Green Technology

A Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle Plan For Green Hydrogen


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CleanTechnica is reporting from The Hague this week, where the 10th annual Ocean Energy Europe Conference is taking place. Wave and tidal energy are front and center, and our host city is particularly interested in putting offshore wind farms to work for multiple uses, including floating solar and aquaculture. Of course, green hydrogen also has a role to play, so we’ll lead off with that.

ImpactCity Has Green Hydrogen On Its Radar

The Hague is aiming for a high profile in the decarbonized economy of the future. To help move things along, the city launched a program called ImpactCity in 2015, building on its position as the planet’s premier center for peace and justice. The idea is to foster an “ecosystem for businesses to do good,” the organization’s marketing and communications manager, Hilde van Turennout told CleanTechnica in a meeting on Tuesday.

ImpactCity tracks with the Sustainable Development Goals advocated by the United Nations. There are 17 goals, but since no single business can do it all, ImpactCity focuses attention on selected goals including water, energy, food, climate, and innovation in humanitarian endeavors.

The clean energy business fits the ImpactCity good-doing mission like a glove, so it’s no surprise to find green hydrogen among the projects under its umbrella. Green hydrogen replaces natural gas — the primary source of industrial hydrogen — with electrolysis systems, which deploy electricity from renewable energy to jolt hydrogen loose from water (see more green H2 coverage here).

Considering the roots of the hydrogen economy in the oil and gas industry, it’s also no surprise to see stakeholders in the oil and gas industry pivoting into the green hydrogen field.

The flagship green hydrogen project under the ImpactCity wing is a good example. Called PosHYdon, the sustainable H2 demonstration project pairs the independent Dutch research organization TNO with the firms Neptune Energy, Gasunie, Eneco, DEME Offshore, NOGAT, Noordgastransport, NEL Hydrogen, InVesta, TAQA, Hatenboer, Iv-Offshore & Energy, and Emerson Automation Solutions.

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, Green Hydrogen

The PosHYdon project also reflects regional, national, and site-specific opportunities in the global hydrogen field. Here in the US, for example, the Department of Energy has selected seven groups to share $7 billion in funding for the new Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program.

The program includes a legally mandated and substantial carveout for natural gas, but overall it emphasizes the use of a wide range of regional resources in the US including existing infrastructure as well as biomass, agriculture, and access to renewable energy.

Similarly, the PosHYdon project illustrates how green hydrogen projects can be tailored to fit specific regional circumstances. The project was launched by the Dutch organization Nexstep, a public-private energy infrastructure reuse and decommissioning initiative that spun out of a broader repurposing consortium called North Sea Energy.

Because it sits on the North Sea, The Netherlands is in a clear position to emerge as a global leader in the offshore wind industry. However, the industry will eventually encounter a bottleneck in The Netherlands when the onshore transmission system reaches the limit of its ability to assimilate all the new clean kilowatts from offshore wind turbines.

Green hydrogen provides a potential workaround. By providing an opportunity to convert wind energy to gas, green hydrogen can make use of existing pipelines and other infrastructure rather than investing in new transmission lines.

“The green hydrogen system adds flexibility, because there is no need for long power cables and substations, and there is no dependency on electricity prices or the capacity of the electricity grid on land,” PosHYdon notes. “The result — an adequate supply of green electricity, coupled with an adequate supply of green hydrogen — is a good basis for achieving the climate targets.”

The PosHYdon project repurposes an existing oil and gas platform in the North Sea, located in the near-coastal waters of The Hague. The platform is already hooked up to grid-supplied electricity. The first stage of the demonstration project involves using the equivalent of onshore renewable energy to power an on-board electrolyzer system, including a seawater pre-treatment element. Eventually the system will be paired with an offshore wind turbine to demonstrate the feasibility and use cases for 100% offshore operation.

“The idea is that the lessons learned from PosHYdon will help scientists and engineers successfully develop large-scale, green hydrogen production systems for offshore use,” PosHYdon explains.

Offshore Green Hydrogen Is Coming

Plenty of kinks remain to be worked out, including the extent to which natural gas will find a role to play in the green hydrogen transition. Green or not, hydrogen cannot be transported as-is in pipelines designed for natural gas. The options are to use purpose-built hydrogen pipelines, modify existing gas pipelines for hydrogen, mix hydrogen with gas in gas pipelines, or compress hydrogen into tanks and ship it by boat, truck, or train.

Meanwhile, energy stakeholders are already preparing for the transition. Here in the US, for example, Mitsubishi has introduced new dual-fuel turbines for gas power plants. They are engineered to take in green hydrogen in stages as the supply increases, towards the goal of 100% green.

Interest in hydrogen fuel cell trucks is another growth area for hydrogen in general and green hydrogen in particular. The bottleneck in this area is the availability of hydrogen fuel stations, but a workaround is already in motion in the form of mobile fuel stations. The mobility factor opens the door for more green hydrogen by eliminating the need for long distance pipeline transportation

Meanwhile, signs of more activity in the hookup between offshore wind and hydrogen are already emerging. The energy-water nexus is at work in this area, because the use seawater will help relieve strain on freshwater resources.

On the downside, seawater will quickly foul membranes and other sensitive parts of electrolysis system. The near-term avenue of approach, demonstrated by the PosHYdon system, is to co-locate seawater pre-treatment systems with electrolyzers.

The long term approach still in the R&D phase. If all goes according to plan, the offshore electrolysis system of the future will be engineered to assimilate seawater with a minimal, if any, need for separate pre-treatment steps.

Meanwhile, Over In Congress

Of course, no story about green hydrogen would be complete without a mention of the goings-on over at the US House of Representatives.

The House has been unable to conduct normal business since October 4, when Republican members of Congress fired Representative Kevin McCarthy from the all-important post of Speaker. Like suited-up lemmings in search of a cliff, Republicans have spent all this time skittering from one end of the Capitol Building to another without getting any closer to electing a new Speaker, except to nominate a series of would-be Speakers who are reportedly tied to the attempt to overthrow the US government on January 6, 2021.

That’s all well and good for members of Congress who aim to make hash out of democracy in the US (spoiler alert: all of these Republicans), but the rest of us would like to know how long these folks expect to collect their salaries from us taxpayers without doing any actual work.

Photo: Offshore green hydrogen demonstration project at The Hague in The Netherlands courtesy of ImpactCity.

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