Industry’s hydrogen experiment steps up a gear

Major offshore wind developer Ørsted is leading a group of Danish businesses from the demand and supply side to develop a hydrogen production facility, while WindEurope launches an initiative to back the role of the technology in decarbonising Europe.

Transport around the Greater Copenhagen area could use the hydrogen fuels

The promise of renewables-produced-hydrogen as a clean storable energy resource has long been discussed among the industry and academics.

Several pilot projects are in the pipeline, but the feasibility of large-scale production and the commerciality of the technology has yet to be proven.

That's not deterring the renewables industry from pursuing ever-larger projects. Ørsted has invested heavily in making hydrogen a legitimate source of energy.

Its latest attempt sees it join forces with Copenhagen Airports, AP Møller-Mærsk, transport firm DSV Panalpina, shipping firm DFDS and airline SAS to develop an industrial-scale hydrogen facility to produce "e-fuels" for road, maritime and air transport near Copenhagen.

The partners hope the site when fully operational in 2030 "could deliver more than 250,000 tonnes of sustainable fuel for buses, trucks, maritime vessels and airplanes every year".

Ørsted said the envisaged 1.3GW electrolyser could be powered from a proposed offshore wind project off the island of Bornholm, which the Danish government identified as the site of an "energy island" as part of its climate action plan.

A first stage of the Ørsted project could be operational by 2023 and comprise a 10MW electrolyser able to produce hydrogen for buses and trucks.

Further stages up to 2030 could see additional electrolyser capacity, as well as "sustainable carbon capture" from the Copenhagen area to produce methanol for the maritime sector and renewable jet fuel for aviation.

"The project has the potential to displace 5% of fossil fuels at Copenhagen Airport by 2027 and 30% by 2030," the partners claim.

Danish energy and climate minister Dan Jørgensen said the project "fits like a glove with the government's climate action".

'Choose renewable hydrogen'

Ørsted is also a signatory of a new lobbying initiative, led by trade bodies WindEurope and SolarPower Europe, calling on the European Commission to include the role of hydrogen in its green deal policy package, which aims to make the entire bloc emissions-neutral by 2050.

Members of this "choose renewable hydrogen" campaign also includes Vestas, MHI Vestas, Iberdrola, Enel, EDP, Akuo Energy and BayWa.

"We need to electrify as much... as we can. But we cannot electrify everything. Some industrial processes and heavy transport will have to run on gas. And renewable hydrogen is the best gas. It is completely clean," said WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.

"It will be affordable with renewables being so cheap now. And it will be energy made in Europe creating jobs and growth in Europe. Hydrogen in the recovery package? Yes, but make it renewable hydrogen," he added.

Project NEO

Meanwhile in Australia, developer Infinite Blue Energy has unveiled ambitious plans for a facility to produce 1GW of hydrogen using renewable sources in order to provide baseload power for the region.

Infinite Blue Energy has launched a feasibility study to be carried out over the next 18 months.