Nov 24, 2021

Wärtsilä leads Finland's versatile hydrogen revolution

COP26
CarbonNeutral
Netzero
Sustainability
John Pinching
4 min
Wärtsilä leads Finnish hydrogen surge as partnerships with Vantaan Energia and Neste seek e-fuel breakthrough
Wärtsilä leads Finnish hydrogen surge as partnerships with Vantaan Energia and Neste seek e-fuel breakthrough

Following COP26, green energy is sitting pretty at the top of the corporate agenda – and it's not budging any time soon.

One form of green energy, hydrogen, has the potential to transform the way we power our lives and is essential to tackling climate change in the future. Now, innovative Finnish businesses, research centres and government figures have come together to utilise their hydrogen expertise to spearhead a green revolution that will make Finland a world-leading hydrogen economy.

Finland is a small country with big ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative by 2050 – some of the most ambitious targets globally. The country is committed to leveraging collaboration and global partnerships to develop hydrogen technologies, innovations and research to help maintain and secure a viable planet for future generations.

Smooth operator

Hydrogen is a versatile fuel that can be used to provide a clean alternative to oil and gas in sectors such as domestic and business heating, heavy industry, agriculture, road transport, maritime and aviation.

It is also an important energy carrier, enabling long-term storage from renewables and transportation over long distances from regions with abundant solar and wind resources. That is why it is currently gaining renewed and rapidly growing attention in Europe and worldwide.

Ground-breaking Finnish initiatives to use hydrogen to help tackle climate change include BotH₂nia, an umbrella brand and collaboration platform for building a large-scale hydrogen economy around the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea. The Gulf of Bothnia has been identified as a promising region for increased hydrogen production, transport, storage and usage.

The Finnish businesses involved aim to capitalise on economic opportunities and investment, enabling the country to commence world-leading hydrogen projects and cross-industrial systemic solutions over the next few years.

One such business is the Finnish smart technology group, Wärtsilä, which develops solutions for the marine and energy markets. In July 2021, the company launched a major test programme towards carbon-free solutions with hydrogen and ammonia fuels, helping enable the energy and marine sectors to shape sustainable and efficient future fuels in several cost-optimal steps.

Wärtsilä is also partnering with Vantaan Energia and Neste – a leader in sustainable aviation fuel – and VTT to seek a breakthrough in Finnish e-fuel technology. The project is linked with the Veturi ecosystem, which creates solutions to reduce the use of crude oil.

Culture shift

Currently, hydrogen represents only a fraction of the global and EU energy mix. It is still produced mainly from fossil fuels, notably from natural gas or coal, resulting in 70 to 100 million tonnes of CO2 annually in the EU. For hydrogen to contribute significantly to climate neutrality, it needs to be produced a far larger scale, and its production must become fully decarbonised.

VTT is leading the way in this endeavour. VTT’s research has led to the development of a high-temperature electrolysis system that meets the challenges of zero-emission hydrogen production, making the process of producing environmentally friendly hydrogen more efficient. Larger power plants can now be built, based on this modular, solid oxide technology achieving higher efficiency compared to competing electrolyzer technologies.

Dynamic Finnish start-up Hycamite is also developing technology to produce clean hydrogen and pure carbon by decomposing methane from natural gas or biogas. This ground-breaking solution releases no emissions into the atmosphere and provides the components in a usable form for industries worldwide.

Another small company with big ambitions is P2X Solutions, which plans to build Finland's first industrial-scale green hydrogen production plant. When completed, the plant will produce green hydrogen with electricity produced from renewable energy. The home-grown clean energy source has the potential to transform the way we power our lives and will be essential to tackling climate change. That is why Finland is bringing a pipeline of dynamic hydrogen projects to life to make this a reality.

Helena Sarén, Head of Smart Energy at Business Finland, says: “Finland is committed to bringing innovation, technology and businesses together to create business opportunities and achieve our goal of maintaining and securing a viable planet for future generations.

"We aim to do that by decreasing our carbon footprint here in Finland, while simultaneously increasing the carbon handprint globally through Finnish businesses and their solutions. This way, we can have a greater impact on the global climate change battle compared to our true size."

“Seizing the opportunities of hydrogen is a global task and requires minds from around the world to work together. There can be no doubt that to achieve our targets will require partnerships between government, businesses, innovators, the best scientific and engineering minds, communities, and centres of industrial excellence,” she adds.

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