TNO: Offshore hydrogen production will move faster than we think

At last year’s Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference (OEEC), René Peters, Business Director Gas Technology from TNO, talked about why it is more efficient and economically viable to produce hydrogen offshore than onshore, and how offshore hydrogen production could impact the European hydrogen market.

“It’s a no-brainer because … there’s this convention that whatever you have to do if you can do it onshore, it’s cheaper than offshore. On the other hand, if you need to convert energy from one carrier, electricity to the other, and you lose some energy on the way, it’s better to convert as close to the source as possible. So that actually drives hydrogen towards offshore,” Peters noted in his opening remarks during The Stage session.

The ambitions for offshore wind are huge, not only in the Netherlands but also in the North Sea. All countries around it have similar plans, and all the wind parks also in our neighboring countries are moving further and further offshore.

The target for hydrogen production in the Netherlands is about three to four-gigawatt hydrogen production in 2030. Meanwhile, on the European scale, there is an ambition of 40 gigawatts of hydrogen production, which is all more or less connected to offshore wind.

“The whole North Sea is in transition,” Peters highlighted.

To achieve these targets, the industry players need to find suitable and sustainable ways to produce energy, especially when it comes to hydrogen. These initiatives are not only bounded to the Netherlands but also Germany, UK and Denmark. Because of that, there is a need to build a big offshore grid to connect all the countries around Europe.

Related Article

There are several reasons why offshore hydrogen production will move faster, one of them being the transport capacity of the onshore grid.

“We also need balancing of the system. The reason that there are problems in the grid is not only the growth of demand but in particular, the instability of the power, which is injected into the grid,” Peters stated.

Other reasons include the there are significant space limitations onshore, because even though there are plans for onshore electrolysis, the capacity that can be realized is limited due to the space constraints. Transport costs of hydrogen are also a fact to consider. Furthermore, the power cables used to bring the electricity to shore also can have an impact on the biodiversity and the ecological value of the North Sea.

“So we think there’s really a drive towards offshore, and that could even go faster than we think,” according to Peters.

During his session, he also spoke about the challenges of building the offshore hydrogen infrastructure, emphasizing that the existing oil and gas infrastructure, depleted fields and pipelines could be used to produce hydrogen.

If we produce it offshore, there’s also the additional benefit that we can potentially store the hydrogen in either salt cans offshore or depleted gas fields, and then produce a stable stream of hydrogen to the market industry,” Peters remarked.

“This is why offshore is so fast… And it’s in particular because of the cost of the converters and the export cables, which actually linearly increase with scale. While a pipeline can easily handle 10 gigawatts in this example without increasing the scale, you only have to increase speed or pressure in the system.”

During his presentation, Peters also talked about the success of PosHYdon project, an initiative developed together with Nexstep, the Dutch association for decommissioning and reuse and industry players. The aim of the project is to investigate the practical aspects of integrating working energy systems at sea and producing hydrogen in an offshore environment, to see how offshore conditions, including salt, affect the electrolyser.

Related Article

Off the Dutch coast, more than 10 kilometers from The Hague, the PosHYdon installation will produce green hydrogen from sustainable electricity generated by wind and solar. This is a first step towards large-scale offshore hydrogen production from wind power.

“The Dutch government wants to fund a 100-megawatt demo and a 500-megawatt demo to scale up to that level. But we really have to accelerate the learnings. There was a question about what did we learn from PosHYdon? We cannot wait for sharing the learnings of PosHYdon until we finished the whole project, because the next project already has to be designed and decided before PosHYdon is finished. So we have to learn to share the learnings from these kinds of pilots much earlier in the development before we start the next project, because otherwise we have a lack of of time,” Peters concluded.

View on Vimeo.

We have just launched a new, dedicated site for OEEC! Follow for all the updates related to the 2024 edition:

Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference

Read all the news from OEEC 2023 on Offshore Energy.