Gasunie explores offshore hydrogen production in North Sea

Dutch Gasunie is investigating the feasibility of establishing an offshore hydrogen network in the North Sea with partners.

The Netherlands has a significant climate target to meet in the area of hydrogen production. The Netherlands has set an ambitious target for hydrogen production: 4 gigatonnes by 2030. Internationally, the bar has been raised even higher. The Netherlands signed the Esbjerg Declaration with Denmark, Germany, and Belgium last summer, agreeing to develop the North Sea as a “green power plant.” They hope to generate 65 gigatonnes of offshore wind power by 2030, 20GW of which will be used to produce green hydrogen.

Green hydrogen will be crucial in the energy transition. It will be used to help make industry and heavy transportation more sustainable, as well as a feedstock for the chemical industry.

Solar and wind energy are used to produce green hydrogen. The energy for the Dutch hydrogen plans is primarily provided by offshore wind farms. There is potential for large-scale energy generation along the Dutch continental shelf in the North Sea. Up to 2030, electricity from future wind farms will primarily be delivered ashore via cables. It can be converted into green hydrogen at electrolysis plants once it reaches shore.

Offshore hydrogen production

However, laying power cables is a costly operation, especially for wind farms that will be built further off the coast in the coming years. The Dutch government estimates that the offshore cable network will cost around 26 billion euros to build. Because of this, offshore electrolysis near the power source is now being considered. Instead of bringing the electricity ashore via an expensive cable, it would be used to generate hydrogen on-site.

Pipelines would then transport this hydrogen to the mainland. Not only is laying an offshore pipeline much cheaper than laying a cable, but it also allows for more energy to be transported in a single pass. According to research, offshore hydrogen production has lower social costs than large-scale onshore electrolysis.

Gasunie is now looking into the feasibility of establishing an offshore hydrogen network. After research revealed that 85 percent of the existing gas pipeline network can safely be used for hydrogen transmission, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy commissioned this work.

So far, all electrolysis projects have been carried out on land. The technology for producing hydrogen at sea is still in its early stages. According to Gasunie, larger pilots and projects could be operational in 2028 or 2029.