Fluxys and GASCADE highlight high offshore hydrogen infrastructure potential for Europe in a DNV study

Infrastructure system operators GASCADE and Fluxys have highlighted the significant advantages of an offshore hydrogen backbone in the North and Baltic Seas in the ‘Specification of a European Offshore Hydrogen Backbone’ study commissioned to the classification society DNV.

Courtesy of DNV

According to the companies, offshore hydrogen production is paramount to meet the substantial increase expected in European hydrogen demand, and hydrogen is due to play a significant role as a low-carbon energy carrier, not only to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors but also to boost the security of energy supply in Europe.

The companies pointed out that the potential energy generation from offshore wind in the North Sea and Baltic Sea is immense and possibly greater than what the electricity system alone can handle.

They said the DNV study finds that offshore hydrogen production connected by pipeline is cheaper than onshore hydrogen production, and the pipeline connection and high load factors make the North and Baltic Seas some of the lowest-cost sources of green hydrogen for North-Western Europe.

GASCADE Managing Director Ulrich Benterbusch commented: “The EU expects demand for climate-neutral hydrogen to reach 2,000 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2050, and DNV sees the potential to produce 300 TWh/a of hydrogen using electricity from offshore wind farms in the North Sea by 2050. This would make a significant contribution to reducing dependence on energy imports. This positive aspect for increasing supply security can hardly be valued highly enough after the experiences of the recent past.”

Given the lower costs of hydrogen transmission compared to electricity and the possibility for large pipelines to aggregate offshore hydrogen production from several wind farms, the report assessed that offshore hydrogen production is an attractive option for offshore wind production, certainly at distances of more than 100 km from shore.

With regard to transport infrastructure, the study drew two different pictures based on location. For the North Sea, a large area and production potential meet the 100 km criterion, while in the Baltic Sea region, fewer areas currently meet the 100 km criterion. However, the companies noted that if Sweden and Finland decide to produce hydrogen on a large scale and transport it to demand centres in Central Europe, a combined pipeline is likely to make sense there as well.

The companies said that the spatial distribution of the potential offshore hydrogen production sites shows that the sea areas of different countries are involved, which according to Christoph von dem Bussche, Managing Director of GASCADE, “suggests that transnational coordination will be necessary to develop the fully identified hydrogen generation potential.”

GASCADE and Fluxys also explained that it will be equally important to strike the right balance between the potential use of wind for electricity generation and the potential generation of hydrogen across countries.

To further optimise the hydrogen supply chain, the study suggested storing up to 30% of the produced hydrogen in salt caverns to efficiently increase the flexibility of the system, and to support the political discussion, the study contains an initial cost estimate.

The companies noted that the study also strengthens their conviction that the AquaDuctus project is a key building block to achieve a green transition and meet the decarbonisation targets of the EU Green Deal and REPowerEU package.

Pascal De Buck, CEO of Fluxys, said: “The AquaDuctus offshore pipeline, thought as an open access infrastructure available to all future operators of hydrogen wind farms, will make a substantial contribution to the security of supply by diversifying Europe’s hydrogen supply sources.”

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