s capabilities in Power-to-X
Hydrogen compression is at the core of the technologies required to improve the feasibility of this industry. Our wide range of compression technologies, such as diaphragm, reciprocating, centrifugal and screw compressors, meet every application’s requirements.
Projects large and small will be necessary for a worldwide shift to more renewables in the energy mix. Howden has already developed and delivered solutions on all scales, including the delivery of a hydrogen storage compression solution for HYBRIT, the world’s first fossil-free steel plant, in Svartöberget, Sweden. A joint project between Sweden's SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, HYBRIT involves the deployment of a unique pilot project, aimed at replacing coke and other fossil fuels required to produce steel with green hydrogen. This initiative leads the development of the world’s first fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry, and includes a demonstration project for renewable hydrogen storage in an underground facility.
For the underground storage demonstration project, Howden was contracted to supply a high-pressure diaphragm compression package, to seamlessly integrate the storage cycle with hydrogen production. This offers a cost-effective solution to store large amounts of energy in the form of hydrogen.
At the moment, with rising energy demand globally, high costs and supply-chain readiness are the largest barriers facing PtX for large scale production and integration with other technologies. However, the economic potential of renewable PtX is acknowledged by governments and industry, particularly by those that are at the forefront of global decarbonisation efforts.
For PtX production to be truly climate neutral and socially and economically beneficial, regulatory support, technological advances and economies of scale must apply from the start and ensure long term investment security for PtX systems. By turning renewable electricity into hydrogen and other fuels, Power-to-X technologies will accelerate the deployment of renewable assets and help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for transport, heating and industrial processes.
Find out more on our Power-to-X page