Pleased to meet: Arend de Groot

10-07-2020 | P2Hydrogen

Technical Lead Power-2-Hydrogen

Pleased to meet: Arend de GrootIn this series we put the spotlight on the VoltaChem experts. We interview a team member and get to know him or her more in-depth. We will explore their role, background, expertise, motivations, ambition, and more. In this edition: Arend de Groot, Technical Lead of the Power-2-Hydrogen program line at VoltaChem.

Arend de Groot studied Mechanical Engineering at Delft University of Technology leading to his PhD on the Exergy Analysis of HT fuel cell systems in 1996. De Groot has worked at TNO Energy Transition (formerly Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands) since 2003. He was a researcher in the field of hydrogen implementation scenarios (2003/2005), Group Manager in the field of Process Intensification (2007-2011), and Senior Consultant (from 2018 onwards). He initiated  the Faraday Lab that will open this summer. De Groot contributed to the first integrated European hydrogen roadmap (FP7 Hyways project) an was the coordinator of the European project CARENA (FP7 2010-2014) on the fundamentals of membrane reactors (including those for hydrogen production). He is member of the Partnership Board of SPIRE that helps shape the European research program for a clean and circular process industry.

What does your job at VoltaChem involve?

The emphasis in my current work is on reducing cost of electrolysis as an essential step to the introduction of hydrogen as an energy carrier. In the Faraday Lab, which we will open this summer, we work with companies, knowledge institutes on finding less expensive, durable materials and solutions for electrolyzers.

In hydrogen production it is ultimately about making technology work and realizing concrete systems. So our focus is on the problems that prevent further development and scale-up. In my view, it is essential that we work closely with the companies in the supply chain.

As technical lead power-2-hydrogen, I make every effort to be in touch with suppliers who have a research need. My role is to understand their technical challenges and then call on the specialists in our labs, who will help to come up with a solution. Of course I will have ideas myself, but I'm not asking them to work on my solution, but to develop the best solution.

So you are not performing research yourself? 

No I don't. In fact, I don't see myself as a scientist, more as a systems analyst - I want to see the big picture. Take, for instance, the fact that electrolyzers have to cope with the fluctuating supply of sustainable electricity. The focus thus is on developing electrolyzers that can deal with changing loads. But there's no clue what this really means until you consider the power source. Take a wind farm: wind turbines don't go from zero to full capacity within a few seconds. You need to consider those characteristics to be able to determine what exactly has to be tested in the lab.

You could say that we work from the nanometer up to the scale of a hundred kilometer! There's our materials research on electrolyzer components, where samples of a few square centimeters are studied to elucidate processes that take place at the nanoscale. But we are also involved in a feasibility study with Shell and GasUnie for an electrolysis system of gigawatt size. It will be powered by a wind farm far away in the North Sea, many hundreds of kilometres from the coast. So here you see the value of our systems approach: all along the supply chain, and from nanometre to multi-kilometre scale.

You sound really passionate. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I find it very exciting and rewarding to contribute to a Dutch system for large scale production of green hydrogen. To me there's no doubt that hydrogen is extremely important for realizing a sustainable industry. I know that there's not a single problem for which hydrogen provides the ultimate solution: An electric car is more economical than a hydrogen car; an industrial heat pump is more efficient than burning hydrogen; methanol and ammonia have higher energy densities than hydrogen. And the list goes on. But I am convinced that hydrogen will play a major role in the energy transition. That's because it is a system solution: it solves several problems simultaneously. Only when you realize that, you will see the key role that hydrogen can play. I'm really motivated to make that happen.

But how will it happen? How will we make the hydrogen economy a reality?

By combining forces. I think that here in the Netherlands we are in an excellent position to demonstrate the power of hydrogen; we have many opportunities for creating an ideal hydrogen ecosystem. First of all there are many energy-intensive industries. They have settled here because of the extensive oil-based energy infrastructure and the abundant supply of natural gas. Now that we are moving away from fossil sources, the extensive natural gas infrastructure can be made available to create a hydrogen network that connects industry. Adding to this, the Netherlands has relevant storage options for hydrogen in the form of salt caverns and empty gas fields. And we have the North Sea with plenty of developments in offshore wind. All those aspects provide a firm basis for a Dutch hydrogen economy. At VoltaChem, we play our part to make that a reality.

What more is there to learn about Arend de Groot?

Well, you might not know that I spent a considerable part of my childhood outside the Netherlands. As a result, I speak quite a few languages. And I always make an effort to use them when I'm abroad. Another thing that I often talk about with my colleagues, probably to the point of boring them, is that I have a wonderful summer house in Italy. We bought it as a ruin and have spent lots of time with friends and family to renovate it. So that's yet another example of what you can do by joining forces: convert something which starts as just a picture in your mind into something beautiful!


Want to get in touch with Arend de Groot? Contact him directly. 

This is the second edition of our 'Pleased to meet:' series. You can read the first one here, featuring Power-2-Chemicals Technical Lead Earl Goetheer.

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