New hydrogen plant to supply unprecedented amount of power

Shell, Gasunie and Groningen Seaports have plans to build Europe’s largest green hydrogen plant in Eemshaven in Groningen. The consortium wants to generate the electricity needed for hydrogen production in an offshore wind farm, which must supply an unprecedented 3 to 4 gigawatt of electricity around 2030 and can later grow to 10 gigawatt, more than the total power consumption of Dutch households. No wind farm of this size exists yet worldwide.

“It needs to be bigger, greener and faster,” says Marjan van Loon, CEO of Shell Netherlands. She refers to the signature that she put under the Climate Agreement last year. “We have promised that we will contribute our share. This is a major step in the energy transition.”

The mega project, in which Shell cooperates with Gasunie and Groningen Seaports, is still in its infancy. How much it will cost and how the bill will be distributed is still unknown. The companies certainly expect to need subsidies in the first phase. They hope that the first wind turbines will be in 2027. The hydrogen plant must rise in the Eemshaven. It is possible that more so-called electrolysers will follow later at sea, which produce green hydrogen using wind energy.

The project called NortH2 should make the Netherlands a leader in the hydrogen economy, says Van Loon.

“We are often concerned with small steps and obstacles, but you have to dare to think big. We see this as the way to build the energy system of the future.”

Hydrogen is already being used extensively by industry and its importance is expected to increase. To make hydrogen, water and an energy source are needed. Nowadays, this is generally still natural gas, which contributes to climate change through CO2 emissions.

The green hydrogen that the companies have in mind is, for the time being, more expensive to make, but Van Loon expects that the costs will fall sharply due to an increase in scale. The intention is that around 2040 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen will be produced annually. This can be done through existing gas pipelines to industrial areas, from Eemshaven to the German Ruhr area.

The consortium estimates that the project will prevent the emission of around 7 megatons of greenhouse gases per year. That amounts to 3.7 percent of Dutch emissions.

Hydrogen is clean, but energy is also lost during the conversion. It is therefore less efficient than using electricity directly. Van Loon points out, however, that it is not a realistic option to run all factories on electricity.

“Many industrial users need an energy source with a higher energy density. We are convinced that they are better off with hydrogen.”

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