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Stepping Stones Towards Large-Scale Offshore Hydrogen Production

By November 7, 2021 6   min read  (1007 words)

November 7, 2021 |

Stepping Stones Hydrogen from Wind
  • Offshore wind carries vast potential and is pivotal in reaching the Paris Climate Agreement.

The growth of offshore wind in Europe has been significant over the last years, and further high- capacity growth is anticipated for future decades. The current installed capacity in the North Sea is 17 GW, and projections for future offshore wind capacities vary between 34 – 100 GW for 2030 and up to 250 GW by 2050. Offshore wind forms a critical pillar for the Netherlands to reach the climate change mitigation targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

There are tangible plans for 11.5 GW in 2030, and towards 2050 this could grow towards 60 GW of installed capacity or even higher. The North Sea area is therefore a true powerhouse for both the Netherlands as other North Sea countries.

Implementing offshore wind at lowest social costs

The ’Green Powerhouse North Sea‘ ambitions as set in the Paris Climate Agreement include the expansion of electricity grid interconnections, conversion to hydrogen, smart grids, demand response, storage options, and artificial islands to expand the role of offshore wind energy in the energy system while decreasing social costs and ecological impact of offshore energy generation. Besides ‘regular’ consumers, heavy industry and the transport sector (notably aviation) are expected to drive the demand for green, affordable electricity and hydrogen as they too transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources. It has been recognised that a suite of flexible energy system solutions and services across the offshore wind value chain is needed to facilitate the implementation of offshore wind at lowest social costs.

Strongly related to offshore wind is the foreseen development of hydrogen as a key energy carrier in energy system storage, transport and usage.

Significant challenges

The integration of large-scale offshore wind into the energy system bears some significant limitations. The initial challenge is that the current energy infrastructure is insufficient to cope with the high influx of electricity from offshore wind farms after 2030. A further challenge is the fluctuating supply and changing demand patterns, which creates a mismatch between supply and demand.

As the development of offshore wind accelerates in the Netherlands, the share of intermittent renewable energy in the electricity grid is significantly increasing, which presents enormous challenges for the stability of the power grid and the balance of supply and demand. Furthermore, the capacity of the onshore grid may cause a bottleneck by 2030 and prevent the further acceleration of offshore wind deployment.

With wind parks being developed further offshore, the transmission of generated power via cables requires expensive high voltage direct current (HVDC) connections to shore. The greater the distance, the higher the costs. At a certain point, a trade-off must be made between transmitting energy in the form of electrons or molecules.

Conversion of wind power into hydrogen by means of electrolysis is a way to mitigate the risk of grid overload by bringing wind power into the energy system in the form of molecules instead of electrons. This creates balanced options for the electricity grid by enabling peak shaving and promotes further growth of wind power capacity far beyond that of the onshore power grid.

Since hydrogen can be injected and transported via the existing offshore natural gas grid infrastructure, new pipelines are not immediately required to transmit the offshore produced energy to shore. Thus, providing opportunities to use existing platforms as entry points for offshore hydrogen.

The world’s first offshore green hydrogen plant

Iv-Offshore & Energy is one of the partners of the PosHYdon pilot project. This project aims to integrate three energy systems in the North Sea: offshore wind, offshore gas, and offshore hydrogen, by producing hydrogen from seawater on Neptune Energy’s Q13-A platform in the Dutch North Sea. The objective of this 1 MW pilot is to gain experience in integrating working energy systems at sea and the production of hydrogen in an offshore environment.

The use of the existing offshore pipeline infrastructure for other gasses will be available after 2030. PosHYdon will be the first in the market to explore the use of these offshore assets for other purposes. The subsea pipelines extend towards the North Sea borders of the UK, Germany and Denmark and can transport up to 12 GW of wind power to shore in the form of hydrogen.

PosHYdon will be the world’s first pilot for offshore hydrogen production and transmission on a working platform. The project is seen as a stepping-stone towards large scale, far offshore hydrogen production, which will be necessary after 2030.

Iv-Offshore & Energy will define the requirements for the electrolyser system to fit the offshore application. A series of adaptations are required to accommodate the electrolysis system at the Q13-A platform.

Iv-Offshore & Energy will provide the engineering for the necessary platform modifications and the system integration to facilitate offshore hydrogen production.

Because the costs (energy losses) of cable transport increase over greater offshore distances, the option to convert electricity to hydrogen offshore is considered an attractive solution. Higher power output, offshore hydrogen production and transmission over greater offshore distances could be cheaper than cable connections and onshore and offshore conversion.

500 MW offshore green hydrogen production platform

Much larger green hydrogen production systems will be necessary to integrate the upcoming large-scale offshore wind energy in the system. Iv-Offshore & Energy has contributed to many oil and gas projects worldwide and has been actively involved in the early stages of various offshore wind projects.

Iv-Offshore & Energy believes hydrogen will play an essential role in the energy transition, both onshore and offshore and strives to be involved in the first front-end developments in hydrogen production. Iv-Offshore & Energy not only contributes to multiple studies, pilot and demonstration projects in this field but has also developed a concept of a full-scale offshore green hydrogen platform with a capacity of 500 MW. This platform will produce enough hydrogen in one day to power more than 300,000 hydrogen cars for more than 100 kilometres! Iv-Offshore & Energy is responsible for the complete design of the offshore hydrogen platform, from the process design and the Balance of Plant (BOP) to the design of the jacket and the auxiliary systems.

Source: Iv-Groep b.v.

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