During the energy transition, one of the key problems is the storage and transport of sustainable energy. Especially the industry is in need for green energy also when there is no direct green electricity at hand (e.g., when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining). A very promising solution, complementary to hydrogen, is the storage of energy in Iron Powder. The Iron Power Cycle is presented below.
Energy is stored by reducing rust (iron oxide powder) with hydrogen (transforming rust to iron powder). This iron powder can be safely transported as bulk material, for example by ships and trucks, but can be stored centrally as well as de-centrally.
During combustion, the energy in the iron powder is released in the form of heat without direct CO2 and SOx emissions and with very little direct NOx emissions. After combustion, the produced rust can be reused in a subsequent cycle. Iron powder is a clean, compact, recyclable,safe, cost competitive and efficient energy carrier.
This makes iron powder a complementary solution for specific challenges in the energy transition, such as:
i) Importing sustainable energy from places where a lot of cheap electricity is available, e.g.,from South Europe to North-West Europe;
ii) Decarbonizing heat demand in industries that are difficult to make sustainable because, for example, they cannot be electrified and/or are decentralized.
making the sustainable energy system robust through safe storage.
The iron powder cycle is already efficient compared to other energy carriers and research is currently being conducted to increase efficiency even further by directly reducing iron powder without the intermediate step of making hydrogen from electricity.
Since 2015, research into the use of iron powder as an energy carrier has been conducted by TU Eindhoven and TNO, among others. This has also spawned startups such as RIFT and Iron+and various iron powder installations have already been tested at companies.
These leading iron powder parties have formed a consortium that is setting up a joint Iron Power program to enable and scale up the role of iron powder in the energy transition. This is done through an R&D program, various pilot & demo projects and catalyzing innovation infrastructure, which Metalot will provide as an independent central ecosystem builder. National and international universities,research institutes, suppliers and end users will work together in this consortium and program.
R&D, pilots and demo’s need to be developed Europe wide, enabling the dissemination of the technology over Europe. Green Steel industry and Hydrogen Community will benefit hugely if this technology will take off. Joint efforts with these industries are therefore foreseen.