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Danish companies’ hydrogen pipelines to cut across northern Europe
Danish and Dutch grid operators are scoping out northern European waters to build new pipelines and repurpose existing ones for renewable hydrogen produced by offshore wind farms.
Hydrogen pipelines appeal because the technology is relatively advanced. Large liquefied hydrogen and ammonia tankers that enable shipping the gas over longer distances are only being piloted and may be developed by 2030, IHS Markit analysts wrote in an April report on hydrogen transportation costs.
Danish state-owned Energinet and Dutch state-owned Gasunie, which operates natural gas networks in the Netherlands and Germany, are studying a plan for a pipeline to export Danish hydrogen to Germany, according to a 27 April statement.
Energinet envisions Denmark's "abundant" offshore wind will produce green hydrogen for export via the pipeline.
The partners plan on repurposing existing natural gas pipelines for 50-60% of the length of the proposed 350-450 km connection from Esbjerg or Holstebro in Denmark to Hamburg in Germany.
The gas would then be shipped southbound via a separate hydrogen network by 2025 per the German Network Development Plan, according to Energinet.
The pipeline could be built in stages, scaling up capacity over time in response to growing demand. In the first phase, the pipeline would be built without compression, saving on both operation and investment costs as compression comprises "a large cost parameter," the companies said.
The two grid operators found that 10-25% of future German hydrogen demand could be imported via the proposed Danish-German link.
Germany's pair of pipelines: Hamburg and Helgoland
Extending its hydrogen pipeline ambitions in Germany, Gasunie is separately pairing up with Shell and multinational power company RWE on a project in German waters.
The AquaDuctus project is a proposed 10-km pipeline that would transport green hydrogen from electrolyzer-equipped offshore wind farms to various offshore distribution, control, and storage platforms near Germany's Helgoland archipelago. The pipeline could be extended to the Elbe River estuary north of Hamburg and connect to inland networks by 2030. In addition, distribution from offshore platforms might include several countries in northern Europe.
The project's partners have recently agreed to "intensify their collaboration" on AquaDuctus, part of the broader Aquaventus initiative, according to a 26 April statement.
On the mainland, Hamburg is a potential hotspot for hydrogen distribution infrastructure. A "Green Energy Hub" featuring a 100-MW electrolysis plant and an ammonia import terminal was recently announced by German utility Uniper, Shell, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).
The project could serve local industrial hydrogen needs as well as, possibly, grid demand, according to its backers. The municipal gas network operator plans to expand a hydrogen network at the port within 10 years, according to MHI.
Ørsted's wind gains steady Dutch, Belgian customers
In the Netherlands, Danish multinational wind power developer Ørsted is moving in the same direction. It also plans to develop a cross-border pipeline to link onshore electrolyzers that use offshore wind power to European centers of hydrogen demand by 2030, subject to changes to regulatory frameworks and regional gas networks.
With its SeaH2Land project, Ørsted proposes to build a 2-GW offshore wind farm in the Dutch North Sea to supply power to a 1-GW electrolyzer that would link up with industrial demand in the North Sea port cluster. This includes the cities of Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium as well as Borssele and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the developer announced in March.
It plans on connecting to an existing Dutch hydrogen pipeline that could be expanded. The 12-km Gasunie hydrogen pipeline, converted from a natural gas pipeline in 2018, is allowing Dow Chemical Benelux to supply hydrogen to Norwegian ammonia producer Yara.
Yara hopes to also become a producer of hydrogen by working with Ørsted, aiming to replace fossil fuel-based hydrogen with renewable hydrogen for use in ammonia production at its Sluiskil plant.
A group of industrial players in the delta region near the port of Antwerp are working to develop a regional open-access hydrogen network between industrial centers in the two countries, said Ørsted.
Ørsted provided more details on the project at WindPower Europe's Renewable Hydrogen webinar on 5 May. "We're doing this in one of the largest centers [for use of fossil fuel-sourced] hydrogen in Europe, the Dutch-Flemish North Sea ports. This is a place where you find all the pieces of the puzzle. It's a place with existing hydrogen demand, so no need to switch technologies," Senior Regulatory Affairs & Stakeholder Manager Joël Meggelaars told attendees.
"It's a matter of replacing fossil fuel-based hydrogen with renewable hydrogen to create CO2 emissions reductions," he said.
Hydrogen production sites linked by pipeline to industrial demand centers can serve as a stable revenue source for wind power investments at a time when Dutch wind farms are being built without subsidies and offshore wind power prices are trending lower. "But with an integrated project like this, you're creating your own stable revenue stream," said Meggelaars.
The executive drew a parallel between hydrogen and offshore wind in the Netherlands, which in 2018 saw a zero-subsidy tender after a period of state support.
The pipeline project, he added, may also be used to bring renewable hydrogen to land-constrained Belgium, while making steel, fertilizer, or petrochemical production for offtakers like Dow Chemical and ArcelorMittal in Belgium more sustainable.
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