Hydrogen is a valuable industrial resource. The best way to create it is by using renewables, especially offshore wind, to produce Green Hydrogen without emitting climate changing greenhouse gases.
Producing hydrogen using clean, green wind power could be a win-win strategy. Hydrogen can power vehicles including cars, buses, trams, trains besides being used for industrial processes. Mostly it is produced from fossil fuels, meaning carbon dioxide is released, but there is a strong ecological and economic case for creating it from water using electrolysis using wind turbines as the electricity generator.
Currently, 95% of hydrogen is produced from natural gas. According to the IEA, production of hydrogen is responsible for CO2 emissions of around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to the CO2 emissions of the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined. Using renewables to create it could be doubly beneficial as a financial boost for OW turbines while simultaneously cutting emissions.
The IEA report says, "With declining costs for solar PV and wind generation, building electrolyzers at locations with excellent renewable resource conditions could become a low-cost supply option for hydrogen, even after taking into account the transmission and distribution costs of transporting hydrogen from (often remote) renewables locations to the end-users."
NewEnergyUpdate reported last year most of the hydrogen produced today is used for industry: 50% consumed by refineries, 40% in ammonia production, and most of the rest used for chemistry and metallurgy. Hydrogen for transport is a small but growing segment of the market and could be used for situations where EVs are not optimal: long-distance trucking, agricultural vehicles, and short-haul ships such as ferries.
When wind farms have overcapacity it would be a tremendously useful synergy for producers to be able to use energy when there is insufficient grid requirement such as a sunny summer's day.
Hydrogen filling stations are sprouting all over the continent. New projects are regularly being announced, such as the wind-powered green hydrogen plant announced by Belgium's Port of Oostend last month. This facility is expected to be producing by 2025.
Tractebel Overdick, a subsidiary of Engie, has produced a design for an offshore hydrogen plant (pictured above) to create hydrogen from seawater using the output of wind turbines.
The next phase of Gigastack, a renewable hydrogen pilot project, has just obtained GBP 7.5 million funding as part of the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Hydrogen Supply Competition. This project is being developed by a consortium of ITM Power, Ørsted, Element Energy and Phillips 66 Limited; it aims to show how renewable hydrogen derived from offshore wind can support the UK's 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emission target. If its low-cost modular 5MW electrolyzer is proven, then scaling it up to 100MW for commercial deployment will be on the horizon.
The IEA's Key Points for Greening Hydrogen
Make industrial ports the nerve centers for scaling up the use of clean hydrogen. Today, much of the refining and chemical production that uses hydrogen based on fossil fuels is already concentrated in coastal industrial zones around the world, such as the North Sea in Europe, the Gulf Coast in North America and southeastern China. Encouraging these plants to shift to cleaner hydrogen production would drive down overall costs. These large sources of hydrogen supply can also fuel ships and trucks serving the ports and power other nearby industrial facilities like steel plants.
Build on existing infrastructure, such as millions of kilometers of natural gas pipelines. Introducing clean hydrogen to replace just 5% of the volume of countries’ natural gas supplies would significantly boost demand for hydrogen and drive down costs.
Expand hydrogen in transport through fleets, freight and corridors. Powering high-mileage cars, trucks and buses to carry passengers and goods along popular routes can make fuel-cell vehicles more competitive.
Launch the hydrogen trade’s first international shipping routes. Lessons from the successful growth of the global LNG market can be leveraged. International hydrogen trade needs to start soon if it is to make an impact on the global energy system.
Offshore wind hydrogen could be subsidy-free
within the decade
Vigen Nikogosian, principal consultant at E-Bridge Consulting told New Energy Update last year that as more hydrogen production capacity is deployed, the tariff price would fall, Nikogosian said, “Economies of scale will lead to a reduction in the premium moving forward, with hydrogen production becoming feasible without subsidies from 2030 in our projections.”
"Creating renewable hydrogen with offshore wind really has the potential to decarbonize industrial processes, and what is needed now is to scale up the electrolyzer technology and bring the cost down," Anders Christian Nordstrøm, Vice President for Hydrogen, Ørsted, said recently.
This is very good news for the Offshore Wind sector. Hydrogen production seems to be a valuable synergy and multiple developments in this field are evidence that many developers agree. Once the pilot schemes have proved themselves, it could take off rapidly and become an essential adjunct to the sector.
The US offshore wind market is probably the most rapidly-developing renewable energy sector in the world. Follow #USOW20 for the latest news and expert opinions.
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By Julian Jackson – writer on technology, arts, blockchain and cryptocurrencies