It began with amateur production during childhood that filled the room with oxyhydrogen and resulted in an explosion, prompting parental confiscation of power supply .
Passion for the technology and, not least, hydrogen never abated for Lars Pleth Nielsen, chief executive of Danish company Advanced Surface Plating, which specializes in optimizing electrodes.
In December last year, Norwegian electrolyzer manufacturer Hydrogen Pro officially acquired Advanced Surface Plating. Aiming to gain the most effective tech on the market after having working closely with the Danish firm for several years, the takeover seemed a natural step.
In a few months, a fully functional production facility emerged in an industrial area called Viby Torv near Aarhus in Western Denmark. The location was selected for its proximity to local profiles, and with the University of Aarhus just around the corner, Nielsen imagines a lot of new knowledge streaming to Viby.
"We are ready to produce. The only thing we're missing is the final environmental assessment/approval, but we have a completely functional production line that's been built up in record time," he says:
"It has been very important for me to be close to the University of Aarhus. A lot is happening in this world, and it's important to have students and new ideas on board. It's also a good way to recruit new staff."
We have the capacity to upgrade in response to market demand, but we can produce 100MW without problems right now
Beyond being a nice location for attracting students, having advanced analytical equipment nearby was also a strategic consideration.
Ready to quadruple
The facility in Viby was conceived in February of 2021 – and already reached completion in August. The company expects to maintain such momentum for a long time yet. Currently employing only a few personnel, the plan is to scale up to a staff of 20 in a year from now if everything goes according to plan.
"The factory here in Aarhus has an annual production capacity of 16,000 square meters – equating to slightly more than 100MW. We have the capacity to upgrade in response to market demand, but we can produce 100MW without problems right now," Nielsen says.
We have demonstrated the facilities, and as soon as we demonstrated at full scale I think the market will go amok
Hydrogen products are appearing all over the world in these times, and with projected scaling and the establishment of various supply chains, Advanced Surface Plating expects its parent company, HydrogenPro, to provide plenty of work in optimizing electrodes.
"HydrogenPro is busy. The efficiency of these electrodes makes HydrogenPro concept very interesting. We expect to stay busy," the CEO says:
"We have demonstrated the facilities, and as soon as we demonstrated at full scale I think the market will go amok."
Advanced Surface Plating holds an electrode technology capable of optimizing high-pressure alkaline electrolyzers by up to 14 percent.
Whereas current electrolyzers use roughly 4.4MW to make 90 kilos of H2 per hour, the company aims to achieve the same volume using only 3.8MW.
According to Advanced Surface Plating, this technology is far more efficient than that of rivals, and can optimize unit productivity by 14 percent, hitting 93 percent of the theoretical maximum. Such efficiency gains will also be needed to reduce the cost of green hydrogen relative to the gray and blue varieties derived from fossil fuels.
Hydrogen is a considered a key technology of the green transition. Some companies are presently focused on hydrogen production, while others are pursuing ammonia or methanol as renewable fuels for heavy transports. Although there are many possibilities, Advanced Surface Plating's angle is specialize in making commercial electrodes.
"We are focused on hydrogen production. What it will be used for mainly depends on which consortium we enter. If someone wants to make ammonia or methanol for transportation, they can do that. We just want to make electrode systems that can compete on a global scale," Nielsen says.
"It probably requires looking at flexibility, dynamic states and how much is to be produced. If we follow our strategy, it's easy for us alone to scale up depending on the level needed."
I think that, in time, we'll reach the ceiling in terms of what we can achieve in an area like this. But by that time we'll probably be much wiser, and perhaps the factory needs to be entirely different
Scaling is also a key element when talking hydrogen production. Electricity costs are still relatively high, while the tech remains in its infancy in terms of production for industrial use.
"It all has to be built up. Large facilities take time. Even a small plant is costly in terms of power. So these mega plants will also need someone to use the hydrogen, otherwise they'll go nowhere. And it takes time to get it all into place," Nielsen says.
However, larger facilities are being planned across the world. And even though the electrodes are of a size that can easily be transported to other countries, it's possible that in the future it will make more sense to move to somewhere other than the Viby site.
"I think that, in time, we'll reach the ceiling in terms of what we can achieve in an area like this. But by that time we'll probably be much wiser, and perhaps the factory will have to be entirely different," Nielsen says.
"I don't think it would be a problem, as such, to build a new line somewhere else in the world if we grow beyond our current situation. And, of course, we will build it where it makes the most sense to do so."Nordics should collaborate further on PtX, says report