Fieldlab Industrial Electrification (FLIE)
The future of hydrogen lies in Rotterdam. As that’s exactly where the Hydro Generation has identified and seized opportunities in order to write history. The Hydro Generation is a group of forerunners who see Rotterdam as the ultimate place to realise innovative CO2-neutral solutions. Peter van Hooft is committed to industrial electrification every single day, with, for example, the Fieldlab Industrial Electrification: replacing fossil-driven processes with processes which run on green electricity or green molecules.
About Fieldlab Industrial Electrification (FLIE)
Fieldlab Industrial Electrification is an initiative by Deltalinqs, FME, Port of Rotterdam, InnovationQuarter and TNO. It effectively joins forces from all over the world in order to realise an acceleration in the energy transition. They do this by helping companies in the process industry with industrial electrification: making the processes ‘greener’.
According to Director Peter van Hooft: “We can offer our assistance if a start-up or scale-up has an interesting, sustainable technology and needs to go through a new phase to further scale up and prepare the technology for the market.” FLIE realises this with a variety of different services, ranging from feasibility studies to conducting technical validations and ultimately implementing the technology at the customer site.
Innovations and scaling up
A good example is FLIE’s contribution to the development of a new type of electrolyser, a device which uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. For example, the initiative for sHYp conducted a feasibility study into a membrane-less electrolyser, which uses seawater rather than purified water to produce hydrogen. FLIE also helped the innovative company VSParticle with the testing of a new membrane production method, which requires less of the scarce and expensive iridium metal. This new method uses the metals more efficiently and allows for the production speed to be increased.
Developing upscaling processes forms an important part of FLIE’s work. “There is a lot of manufacturing industry in the South Holland region, including parties which supply components for electrolysers. How can FLIE effectively optimise the production process and the entire logistics chain for these types of companies, in a way which will allow the industry to scale up in line with demand for hydrogen in the port? Improving the production process won’t just result in the Netherlands being able to establish itself as one of the frontrunners in new hydrogen technology, we’re also ensuring the Dutch manufacturing industry can take up an important position in the new hydrogen economy,” says Van Hooft, who himself started out in the bio-chemical industry.
Circular carbon economy
Van Hooft is of the firm opinion that hydrogen will also play an important role in the carbon economy. “It almost seems like everyone is in agreement about the fact that hydrogen is the perfect alternative to fossil fuels, but that really isn’t the case. There’s no carbon in hydrogen. And we need that for so many products. That’s why I want to focus on the underexposed side of the hydrogen transition: the circular carbon economy, with hydrogen as a molecule.”
This will include FLIE taking a more detailed look at the SEDMES technology, developed by TNO. “SEDMES converts CO2 and green hydrogen into dimethyl ether; the gas you’ll find in, for example, hairspray cans and is an important raw material for the chemical industry. Dimethyl ether could certainly be a very effective future replacement for LPG gas. One huge advantage of this is that the entire gas infrastructure can remain intact.”
Van Hooft feels there’s a fantastic opportunity for Rotterdam – in addition to being an energy hub – to become an interesting hub for a new circular carbon economy, with hydrogen as both a source of energy and a raw material. “There are now an increasing number of systems which can produce plastic and olefins – the basis for, for example, rubber and packaging – using different methods, from CO2 and hydrogen, for example. There’s already a great deal of infrastructure in Rotterdam, with all the petrochemical industry which has processes in place for this. Let’s make good use of these. But it really shouldn’t be coming from oil anymore, but from other sources.”
Hydrogen gas for Rotterdam industry
The City of Rotterdam, the Province of South Holland and the European ERDF subsidy are all strong supporters of the Fieldlab Industrial Electrification. Van Hooft thinks it’s only logical for there to be a lot of regional support. “If the government’s plans are to be believed, we’ll be able to realise a maximum of 70 GW of electricity from offshore wind by 2050. The other 50% of energy we’ll need will have to come from hydrogen gas. I simply can’t think of any other place in either the Netherlands or even throughout Europe which would be more suitable as a hydrogen hub. This truly does represent a huge opportunity. But it’s simply also something which is absolutely essential.”
Van Hooft has seen many members of the Hydro Generation at FLIE. “One thing which specifically characterises these people is that they’re all very socially involved. They look forward to the future with great positivity. Their mentality is “We are the ones who can make a real difference”. Think in possibilities rather than impossibilities. These are all early adaptors, pioneers.” He also sees himself as part of the Hydro Generation. “But mainly from the underexposed side: the circular carbon economy. That’s what I really want to focus on. We need to dare to make choices, also as part of that transition. Let’s give it our all.”