Hydrogen Hopefuls – The 6 Groundbreaking H2 Projects To Look Out For
Published 01 April 2021
by David Stent, Content Manager, Energy Council
The belief and support for hydrogen gas has wavered over the years, as blimps blew up and a bountiful production seemed too costly to consider. Yet the energy transition reinvigorated the use of the gas as a core element to reaching net-zero emissions. Ahead of The Energy Council's inaugural European Hydrogen Conference, we have taken a look at six groundbreaking projects that will define how hydrogen is used throughout the ‘energy transition’ and into the future.
Saudi Arabia may have the most ambitious vision of any country in developing hydrogen for utilisation and export, the intention being to remain as the central supplier of energy to the world. With Saudi Arabia’s economy heavily dependent on their oil and gas industries, the concern that peak oil may soon pass has ensured Prince Bin Salman etches out new path that compliments their advantages in the energy supply space.
Neom is a $500 billion project to develop a 26,500km² special economic zone that is powered through the use of wind and solar PV technologies and the utilization of ‘green’ hydrogen gas. Announced in 2017 and set for completion in 2025, the city is situated in the west of the country near the Red Sea, close to the borders with Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
Saudi’s Public Investment Fund has partnered with Air Products to develop the $5 billion ‘mega-scale’ facility, the first ‘green’ hydrogen plant of its kind in the world. Additionally, Air Products has agreed to spend $2 billion to upgrade and repurpose infrastructure for the distribution of the gas. The initial phase of production will be powered by 4GW of an undeclared mix of wind and solar PV technology, and will produce 650 tonnes of green hydrogen per day. (Enough to run 20,000 hydrogen buses!)
To facilitate the export of hydrogen, Neom will contain an ammonia production plant, one of the few processes capable of safe transport of hydrogen and with potential as a hydrogen-based fuel. This plant is necessary toward creating an export industry that intends to ship 1.2 million tonnes of ammonia each year.
Running Neom’s energy business is the former CEO of Germany’s energy giant RWE, Peter Terium, who has oversaw the split of RWE’s business units as the company took an ambitious and successful leap into the renewable power generation sector.
Japan’s energy outlook has taken cognizance of the emergence of hydrogen technologies in recent years, and is seeking to make hydrogen a central component of the country’s future energy supply. As the world’s fourth largest consumer of oil and gas products, the emissions concern from conventional supply has to be reconsidered to secure future financing and investment in the sector.
While Japan will be among the biggest importers of hydrogen in the coming years, the need to develop an internal supply is just as important. Japan understands that their technical and knowledge superiority must be utilized to aid the global progression of energy technologies to assist the decarbonisation of the planet.
The result is the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field or FH2R, a joint venture by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) – Japan’s premier public research institution, regional utility Tohoku Electric Power Company, Toshiba ESS and Iwatani Corporation.
FH2R is a 10MW-class hydrogen production unit, that utilizes 20MW of solar PV generation alongside input from the grid to conduct the electrolysis of water. Using only renewable-powered electrolysis, FH2R can produce 1,200 Nm³/Hour or up to 900 tonnes of hydrogen a year. While this dwarfs in comparison to Neom’s expected output, the research facility reaches these figures with a relatively small 180,000m² solar PV field.
Europe has been leading the hydrogen revolution for a number of years already as the region looks to replace the deep seasonal dependency on natural gas with hydrogen gas. One of the most ambitious projects is a joint venture between Gasunie, Equinor and Shell together with the local authorities of Groningen – called NortH2.
NortH2 will be the largest offshore wind-powered hydrogen facility initially capable of producing 4GW of green hydrogen by 2030 and rising to 10GW by 2040, or totaling around 1 million metric tonnes each year. This equates to supplying the energy demands of 12.5 million Dutch households at their current levels. With the EU’s goal of developing 40GW of hydrogen electrolysers by 2040, this project will fulfill 10% of the continental supply!
Beyond the benefit of developing ‘green’ hydrogen, there is the benefit of repurposing Gasunie’s existing natural gas infrastructure for the transmission and distribution of hydrogen gas. The potential in this area is massive considering the extensive gas infrastructure that exists throughout Europe. The sufficient capacity to store and transport hydrogen and the development of industrial clusters can ensure repurposing upgrades and costs are minimized by utilizing existing infrastructure.
