Aqualia is committed to green hydrogen to drive a sustainable and decarbonised economy

Aqualia apuesta por el hidrógeno verde para impulsar una economía sostenible y descarbonizada

Aqualia has been selected to lead Zeppelin and Eclosion, two new Spanish innovation projects, within the framework of the Misiones programme of the CDTI (Ministry of Science and Innovation). Both projects focus on the development of new technologies for obtaining green hydrogen, with the aim of improving the environmental sustainability of industry in Spain.

Currently, 96% of the hydrogen produced on our planet comes from fossil sources and only 1% from renewable sources. This reality clashes with the Spanish roadmap, which sets a target of 25% of the hydrogen consumed by industry to be renewable by 2030. 

The development of new green hydrogen production technologies that serve as alternatives to electrolysis and that promote the circular economy is the purpose of the Zeppelin project, an initiative that proposes the recovery of waste and by-products from different sectors (agri-food, textiles, wastewater treatment plants, refineries, etc.). The consortium, led by Aqualia, is made up of seven other key companies in the hydrogen value chain in Spain: Repsol, as the leading national producer and consumer of hydrogen; Naturgy, Redexis and Reganosa, as gas distributors; and other technology partners such as Norvento, Perseo and Técnicas Reunidas.

With the aim of reducing the energy, economic and environmental costs associated with current hydrogen production and promoting safe, efficient, and clean energy, the project will revalorise more than 99 million tonnes of waste and 50 million tonnes of municipal wastewater

Hydrogen production using Zeppelin technologies will offer Spain a circular green hydrogen generation potential of around 135,000 tonnes per year. Translated into practical examples, this represents sufficient production for Spanish industry to meet the objectives set out in the Hydrogen Roadmap, or to satisfy the energy needs of the entire Spanish railway network. 

Aqualia will carry out its innovation activity in the city of Algeciras, more specifically in the Isla Verde Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), located in the port. Together with Técnicas Reunidas, several innovative hydrogen production pilots will be installed in the WWTP. The choice of Algeciras as the site for Aqualia’s activities is directly related to the presence of large industries in the area such as Acerinox, Viesco, Air Liquide, Linde, as well as the port companies, as potential end consumers of green hydrogen. This action in the Campo de Gibraltar is intended to position Andalusia as a key region in the field of green hydrogen generation. Zeppelin joins the H2020 NICE initiatives, also led by Aqualia, in the framework of the Maritime Lake project.

On the other hand, also with the purpose of researching the production of green hydrogen and biomethane from waste and wastewater, the Eclosion project is launched, led by Aqualia and promoted by a consortium of seven other companies: FCC Environment, CADE, Ghenova, Ariema Enerxia, H2B2, Idecal and MindCaps. The objective of Eclosion is to create new materials, technologies and processes for the generation, storage, transport and integration of renewable hydrogen and biomethane, generated from urban and agri-food biowaste and sewage sludge.

In addition, energy optimisation tools will be developed. This involves designing eco-efficient, flexible, and intelligent source-to-consumption energy systems. The developments include machine learning algorithms for the efficient management of energy (thermal and electrical) and electrical networks that incorporate renewable energies. All of this is aimed at making optimal decisions on production, storage and demand of renewable resources.

The research will be carried out in specially equipped laboratories and infrastructures of research organisations and in four development centres: the Valladolid Waste Treatment Centre, managed by FCC Medio Ambiente; and the wastewater treatment plants in Salamanca, Lleida and Jerez de la Frontera, all three managed by Aqualia.

Both Zeppelin and Eclosion are looking for new models of green hydrogen production complementary to electrolysis using renewable energies, unlinked to the use of high quality water (between 15-25 kilograms of water treated with osmosis systems for each kilogram of hydrogen produced), and integrated in a decarbonised energy model under the principles of circular economy and digitalisation.

From a socio-economic point of view, the projects will not only provide new technological tools for the energy sector; it will also encourage economic activity and qualified employment, creating new market niches, revaluing waste linked to the primary and food sectors as raw material for the energy sector. The development of the Zeppelin and Eclosion projects involves the direct employment of 145 people and the creation of 25 new jobs. 

Both projects have been subsidised by the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), within the framework of the 2021 call of the MISIONES CIENCIA E INNOVACIÓN Programme (Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan), and are supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The project is funded by the European Union through the Next GenerationEU Fund.

Both projects have a direct impact on achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by ensuring affordable and high-quality water and sanitation service (SDG 6), optimising its energy balance (SDG 7) and avoiding its impact on the climate (SDG 13) through responsible production and consumption (SDG 12).