Transmission and storage
NortH2 is investigating the feasibility of large scale hydrogen production. But how do we get the hydrogen from the production site, i.e. out in the North Sea in our case, to the place where it will be consumed. There are various ways to do this. Which is the most cost-efficient way depends on the volumes of hydrogen transported and the distance over which the hydrogen is transported, as well as on specific storage facilities (not every country has empty salt caverns readily available).
For small volumes of hydrogen, transport under pressure in cylinders is a logical choice. Or it can be transported in gas cylinders or trailers with stacked long cylinders of compressed hydrogen, known as tube trailers. But when it comes to the kind of volume that NortH2 has set out to produce, road transport will be inadequate. We are going to need sturdy pipelines for that. And that is where the current national pipeline infrastructure and storage capacity come in.
When looking at the locations where the hydrogen supply comes from and where it is needed, it is not only important that the hydrogen has to get to the right place, but also that it has to get there at the right time, on demand. This requires efficient storage as an indispensable part of an efficient and reliable infrastructure. In the northern part of the Netherlands, there is a very thick layer of salt in the Earth’s crust, and salt caverns are already being used to store natural gas there. Gasunie wants to repurpose empty salt caverns in Zuidwending for the storage of hydrogen.
The costs of laying down the basic infrastructure with national coverage are estimated at around 1.5 billion euros. This amount includes the costs of converting parts of the natural gas network, in particular the compressor stations and laying some new pipelines. For the sake of comparison, the construction of a new national hydrogen grid with completely new pipelines would cost around 4 times as much. Though converting the national basic infrastructure is not part of NortH2 – since that infrastructure must be available to many producers – it is important for our project.
The Netherlands and Germany can jointly build a unique energy infrastructure made up of the power grid and the gas grid that is partly used for the transmission of hydrogen. These are networks that reinforce each other and together ensure a reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of energy.