Orsted combines an enormous offshore wind farm with hydrogen manufacturing

This photo shows turbines in the Borkum Riffgrund 2 wind farm, in which Orsted has a 50% stake.

CharlieChesvick | iStock unpublished | Getty Images

The Danish energy company Orsted wants to build a large offshore wind farm in the North Sea and combine it with so-called “renewable” hydrogen production on mainland Europe, with the project being supported by several large industrial companies.

According to the proposals submitted on Wednesday, Orsted would develop a 2 gigawatt (GW) offshore wind turbine with an electrolyser capacity of 1 GW, The company’s claim that its plans would result in “coupling one of the world’s largest renewable hydrogen plants to industrial demand”.

The SeaH2Land development, supported by companies such as ArcelorMittal, Yara and Dow, would also include 45 kilometers of hydrogen pipelines between Belgium and the Netherlands.

The electrolysis part of the project, which is to be built in two 500-megawatt phases, would use electricity from the wind farm to generate hydrogen.

Among other things, the partners involved in the development must carry out a full feasibility study for SeaH2Land, while Orsted does not yet have to make a final investment decision. If everything goes smoothly and the project gets the green light, both parts of the electrolyser could be operational by 2030.

“As the world moves towards decarbonisation, it is of the utmost importance that we act now to ensure the long-term competitiveness of European industry in a green economy,” said Martin Neubert, Orsted’s chief commercial officer, in a statement.

Hydrogen is described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier” and has a wide range of applications and can be produced in different ways.

One method involves the use of electrolysis, where an electrical current splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. When the electricity used comes from a renewable source such as wind or sun, some refer to it as “green” or “renewable” hydrogen.

In recent years, a number of companies have shown interest in renewable hydrogen-related projects, while large economies like the European Union have plans to install at least 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers by 2030.

In March, a large plant for green hydrogen was put into operation in Germany. The German steel giant Salzgitter, the E.ON subsidiary Avacon and Linde, a company specializing in engineering and industrial gases, are involved in the so-called “WindH2” project.

Elsewhere, a subsidiary of multinational building materials company HeidelbergCement has worked with researchers from Swansea University to install and operate a green hydrogen demonstration unit at a site in the UK

The interest in hydrogen is not limited to Europe. In a speech last November, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country had proposed launching what he called a “major national hydrogen energy mission”.

Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s finance minister, presented the country’s budget earlier this year, referring to Modi’s announcement. “It is now proposed to start a hydrogen energy emission to generate hydrogen from green electricity sources in 2021-22.”

India’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet, India’s attempt to use hydrogen and other renewable technologies – aiming for 450 GW of renewable capacity by 2030 – would mean a significant shift for the country if fully realized.

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