NortH2 is seen as having the potential to lower dependency on the carbon-intensive NordStream gas pipeline and develop a ‘smart storage and transmission network across Netherlands and north-western Europe. Once complete, NortH2 is expected to abate between 8 to 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
Australia’s new H2U ammonia plant seeks to answer the concern of hydrogen transportation and distribution. The core concern for the functional utility of a hydrogen society is to mitigate the dangers involved in the transportation of hydrogen, as it is too volatile to be shipped in its gaseous state. The primary solution is to combine the hydrogen gas with nitrogen to create an ammonia compound that may be more safely shipped.
Australia is positioning themselves to be at the forefront of the much needed ‘green’ ammonia market as the global hydrogen sector grows, investing AUD$240 million to develop the world’s largest ‘green’ ammonia plant called H2U. Situated in Southern Australia’s city of Whyalla, the plant will use a combination of wind and solar power to generate power to the 75MW electrolyser, which in turn will provide sufficient hydrogen to create 40,000 tonnes of ammonia each year. In periods of low renewable output, there will be two 16MW ‘open cycle gas turbines’ operating entirely on hydrogen produced at the site.
Ammonia has the additional benefit of as being an alternative fuel source for large-scale power stations as a substitute for hydrocarbon-based fuels. While hydrogen gas is best utilized in the distribution to the end user, ammonia pellets made with hydrogen can used as feedstock.
While these ‘green’ hydrogen projects are the ideal end-goal, it cannot be overlooked that over 95% of hydrogen currently produced is done so as ‘blue’ or ‘grey’ hydrogen. The refining sector has assumed a monumental undertaking to support and grow the market and technologies required to kick start a functional hydrogen sector.
Linde has been at the forefront of developing a sustainable hydrogen future by integrating future technologies into their current refining capacity. To date the company has installed over 180 hydrogen fueling stations and 80 hydrogen electrolysis plants worldwide, along with over 200 refining plants for hydrogen manufacturing.
Central to how society embraces hydrogen will be defined by how we can utilize the gas (or it’s byproducts such as ammonia) beyond industrial or manufacturing capacity. And while hydrogen fuel cells for cars leave significant challenges still to be overcome, hydrogen-powered public transport has become an increasingly viable and attractive alternative.
Now Linde has begun to build the “world's first hydrogen refueling station for passenger trains in Bremervörde, Germany”, capable of servicing 14 passenger trains with up to 1,600kg of hydrogen per day. The successful development will provide a refueling site for trains as the make use of Saxony’s regional railway networks, with potential to further develop a hydrogen electrolysis facility on-site. The notion that fuel can be created, almost at the point of delivery, is a game changer.
Co-funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, the project’s success may yet define the future of German’s 41,315km of railways. The ‘energy transition’ must reflect the need to actively utilize our existing knowledge and process into new, untested models. Germany’s massive refining industry will need to be reimagine, reuse and repurpose the existing infrastructure to clear the path for our carbon-neutral future.
To the north in Russia, there has been an impetus to search for ways to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions as the future of fossil fuels remains in doubt. A joint venture between Baker Hughes and Novatek seeks to solve this problem with the development of a hydrogen-infused low-carbon gas turbines. Additionally, Baker Hughes will refit the existing LNG trains at the Yamal LNG site in the Siberian Arctic to run hydrogen blends into the gas turbines, instead of methane from feed gas.
With most major industrial powers expecting to grow their LNG demand to 2030 and beyond, it is the development of low-carbon processes is needed to inhibit the advancement of climate change. The industry’s capacity to adapt through technical innovation will prove crucial in feeding this demand against expanding restrictions on high-carbon production.
Baker Hughes hydrogen division has existed for decades, building the first turbine in the world to run entirely off hydrogen in 2008. The capacity that reimagine how the conventional sector has interacted with oil and gas, and how innovation can mitigate our impact on the planet as a society, will become increasingly exciting as the energy transition progresses.
Baker Hughes has similarly worked with Snam to develop the world’s first ‘hybrid’ hydrogen turbine for gas pipeline infrastructure. By blending up to 10% of hydrogen in to the gas mix, Baker Hughes believes up to 5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. Such projects would prove essential to achieving the global range of climate targets, and as LNG demand grows it will be exactly these innovations that will allow for companies to achieve their won ESG targets.