Dr. ir. René Peters
- Offshore Energy
With the strong expansion of the number of offshore wind farms in the coming decade to a capacity of 11.5 gigawatts in 2030, large-scale storage and transport of the generated energy in the form of hydrogen will be necessary. The North Sea is, for various reasons, very suitable as an area to produce, store and transport to shore green hydrogen that has been generated in a fully sustainable manner.
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Hydrogen is indispensable in the energy transition because it can make an important contribution to reducing the CO2 emissions of energy-intensive industries, among others.
TNO devises concepts, develops technologies and carries out practical tests to produce and store hydrogen at sea on a large scale. On an oil and gas platform off the coast of The Hague, for example, there will be an installation to produce green hydrogen from sustainable electricity generated by wind and sun.
Under the North Sea there are many empty gas fields where the hydrogen can be stored. At times of high energy demand, it can be brought ashore via existing gas pipelines. TNO is investigating the most robust and inexpensive way to transport the electricity generated at sea, in the form of hydrogen molecules, to large users. This is considerably cheaper than transporting electricity via cables. In addition, the existing infrastructure of onshore and North Sea gas pipelines is ideally suited for this purpose.
The amount of energy that now flows ashore through these pipelines in the form of natural gas is a multiple of the target of 11.5 GW of wind power by 2030. This makes it attractive to bring ashore the sustainable energy that is increasingly produced further out to sea in the form of hydrogen.
Other TNO research focuses on the storage of hydrogen in salt caverns or empty gas fields. Gas fields are potentially suitable for this, but it must be unequivocally established that this storage is safe and economically feasible. On land, large-scale storage of hydrogen in empty salt caverns has already been proven to be safe. Their previous use for the storage of natural gas has been shown to be leak-proof. Here too, sustainable energy generated on land is converted into hydrogen on a large scale and in the long term is much cheaper to store and transport than in the form of electrons.
Large-scale onshore and offshore storage will make it much easier to balance the demand for energy with the variable supply from the sun and wind. However, considerably more can be stored in empty gas fields offshore than in salt caverns. The research into storage in gas fields and wells focuses mainly on leak-tightness and whether and in what way hydrogen reacts to materials and rocks. TNO is working closely with industrial partners to establish this.
TNO is also developing new materials that enable small-scale storage of hydrogen in special tanks as a high-pressure gas or bound to another element to keep it liquid. In this context, we are conducting studies and testing materials for hydrogen storage under extreme conditions such as high pressure or low temperature.
Possible applications are heavy transport by road and water. Liquid hydrogen, with a temperature of minus 253 degrees Celsius, must be safe and profitable to ship from countries that produce hydrogen to places where there is demand for it. This is where our knowledge of gas, process technology, chemistry and materials come together.
Special tanks are required to safely use hydrogen fuel in a car/truck or aircraft. TNO is looking for partners to produce these safe hydrogen tanks. Are you interested in a collaboration? Get in touch with us!
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Together with TNO, industry in the port of Rotterdam has developed plans to significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Blue hydrogen is the answer here: the CO2 released during the production of hydrogen is captured and transported to empty gas fields in the North Sea. The H-vision project provides for the transport of the CO2-neutral blue hydrogen from a centrally located factory on the Maasvlakte via a new pipeline network in the port area to the chemical and refining companies and CO2 to empty gas fields at sea via the Porthos network.
On a national level, Gasunie's network must be adapted and expanded to bring the green hydrogen from the North Sea and other sources to the large industrial clusters: Rotterdam, Eemshaven, IJmuiden, Terneuzen and South Limburg.