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Europe begins hydrogen network development

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Pipelines,

German energy firm RWE and Norwegian oil and gas producer Equinor signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in January to develop large-scale energy value chains between Germany and Norway – renewable generation, hydrogen, and natural gas.

The companies are planning the construction of new combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) in Germany and blue hydrogen production facilities in Norway, the implementation of hydrogen pipelines between the two countries, and development of offshore wind farms for green hydrogen production.

Transporting hydrogen

The gas produced to feed RWE’s hydrogen-ready gas-powered plants will need to be moved from Norway to Germany. Gassco is currently conducting a feasibility study, expected to be completed by the spring, for a hydrogen pipeline between the two countries. The company is currently planning on moving an estimated 4 million t of hydrogen a year, or an equivalent capacity of about 18 GW, depending on the purity of the hydrogen, says Gassco Spokesman, Pal Rasmussen.

A number of possibilities are on the table.

“In the ongoing feasibility study, Gassco will look at several technical solutions for transporting low-carbon hydrogen, which includes blending of hydrogen in today's gas pipelines, complete conversion of a current gas pipeline, and a possible new pipeline,” says Rasmussen.

The decision is still to be made on whether to retrofit an existing natural gas pipeline – a pure hydrogen pipeline would need to address the peculiarities of the gas which can cause embrittlement of steel components and is leaky compared to methane – or to build a new pipeline.

“The studies we have carried out so far show that the pipeline network can be used to transport hydrogen. However, hydrogen will lead to changed operating conditions (pressure, capacity, etc.) in the pipeline network, and additional studies are needed,” he says. “All options will require a qualification/requalification from a classification society in terms of technical and safety issues, and studies is this area are ongoing. Should an existing pipeline be recommended, modifications will be required.”

From blue to green

As a hydrogen network is built up, the MoU aims to transition to green hydrogen from renewable energy sources. This will require a massive infrastructure build out on both sides of the German-Norway border.

An electrolyser plant with an installed capacity of 26.5 GW, running on 100% utilisation, would consume 232 TWhr/yr and produce 4 million t of hydrogen, or some 58 kWhr/kg of hydrogen, calculations by consultancy Greenstat show. By comparison, the entire UK consumed 295 TWhr of electricity in 2020, according to government data.

The 2021 AquaSector project – agreed on by a declaration of intent signed by RWE, Shell, Gasunie, and Equinor – will also help move from blue hydrogen to green, say the companies. The AquaSector project aims to build a large-scale German offshore hydrogen park by installing approximately 300 MW electrolyser capacity to produce up to 20 000 tpy of green hydrogen.

The companies plan to transport the green hydrogen via a pipeline, AquaDuctus, to the small German archipelago Heligoland as of 2028. The project is considered ‘proof of concept’ for the longer-term vision to produce up to 10 GW of green hydrogen offshore by 2035 and piping it to mainland Germany, the companies said.

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