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Producing hydrogen offshore amid global race to zero emissions

October 19, 2021 Wind InfoLink

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Introduction of hydrogen from offshore wind

Hydrogen becomes key in net-zero pathway

In the report “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector” published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) this May, more than 400 milestones are identified to guide the path toward a net-zero global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Hydrogen, as a versatile energy carrier, becomes a key for the world to achieve this goal. In light of this, countries across the globe started developing policies to include renewable hydrogen into the net-zero pathway. Australia, for example, released the National Hydrogen Strategy in 2019 to initiate the development of clean hydrogen, seeking to transform itself from a large fuel exporter to a major global renewable player.

Hydrogen is a flexible energy carrier for various applications in the energy sector. Its ability to store energy for long time offers stability to renewable electricity in the future when the share of which increases. Hydrogen can be used as a source for various industrial activities. For instance, it can replace coal in the steel-making process and the chemical industry. In addition, hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to generate power.

Hydrogen can be produced by steam reforming method or electrolysis process. The hydrogen produced from the former process fueled by fossil fuels is often referred as “gray hydrogen,” which is not a clean source as it generates carbon dioxide emissions during production. By using carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions can the so called “blue hydrogen” be produced. Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, a process without any emissions, and thus can help achieve a net-zero future.

Hydrogen from offshore wind 

Offshore wind-to-hydrogen is hydrogen generated by wind energy. In the mature market, wind farms generate more energy than needed, resulting in forced shut down of some turbines. Hydrogen storage offers a storage solution to renewable energy, for it can utilize surplus power to produce hydrogen, helping reach a supply and demand balance. In addition, hydrogen’s ability to store and transport energy through pipelines provides it with costs advantage.

However, there’s concerns over electric loss during transporting electricity to the electrolysis unit. Therefore, Siemens Gamesa and Siemens Energy AG are developing a solution that integrates an electrolyzer into an offshore wind turbine to produce green hydrogen. They plan to adapt its existing SG14-222 DD offshore wind turbine to integrate an electrolysis system seamlessly into its operation. Such synchronized system can help reduce loss occurred during the dispatching and transmission of electricity and improve conversion efficiency. The development of this solution is expected to complete by 2025 to 2026.

Many renewable energy developers seize the opportunity to engage in hydrogen research. The SeaH2Land vision, launched by offshore wind developer Orsted, will build a 2 GW offshore wind farm and two renewable hydrogen production facilities with 1 GW capacity in the North Sea Port cluster by 2030. According to Orsted, demand for hydrogen in the North Sea Port is around 580,000 MT per year. This project is expected to fulfil 20% of the current hydrogen consumption in the region. A 45-kilometer-long hydrogen pipeline will be connected between Belgium and the Netherlands to exchange hydrogen. The project is expected to help the two countries achieve carbon emission goals set for 2030.

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell also unveiled plans to join the NortH2, the Europe’s biggest green hydrogen project. The project is expected to be powered by 10 GW of offshore wind in the North Sea in 2040. A comprehensive plan is expected to be announced by the end of the year. The draft proposes three options for electrolysis:

  • Electrolysis on a platform: One example is the PosHYdon pilot project. PosHYdon plans to produce green hydrogen from wind and solar energy on Neptune Energy’s Q13a oil and gas platform.
  • Electrolysis on an island: Sending wind power to man-made island in the North Sea to produce green hydrogen.
  • Electrolysis in the wind turbines: Integrating electrolysis into a wind turbine. One such project is the synchronized system developed by Siemens Gamesa.

Conclusion

Green hydrogen will change the global energy economics and structure and enables renewable energy to replace fossil fuel if it reaches maturity. It also provides opportunities for countries with unfavorable conditions and a lack of natural gas, such as South Korea and Japan, to become energy exporter. However, green hydrogen still has a long way to go, and there’s still concern over its efficiency and costs. It is until prices of green electricity and conversion costs drop significantly can green hydrogen reaches economic of scale and commercialization.

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