Green hydrogen project

C&I Issue 1, 2018

AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals and gas network operator Gasunie New Energy are planning to build Europe’s largest green hydrogen production plant in the Netherlands. A final decision on the project is expected in 2019.

Most hydrogen produced today is used in petchems and for manufacturing fertilisers, with virtually all of it deriving from fossil fuels.

However, the new plant would convert excess renewable electricity, such as wind and solar power, into 3000t/year of green hydrogen, to be used by Akzo’s speciality chemicals division or sold to third parties, such as public transport firms using hydrogen buses.

The 20MW water unit would use renewable electricity to generate hydrogen from water. It would be built in Delfzijl, at an estimated cost of ‘tens of millions’ of euros. So far, the largest planned electrolysis unit in the Netherlands has a capacity of 1MW.

‘Only with far-reaching change of its industrial activities can the Netherlands achieve the international climate targets,’ says Marcel Galjee, energy director at AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals. Dutch industry uses more than 800,000t/year of hydrogen, mostly from natural gas. Replacing this with green hydrogen would reduce CO2 emissions by 7m t, the company says.

Delfzijl is in the northern part of the Netherlands, which is well-positioned to develop a green hydrogen economy. It offers large-scale production and import of green electricity, an existing chemical industry, a gas transmission infrastructure, and the knowledge infrastructure and support within the Northern Innovation Board.

‘We see “power to gas” not only as a promising technology, but also one that will be necessary to achieve a fully sustainable energy mix by 2050,’ comments Ulco Vermeulen, a member of Gasunie’s Executive Board. Hydrogen also plays a crucial role in achieving the emission reduction target set by the Dutch government for 2030, ie reducing CO2 emissions by 49%, compared with 1990. To make sure we have enough hydrogen in 2030, we will need to take steps now to validate the technology at different scales.’

Akzo Nobel is one of the most energy-intensive companies in Europe. It says it currently uses renewable sources for 40% of its total energy need and aims to be CO2-neutral by 2050.

Price-competitiveness has proved a major stumbling block for electrolysis production. Costs of production are linked to electricity prices, which has so far prevented widespread application. But with the cost of renewable electricity falling, the opportunities for hydrogen are growing.

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