hydrogen engines
Image credit: Wartsila

Technology firm Wärtsilä has started testing the use of pure hydrogen to power its thermal balancing engines.

Wärtsilä is expecting to come up with a 100% hydrogen-powered engine by 2025. Using its facilities in Vaasa in Finland, the company has started assessing its 31 gas engines to run on hydrogen, focusing on the optimum engine parameters for running on these fuels.

The test results are very encouraging, with one test engine performing very well when running on a fuel with 70% ammonia content at a typical marine load range. Tests were also completed successfully on another engine in pure hydrogen operation. These engines are currently being powered by fuels including natural gas to provide flexible balancing power generation for power systems with high levels of renewables.

The aim of these tests is to take advantage of opportunities within the emerging hydrogen market, which is expected to expand massively over the coming years. With hydrogen delivering up to 13% of the global energy demand by 2070 according to the Internation Energy Agency, the availability of 100% hydrogen engines on the market is vitally important.

With the global market for renewable energy expected to continue to grow, utilities will continue to face the challenge of renewables fluctuations, hence the need for long-duration energy storage provided by green hydrogen and batteries.

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Wärtsilä predicts that over 11,000GW of wind and solar power is required in the G20 alone in order to create 100% renewable energy systems. This will require 933GW of carbon-neutral thermal balancing capacity to enable the addition of this amount of renewable energy and stabilise these future power systems. And as such internal combustion engines are expected to remain a key technology in enabling the growth of renewables and ensuring the stability of grid networks.

Håkan Agnevall, CEO Wärtsilä, said: “This is a milestone moment in the worldwide energy transition. Global societies will have to invest billions into the infrastructure needed to develop green hydrogen, but that investment is reliant upon having market-ready engines which can run on the fuel once it is readily available. Our modelling shows that a significant amount of thermal balancing is required by the middle of this century to achieve the transition to 100% renewable energy. By developing engines today which can run on hydrogen tomorrow, we are future-proofing energy systems to become 100% renewable by 2050.”

In parallel, Wärtsilä is running engine testing for ammonia and methanol, two alternative future fuels which will support the decarbonisation of the shipping sector and help the International Maritime Organisation to achieve its target to cut the sector’s GHG emissions by 50% by 2050.