EMEC explores hydrogen by-products use

The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has started collaborating with Zero Waste Scotland on a project to identify local applications for oxygen, a by-product of the green hydrogen production process.

EMEC hydrogen storage cylinders (Photo: Colin Keldie)

The new project launched by EMEC will investigate how circular economy approaches can be applied to optimize the efficiency of hydrogen production and stimulate the development of a local oxygen market in Orkney.

EMEC has been producing ‘green’ hydrogen since 2017, using renewable energy from local wind and tidal resources to power an electrolyser, splitting water into its chemical components: hydrogen and oxygen.

Hydrogen electrolyser (Photo: Colin Keldie)

However, the cost of producing hydrogen is high, as roughly one third of input energy is lost as oxygen and low-grade heat during production, according to EMEC.

Therefore, the newly launched project aims to identify potential value-added applications for the commercial use of oxygen, an untapped by-product of the hydrogen production process, and develop a more circular business model for hydrogen.

Local industries such as aquaculture, horticulture, diving, health and aviation all use oxygen as part of daily business, EMEC noted.

Jon Clipsham, Hydrogen Manager, at EMEC said: “Building on the success of pilot ‘green’ hydrogen projects such as Surf ‘n’ Turf and BIG HIT which have aided the development of a hydrogen economy in Orkney, EMEC aim to explore the potential of the local oxygen market and are keen to receive proposals from businesses to identify local uses for oxygen.

“This project will enable us to improve the efficiency of the hydrogen production process by embedding circular economy principles into our business model. It is hoped that the learnings from this project could be used as a basis for other island projects in Scotland and further afield.”

Scott Bryant, Energy Infrastructure Sector Manager at Zero Waste Scotland, added: “This is an excellent opportunity to bring additional economic value to the hydrogen production process. By finding markets for the unused oxygen, we can create new and innovative local business opportunities, and also help to bring down future total energy production costs, making hydrogen generation more commercially attractive.”

Integrating locally produced oxygen into the supply chain will increase island resiliency and reduce the environmental impact of businesses currently getting oxygen delivered from the UK mainland, project partners said.

The project includes 30 days business support from Zero Waste Scotland as part of the circular economy business support service, an initiative supported by funding from both the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Program.