Shell proposes ‘Europe’s largest’ green hydrogen project

An artist's impression of how the wind farm and hydrogen facility (right) could look in 2030. Image: Shell Nederland

The firm’s Netherlands arm this weekend published plans to construct new wind farms in the North Sea, with a total capacity of 3-4MW, in order to feed the electrolyser of a “mega-hydrogen” facility in Eemshaven. The wind facility and hydrogen hub would be completed in 2030, the plans state.

According to the plans, the hydrogen facility would produce around 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen annually. Its product would be supplied to businesses across the Netherlands and Northwest Europe via infrastructure supplied by Gasunie, the Dutch natural gas supply firm. Gasunie has said that it can use its existing infrastructure to store and supply hydrogen, mitigating the disruption and emissions associated with extra construction.

Shell believes that once the facility, dubbed NortH2, comes online, it can expand the adjacent wind generation capacity to 10MW by 2040, thus increasing the hydrogen facility’s output. The company claims this expansion could mitigate seven megatonnes of emissions annually by industrial customers.

A feasibility study into the plans is expected to begin in the coming weeks and to be completed by the end of 2020. Shell and Gasunie will seek the input of Groningen Seaports and other key stakeholders throughout the process.

Shell said in a statement that it had chosen the Eemshaven location because of its “great potential” for large-scale offshore wind energy and its ability to link onshore and offshore generation and storage.

Moreover, the Dutch national Government is aiming to reduce national emissions by 95%, against a 1990 baseline, under its Climate Accord. Shell, therefore, believes it can find further local partners for NortH2.

“In order to realise this project, we will need several new partners – together we will have to pioneer and innovate to bring together all the available knowledge and skills that are required,” Shell Nederland’s president and director Marjan van Loon said.

“The energy transition calls for guts, boldness, and action.”

Life’s a gas

Hydrogen could provide clean energy for homes, businesses and transport networks, if it is produced from low-carbon sources, or the carbon emissions created from it are captured. As such, hydrogen is seen as a critical part of the future energy mix, despite being in its relative infancy in these applications globally.

To that end, the European Investment Bank (EIB) committed late last year to accelerate financing for hydrogen solutions across the EU. The move complements the EU’s €100bn Green Deal, which targets a just transition to carbon-neutral bloc by 2050, and the EIB’s own commitment to stop financing fossil fuel projects in 2021.

Here in the UK specifically, BEIS recently confirmed that that £70m will be spent to fund low-carbon hydrogen production plants near Mersey and Aberdeen, along with a project using offshore windfarms off the Grimsby coast to produce clean hydrogen.

Separately, the UK’s first pilot project injecting zero-carbon hydrogen into an existing gas network recently began at Keele University.

In its advice to the UK Government on meeting net-zero by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned that large-scale hydrogen is a “necessity, not an option” to decarbonise the UK’s heavy industry and transport sectors. This advice built on previous research concluding that “significant volumes of hydrogen” should be brought online by 2030.  

Sarah George

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