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What is the significance of the VDMA network “Power-to-X for Applications” for mechanical & plant engineering?

This year marks the 130th anniversary of the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA). A one-of-a-kind group uniting the mechanical engineering industry. In celebration, we talked to a dear colleague and member of the VDMA network “Power-to-X for Applications”, Björn Bofinger.

Get ready to be surprised by the enthralling insights he shared. If you don’t know much about the VDMA network “Power-to-X for Applications”, this is your intro! Now, let’s find out how the network supports the mechanical and plant engineering industry in meeting today’s and tomorrow’s challenges when it comes to power-to-X applications.

VDMA & Power-to-X for Applications

Power-to-X technology —shortened P2X— is emerging as a compelling vehicle to decarbonize industries. The principle is simple. It consists of producing energy carriers from renewable electricity surplus. To what end? 

P2X solutions are considered front runners in the race to displace fossil fuel dependency in tough-to-get sectors, such as the transport industry. 

Their surge as an answer to climate change led us to interview Björn Bofinger, an active member of the VDMA’s “Power-to-X for Applications” network. From him, we learned about the organization’s role and actions in regards to this technology. 

Seize for yourself how VDMA is embracing P2X to amplify its reach. 

How’s VDMA responding to the rise of P2X?

We are fully on board with it! In 2018 VDMA started a network to address challenges specific to P2X projects. We named it “Power-to-X for Applications.” Four years later, it has become a platform for constructive collaboration towards shared industry goals in the P2X community.

What kind of solutions does Power-to-X for Applications provide?

In essence, Power-to-X for Applications is a portal for centralized, cross-industry information, communication, and cooperation, servicing the entire P2X community. To do so, it integrates all defining stakeholders and key players involved in the value chain. These include: 

Truthful to tradition. VDMA, once again, brings mechanical and plant engineering together to advance the network as a collective. 

How many members joined the network so far?

The P2X network has grown to have members from over 160 companies spread across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The number keeps rising each time, enabling us to reach more and more engineering teams in Europe.

We all meet once a month for digital exchanges. 

What are the main goals you have set as a network?

You can say the network’s activities center around three goals:

#1

#2

#3

Promoting a holistic and technology-open approach to the transformation of energy systems.

Raising public awareness for environmentally compatible energy use and mobility.

Learning about new trends and opportunities to advance the reduction of greenhouse gas.

Just to give you a closer idea of our work. In June, we plan to visit Brussels for political discussions on the Fit-for-55 legislative package.

As you may have heard, the European Commission adopted the ‘Fit-for-55’ package last year, which calls for at least a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This legislation interests our network deeply. And presents us with the unique opportunity to develop and pitch matching solutions to the new challenges.

“Power-to-X for Applications is a portal for centralized, cross-industry information, communication, and cooperation, servicing the entire P2X community”

Björn Bofinger (Sales Director Western Europe)

How is the network approaching meetings?

It is quite a broad spectrum of invited companies. These can be start-ups, network companies or even long-standing companies in the market that are pursuing P2X as a possible solution. Ideas for this come from the network, in the always open and informative conversations.

How is the network setting itself apart from other VDMA interests?

Naturally, the principal members of the P2X community are already organized in the VDMA, which makes some tasks easier for us. Especially the building of a P2X value chain that integrates all parties. From renewable energy generators to plant manufacturers to buyers of synthetic fuels. 

Despite this common ground, several things set us apart. 

For instance, our commitment to add new voices to the working group “Power-to-X for Applications” (AG P2X4A). 

At that, we’ve done a decent job so far. We summoned all decisive stakeholders outside the renewable energy sector. At least, this was the case for the automotive and the petroleum industries. Offering them an overarching platform for cooperation has been a strong point for the network.

Other differences come from our core work. 

Mechanical and plant engineering is a decisive industry for climate protection. Thus, we maximize its potential. We aim to lead manufacturers and users into efficient and emission-reducing technologies. Lending a hand throughout the complex “energy transition” process is the finishing line.

Can you talk about a high-profile project you’re working on?

Yes. Hydrogen has come out as a contender for many purposes, including the seasonal storage of renewable energy. Thus, our direct involvement with Hydrogen Atlas is one of the most exciting endeavors for the network.

Hydrogen atlas

Europe is investing great efforts to develop P2X technologies. In 2020, a review study of Power-to-X undertakings in the region found that 20 countries were working on demonstration projects. Germany was the lead, pursuing 44% of those projects. All showed interest in hydrogen as an energy carrier. 

Hydrogen is one of the cleanest and safest energy carriers around. The molecule’s simplicity and capacity to not combust into CO2 are ideal flag-bearers for P2X under Power-to-Hydrogen (P2H2). 

P2H2 obtains hydrogen using electrolysis. A process that decomposes water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen by applying electricity. The cost of hydrogen production in electrolysis is lower than in other methods. Hence, it became the backbone of P2H2. Still, research to drive efficiency, reliability, and scalability remains ongoing. 

Separated hydrogen serves various purposes, e.g., fuel for power or industrial feedstock. Production is usually ready for use. Long-term requisitions include storage for further transport in gas or liquid form. 

Hydrogen has other sought-after properties too. The capability to be processed and converted into other fuels, like methane, synth gas, or liquid combustibles! A great match to pursue fossil fuel displacement in the heat, transport, and industrial sectors.

This alluring background encouraged us to ask further questions to Mr. Bofinger about the network’s work on Hydrogen Atlas.

What is the hydrogen atlas project?

It is a digital map, currently under construction, to list all the hydrogen projects happening at the EU level.

What is it so important?

A hydrogen republic needs a hydrogen atlas. Germany is a leader in the research and development of hydrogen technologies. Numerous pilot projects have already been established, new ones are constantly added, and many would like to use the technology for climate protection. 

This atlas will show how far Germany has come, where things are happening, and what potential and opportunities we have with hydrogen, looking into energy transition and climate protection.

Creating a Hydrogen Atlas is a medium to register valuable information, insights, and analyses of our journey. 

We hope it serves future applications and improvements.

Can you contextualize the significance of the VDMA network “Power-to-X for Applications” in the field of the hydrogen economy?

Absolutely! The network is investing much effort and dedication to supporting the field of hydrogen economy through concrete actions:

We already foresee that hydrogen will play a starring role in achieving Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction. As per the Paris climate agreement, EU and local legislation. We also know P2X and the hydrogen processing techs are at an early research phase. The reality of both scenarios happening at once sets a compelling puzzle that our network is poised to help solve.

Under VDMA membership we are hard at work to resolve the pressing issues in the mechanical and plant engineering industry.  

Final thoughts

We parted ways from our conversation with Björn Bofinger with positive afterthoughts:

Image Source: © Alexander Limbach, navee (Adobe Stock) & AS-Schneider