DNV estimates green hydrogen potential in North and Baltic Seas offshore production

The North and Baltic Seas would benefit greatly from an offshore hydrogen backbone, according to the “Specification of a European Offshore Hydrogen Backbone” study that infrastructure system operators GASCADE and Fluxys commissioned from DNV.

“The EU expects demand for climate-neutral hydrogen to reach 2,000 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2050, and DNV sees the potential to produce 300 TWh of hydrogen using electricity from offshore wind farms in the North Sea by 2050. This would make a significant contribution to reducing dependence on energy imports. This positive aspect for increasing supply security can hardly be valued highly enough after the experiences of the recent past,” says GASCADE Managing Director Ulrich Benterbusch. 

The report determines that offshore hydrogen production is an appealing option for offshore wind production, especially at distances of more than 100 kilometers from shore, given the lower costs of hydrogen transmission compared to electricity and the potential for large pipelines to aggregate offshore hydrogen production from several windfarms. The North Sea and Baltic Sea have enormous offshore wind energy production potential, possibly exceeding the capacity of the electrical system alone. According to the DNV study, pipeline-connected offshore hydrogen generation is more affordable than on-shore hydrogen production.

“What we see is that areas located over 100 km from the coastline offer lower levelized costs of production. At this distance, it costs more per energy unit to transport electricity than to carry hydrogen via pipeline”, explains Claas Hülsen, Regional Advisory Business Development Director for Energy Systems at DNV – one of the study’s authors.

The report paints two distinct visions of transportation infrastructure depending on location: The North Sea meets the 100 km requirement because to its size and production potential. A meshed pipeline connection, or a European backbone, might logically link production locations to the existing onshore pipeline network in order to transport the hydrogen produced offshore to land.

In the Baltic Sea region, where fewer places currently match the 100-km requirement, the situation is considerably different. A combined pipeline is likely to make sense in southern Europe as well, though, if Sweden and Finland choose to create hydrogen on a significant scale and ship it there.

The geographic distribution of the prospective offshore hydrogen production locations demonstrates that various nations’ seas are involved. Finding the ideal balance between international hydrogen production and the potential use of wind energy for the production of electricity will be crucial.

The study advises storing up to 30% of the produced hydrogen in salt caverns to effectively boost the system’s flexibility in order to further optimize this hydrogen supply chain. The report also includes an early cost estimate to support the political discussion: According to estimates, 10% of the entire cost of hydrogen produced offshore in the North Sea is spent on pipes and compressors for the offshore hydrogen backbone. Initial calculations show that an investment in offshore hydrogen transport infrastructure of €35–52 billion can result in a hydrogen system cost for the North Sea of €4.69–4.97/kg (including underground storage).

Project AquaDuctus is a component of the proposed offshore backbone.
The study confirms GASCADE and Fluxys’ belief that the AquaDuctus project is a crucial component of any green transition and is necessary to reach the decarbonization goals set forth in the EU Green Deal and Repower EU package.

This massive offshore pipeline project, created to effectively transport hydrogen produced by North Sea wind farms onto the German onshore hydrogen grid, is actually built as a backbone able to collect hydrogen from multiple production sites while also offering the possibility of connecting up with other global hydrogen flows through the North Sea.

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