June 06 -- A new project aims to use artificial intelligence to accelerate hydrogen production in Scotland, helping the country hit net-zero targets and powering thousands of homes and businesses each year.
Computer scientists at the University of Aberdeen and Intelligent Plant software company will use explainable AI (XAI) to develop a Decision Support System (DSS) to tackle shortfalls in production and help Scotland meet its target of 5GW of installed hydrogen production, or one-sixth of the country’s energy needs, by 2030.
They are working in partnership with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) on the project, which has been funded through the Scottish Government’s Emerging Energy Technologies Fund.
The University of Aberdeen noted the complexities and logistical challenges involved in producing green hydrogen in its statement regarding the project. It is worth mentioning that green hydrogen is generated from renewable sources and is reliant on the vagaries of wind speed or tidal power.
The University added that decisions aimed at optimizing production are usually made by experts in the field based on experience, utilizing traditional so-called ‘black box’ decision support systems that are unable to provide clear reasoning and are not fully trusted by users.
To overcome these shortcomings and the impact on production, researchers will use explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) that will allow operators to ask the system questions, receive feedback, and modify their approach if necessary, the University noted. Crucially, the use of XAI will enable trust by ensuring that decisions are explained clearly, it added.
“A hydrogen production facility must balance myriad demands, particularly when operating using intermittent renewable energy, and consideration must be given to current and future forecasts for storage, consumption, energy availability, and cost,” Nir Oren, a professor from the University of Aberdeen, said.
“An AI-based decision support system aims to take these multiple factors into account to optimize hydrogen production, but the system is only as good as the data it receives – so it is critical that decisions made by the system are explainable, that it can justify its decisions, and that the factors leading to the decisions can be understood and modified,” Oren added.
“In this project we build on ideas from the area of Explainable AI and more particularly formal argumentation theory, to enable users to interrogate the system and understand why it suggested specific courses of action. By taking this approach, the DSS will build trust amongst users that we hope will ultimately lead to an increase in the production of green hydrogen – an important factor in helping Scotland meet its net zero ambitions,” Oren continued.
The system will be trialed by operators at the Orkney-based EMEC using Intelligent Plant’s Industrial App Store, which will provide an easy and accessible interface for operators in the field. Paul Gowans from Intelligent Plant will work alongside Oren as part of the project.
“The use of Intelligent Plant’s Industrial App Store as an enabler for XAI will allow operators to better understand its system,” Gowans explained.
“It will allow for live connectivity to EMEC’s sites and will enable the team to demonstrate how the AI system can be integrated with real systems and data to optimize energy management in a practical and scalable way,” Gowans added.
“Our end goal is to create a DSS which can be used to make recommendations around hydrogen logistics, and whose recommendations can be queried and corrected as circumstances change. In the longer term, we could look to extend this technology to benefit other renewable sources such as wind and solar, further increasing the impact of the project which has the potential to go some way to reaching Scotland’s renewable energy targets,” he continued.
It is worth noting that green hydrogen was recently in the sights of the Scottish government. Namely, Scotland provided GBP 7 million of government funding to drive innovation in the production, storage, and distribution of renewable hydrogen earlier this month.
The Hydrogen Innovation Scheme funding was announced at the All-Energy conference in Glasgow by Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf.
At the time Yousaf noted that Scotland “committed £100 million, over this parliamentary session” to support the green hydrogen sector and the GBP 7 million under the Hydrogen Innovation Scheme would be awarded to 32 different projects.