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The Q13a offshore platform in the Dutch North Sea. Source: Neptune Energy
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European hydrogen projects make progress

Pilot schemes are moving forward as ambitions for the fuel grow

Norwegian power firm Statkraft became in early June the latest energy player to outline hydrogen plans, as momentum around the fuel builds across western Europe. The company has signed two deals—one with steel manufacturer Celsa and the Mo industrial park in northern Norway and the other a collaboration with Norwegian regional utility Tronder Energi and hydrogen technology firm Hyon.

Its first agreement targets the development of a complete value chain for green hydrogen for industrial use in high-temperature metal processes. The ambition is to build an electrolysis facility to produce green hydrogen that can replace the fossil fuels currently used in Celsa’s production process—with ‘green steel’ the end-product.

The initial plan is relatively small-scale, looking at a production unit that can produce 2-4t/d of hydrogen. But the longer-term aim is to position the Mo Industrial Park as a centre of expertise and hydrogen hub in Norway—producing hydrogen for a range of companies and processes located in the industrial park.

Statkraft’s second initiative aims to establish a value chain that can deliver pressurised hydrogen for high-speed crafts and other coastal vessels. The partners are aiming to submit plans for tender processes that Norwegian local authorities will initiate from this year onwards.

50MW – Deme planned electrolyser

At the end of May, Ocean Hyway Cluster, a Norwegian initiative to use hydrogen as a marine fuel, presented a study showing considerable hydrogen fuel potential in Norway’s maritime sector by 2030. “Pressurised hydrogen produced from renewable energy is a good solution for many types of vessels,” says Statkraft, compared to other solutions such as lower energy density heavier batteries. Locally produced compressed green hydrogen also out-competes imported liquid hydrogen on lower infrastructure, production facility and distribution costs, it contends, as well as easier scaling as demand increases.

And it sees fringe benefits, too. The electrolysis plant will produce oxygen for aquaculture and heat that can be used locally. In several of the potential locations, it will also be possible to combine hydrogen deliveries to the maritime sector with deliveries to other users in heavy transport and fleet vehicles such as buses and trains.

Offshore progress

Another project building up a head of steam is UK independent producer Neptune Energy’s PosHYdon scheme at its offshore Q13a gas platform in the Dutch North Sea. The pilot—which envisages electricity generated by offshore wind turbines being used to power a hydrogen plant on the platform to convert seawater into demineralised water, then into hydrogen via electrolysis—has gained five partners in the last few months.

Dutch gas transport firms Nogat, Noordgastransport and Gasunie and utility Eneco signed up to the project in April, while late May saw offshore wind specialist Deme also join the consortium. The newest partner’s “knowledge of connecting windfarms is crucial, not only for this pilot, but also to gain experience for the follow-up projects after PosHYdon”, says Lex de Groot, managing director of Neptune’s Dutch business.

“The expertise that Deme has built worldwide helps us all to scale up after PosHYdon from 1MW to100 MW–a crucial step for further developing offshore wind energy and enabling conversion to hydrogen in the North Sea. This will be important for windfarms far away from the coast which will be built after 2030—particularly given electricity prices are so low, which could slow down the further development of offshore windfarms. This development is essential to support future climate targets,” de Groot continues.

This is not the first European hydrogen project Deme has entered this year. In January, it went into partnership with the Belgian port of Ostend and energy infrastructure financing firm PMV. The consortium is targeting a green hydrogen plant at the port by 2025.

It first plans a demonstration project with mobile shore-based power and an electrolyser of around 50MW. By 2022, it aims to roll-out of a large-scale shore-based power project, running on green hydrogen. The 2025 vision is for a commercial green hydrogen plant powered by generation from planned new offshore wind concessions

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