About green hydrogen
Hydrogen is a molecule composed of two hydrogen atoms bonded to each other (H2). Free hydrogen does not occur naturally on Earth, as the molecule is always part of another substance, like water (H2O).
Hydrogen is currently already an important resource for industry, used for things such as artificial fertiliser, but is still mainly made from natural gas in a process that releases carbon dioxide. The hydrogen produced is called ‘grey hydrogen’. If you capture the carbon dioxide released and store it underground, the hydrogen produced is referred to as ‘blue hydrogen’. For the energy transition, the plan is to ultimately make use of a third category of hydrogen, ‘green hydrogen’. This type of hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using green electricity (solar, wind, etc.), i.e. completely sustainably. NortH2 is geared exclusively towards the production of such green hydrogen.
Crucial role in climate ambitions
It is a given that hydrogen is set to play a crucial role in realising the Dutch, German and European climate ambitions. Hydrogen is a keystone in an affordable, flexible and sustainable energy supply, and therefore a mainstay of any smart and integrated energy system. There is furthermore growing support for hydrogen from across society, the market, science and politics. It does not come as a surprise, therefore, to see this energy carrier occupy such a prominent place in the ambitions around the Paris Climate Agreement (2015), the Dutch Climate Agreement (2019), the German National Hydrogen Strategy (2020) and the European Green Deal (2020).
Energy for industry and mobility
The various national climate plans include countless measures aimed at using green hydrogen to bring the carbon reduction targets for 2030 within reach, in the built environment, but especially in industry and in (heavy goods) mobility. Many steel mills, ships and refineries cannot simply switch from gas molecules to electricity. For these kinds of high-volume industrial consumers, we have to move from fossil to green (hydrogen) gas molecules as quickly as possible. For various chemical processes, hydrogen is the best suited resource to use as a sustainable alternative to natural gas. The Dutch Climate Agreement has set an ambition of 500 megawatts of electrolysis capacity by 2025, rising sharply to as much as 3 to 4 gigawatts by 2030. In its calculation of what the European ‘Fit for 55’ package of policy proposals means for the Netherlands, the Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) even assumes an electrolysis capacity of no less than 7GW in 2030.
For a balanced energy system
Besides applications in domains such as large and heavy goods transport and industry, hydrogen’s broader role in our future energy system is also clear. In fact, hydrogen will be an essential part of our future energy system. Just think of hydrogen’s capacity to be used as a flexible storage and transmission medium at times when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow, or when there is a surplus of solar or wind power. Hydrogen will play an important role in load balancing in the Dutch and German energy system, which will help avoid excess load or unnecessarily steep investments in the power grid. This prompted the Dutch ‘Topsector Energy’, which aims to foster innovation in the energy industry, to publish a programme-based approach for hydrogen in early 2020 to accelerate the upscaling of electrolysis capacity.
Despite all the international and powerful views on the role of hydrogen in the energy transition and future energy system, sustainability and affordability are two sides of the same coin. With this in mind, together with experts from various knowledge organisations, the NortH2 consortium partners are investigating to what extent hydrogen can be made a commercially attractive option compared to other energy carriers. The aforementioned feasibility study also addressed questions on energy efficiency, the costs of wind turbines installed far out at sea, the location of the electrolyser, the competitiveness of green hydrogen, societal aspects, and more. These are complex issues and calculations with a multitude of variables. The first phase of the feasibility study has shown that, in the long term, large-scale green hydrogen production is both feasible and necessary from a climate, engineering and market demand perspective.
NortH2 is helping to build a stable hydrogen supply chain
Hydrogen is brimming with possibilities. But quick and major steps are needed to keep in step with the climate ambitions. And that’s exactly why NortH2 wants to contribute towards realising a future-oriented integrated hydrogen chain, that ranges from production to storage and from transport to serving industry clusters and other high-volume consumers of molecules. To this end, we are going to harvest wind offshore on a massive scale and use it in its entirety to produce green hydrogen, so as to be able to get started on a stable green hydrogen supply chain on a large scale and in good time.