Hydrogen production from renewables has been part of Europe's energy transition plans and is receiving more attention in response to the pressure to go carbon neutral and a halt of Russia's natural gas supply to Europe. The EU is planning to develop a hydrogen hub and expand the applications to transportation and heating given its versatility.
World's first hydrogen turbine to be launched 2025
In 2022, Swedish multinational power company Vattenfall received a grant from the Scottish Government for a green hydrogen pilot project at its offshore wind turbines off the coast of Aberdeen. The project comprises eleven 8.8-MW wind turbines that are scheduled to operate in 2025, which will make the world's first hydrogen-producing wind farm. In addition, this year Vattenfall participated in a tender for part of the Netherlands' Hollandse Kust West wind farm and is set to deploy hydrogen-producing wind turbines in the region's seventh designated site, following the project of the Aberdeen. The hydrogen produced will be piped to the Port of Rotterdam and fed into the local hydrogen grid. The tender was closed in May 2022 and the result is to be announced in October.
Another hydrogen-producing offshore wind demonstration project in the North Sea region, Heligoland, is being developed jointly by RWE, Shell, and Equinor. The project will incorporate 14 MW wind turbines with hydrogen electrolysers developed by Siemens Gamesa and is scheduled to be completed after 2025.
EU's strategy for hydrogen deployment
With the growing awareness of net zero and the economic impact of the pandemic, the EU Hydrogen Strategy was released as early as July 2020, aiming to reduce emissions while driving the economy. The strategy includes electrolysis technology development, green hydrogen production targets, and investment mechanism development, which will be implemented in three phases. The roadmap to 2050 is as follows.
The short-term goals for 2020 to 2024 are to install at least 6 GW of hydrogen electrolyser capacity and 1 million tonnes of green hydrogen production; goals for 2025 to 2030 are at least 40 GW of hydrogen electrolyser installation and 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen production; goal for 2030 to 2050 is large-scale green hydrogen deployment.
These goals will be achieved alongside the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance that aims to implement and promote the hydrogen strategy and support investments to increase the production and demand for renewable energy and low-carbon hydrogen.
In May 2022, the EU unveiled the REPowerEU plan with a target of 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen production by 2030 and an additional 10 million tonnes of imports over its previous strategy to replace natural gas, coal, and oil of the transport sector and industries difficult to decarbonize.
REPowerEU will allocate 200 million euros for research and is committed to completing IPCEI Hy2Tech, the first Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on hydrogen approved in July 2022 to support development and research in the hydrogen value chain. IPCEI includes fuel cells, generation, storage, transport, distribution, and application of hydrogen. In September 2022, the European Commission approved IPCEI Hy2Use as a supplement to IPCEI Hy2Tech, which will support the construction of hydrogen-related infrastructure and its industrial application.
At present, EU countries such as Germany, France, and Spain have set their own targets and strategies for 2030 or 2045. InfoLink estimates that EU has reached 30 to 33 GW of electrolysis capacity, still short of its target of 40 GW by 2030. However, it is possible for the EU to achieve the 2030 target as more investments in hydrogen are expected in the years to come, such as Sweden’s hydrogen strategy that is under review, as well as Germany's upward revision of its capacity target.
Hydrogen hub development in the EU
The Port of Rotterdam is set to be the hub for hydrogen in Europe that covers production, import, and transportation, with a target to supply Europe with at least 4.6 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030.
The Port of Rotterdam is considered an ideal location for hydrogen production from wind energy, as the Netherlands has abundance of wind resources and a higher capacity factor than other renewable sources, which, coupled with the fact that the scale of offshore wind farms makes it easier to achieve the economies of scale, a key factor affecting the levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH). A 2-GW hydrogen-producing wind farm will be built in the Port of Rotterdam during 2023-2024 with 200 to 300 MW electrolysers installed on reclaimed land. According to the Rotterdam Port Authority, the Port of Rotterdam has an offshore wind potential of about 25 GW, which can make the Port of Rotterdam the largest hydrogen production site in Europe. In addition, given the diverse uses of hydrogen, it is likely to be used in the production process of oil refineries, metal industries, and import/export facilities, which are all located near the coast, creating more opportunities for offshore wind power.
The HyTransPort hydrogen pipeline system, scheduled for completion in 2026, will connect the Port of Rotterdam to the ports of the Netherlands, the Port of Antwerp in Belgium, and industrial districts of Germany, where the Netherlands' Porthos carbon capture program will take place and is expected to store about 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year in depleted gas wells.
The Port of Rotterdam intends to import hydrogen from various countries, including Australia, which is committed to hydrogen development (See also Australia green hydrogen: Production costs to drop 37% by 2030).
Levelized cost of energy (LCOE) may be a primary factor in choosing renewable sources such as onshore wind or solar energy at the beginning. However, considering the advantages of large offshore wind farms with high capacity factors after achieving economies of scale and reducing LCOH, as well as the completion of wind turbines with electrolysis technology in 2025, wind energy and desalinated seawater that can be used directly for electrolysis will be the ideal energy mix for green hydrogen in the long term.