What is Power-To-X
Power-to-X is the process of using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. The produced hydrogen, a versatile, safe and clean energy carrier, can then be used as a fuel for power as well as an energy feedstock for several industries.
The Power-to-X process allows the conversion of renewable electricity into storable hydrogen fuel, allowing the beneficial spread of carbon-neutral energy across multiple sectors.
Northern Ireland has the highest instantaneous penetration of grid connected wind power to be found anywhere in the world today. However, the wind industry here is subject to curtailment and constraint. This is when carbon free energy production must be turned off due to insufficient electricity network capacity or for system security reasons (including a lack of sufficient demand at any specific point in time).
Northern Ireland currently produces more renewable energy than can be converted into electricity and used in the grid. Valuable wind and solar energy sources are therefore not being utilised to their full potential and the benefits of decarbonisation cannot be maximised until solutions are found for this growing curtailment problem.
This is where longer duration energy storage comes in and the Ballylumford Power-to-X Project is designed to test this solution.
Located in Islandmagee on the Antrim coast, this collaborative project uses the existing power generation site at Ballylumford, operated by Islandmagee Energy. The Ballylumford site has unique significance as it is close to one of three main locations for electricity generation in Northern Ireland, offering strong connection to the gas and electricity transmission networks.
This 12-month project will see a viability study carried out to explore how green hydrogen can be stored for later use as power or fuel, and not wasted. Phase one’s front-end engineering study (FEED) will look at the potential of using local underground salt caverns as energy stores, alongside developing innovative technologies, in a first-of-a-kind solution to the curtailment problem.
The project aims to create a full cycle economy to take green hydrogen right from production to long term storage, distribution and use at the Ballylumford site and beyond. The project will provide valuable knowledge and open opportunities by generating data and practical experience in the development of a hydrogen network – critical to helping Northern Ireland and the UK meet its targets for zero-emissions.
The Ballylumford Power-to-X Project aims to demonstrate three things:
1. A 20MWe electrolyser can be used to support variable electrical supply and demand and other essential grid system services by tackling curtailment and converting excess renewable energy into green hydrogen for storage.
2. Green hydrogen can be stored and safely extracted for future use, with potential in future to utilise an underground storage system employing salt cavern technology, leveraging Northern Ireland’s unique geography.
3. Electrical grid flexibility can be demonstrated by operating a 20MWe membrane free electrolyser as a Demand Side Unit (DSU) to provide balancing electrical load for otherwise curtailed wind farms, as well as producing hydrogen to fuel a 20MWe open cycle gas turbine that, combined with hydrogen storage, will provide back-up power generation when renewable energy output is low due to weather conditions.
The Ballylumford Power-to-X project has been awarded £986,000 in government funding as part of the Longer Duration Energy Storage Demonstration (LODES) programme by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The LODES programme forms part of the Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which includes the ambition to deliver 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.