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Hydrogen seeks to replace petroleum and natural gas in local energy source

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Historically, the northern part of the Netherlands was one of the principal gas-producing regions. In the province of Groningen, one of the world’s greatest reserves was discovered, and its mining contributed to the country’s prosperity for decades.

The end of gas generation, according to Jochem Durenkamp, manager of hydrogen programs at the New Energy Coalition. This would result in the loss of a large number of northern employment if hydrogen were not the ideal replacement.

In response to a decline in gas extraction and accompanying jobs, northern areas are seeking alternatives. In addition, the ground movements generated by gas extraction result in the occurrence of 72 small earthquakes in 2021 alone. These earthquakes have substantial economic effects, particularly when they cause residential damage. Since 1991, a total of €1.2 billion in compensation for earthquake damage has been awarded.

Northern Netherlands aspires to become one of the so-called “hydrogen valleys.” This is achieved through the New Energy Coalition-coordinated initiative HEAVENN. The area will use European money to construct the infrastructure required to supply locally produced energy with renewable hydrogen.

The ultimate objective of the European Union is to construct 100 hydrogen valleys. In Europe, there are now 23 projects in various phases of development; by 2025, this number is predicted to increase. In the context of a fast evolving and multibillion-dollar clean energy investment trend, dozens of projects have already been established across Europe and in more than 20 countries internationally. This hyperlink displays a map of the hydrogen valleys.

The plan aims to stimulate regional economies while fighting the primary cause of climate change, which is the use of fossil fuels. Ultimately, the growth of new regions will result in the formation of a vast network of hydrogen-based economies with a secure and clean energy source.

Green hydrogen

The northern area of the Netherlands has all the necessary characteristics to capitalize on the prospects hydrogen presents. Being close to North Sea offshore wind farms provides a direct link to the renewable energy required to produce green hydrogen. Moreover, the region’s prior gas extraction has established a set of knowledge and skills that can be easily translated to the production, distribution, storage, and use of hydrogen in the local economy.

Hydrogen valleys are designed to generate a self-sustaining hydrogen ecosystem from start to end. The initial phase of the HEAVENN project is to locate locations where the electrolysis process may be carried out to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity.

A hydrogen valley is a medium-sized region where clean, locally generated hydrogen is consumed by households, automobiles, and industries. The objective is to initiate a hydrogen-based economy on a local scale. Later, the sections of the hydrogen valley will combine to form bigger commercial hydrogen fuelling zones.

Hydrogen is considered a green energy source when its electricity is derived from renewable sources, such as offshore wind power in the case of the HEAVENN project. This zero-emission energy vector, which is often stored as gas, is utilized as a fuel in transportation, heating, and industrial applications.

HEAVENN, for instance, invests in hydrogen-based mobility projects that envision the establishment of a network of hydrogen recharging stations for passenger cars, lorries, and buses powered by hydrogen. Additionally, the hydrogen will be utilized to power a data center and heat residential districts.

Creating energy ecosystems is difficult. Durkamp mentioned that there are thirty partners for the project. It is extremely difficult to coordinate their efforts, yet the development of this ecosystem is crucial for the hydrogen industry.

The local community is a significant actor in addition to the partners. “It is crucial that the local residents be consulted,” stated Durenkamp. “Where subsurface energy extraction formerly occurred, there are now wind turbines, solar panels, and big electrolysis plants.” Everything in the project is completed in collaboration with the local residents.”

Pristine energy islands

The Spanish island of Mallorca, which calls itself the “island of hydrogen,” is another locale that is capitalizing on hydrogen’s potential.

“The concept was conceived when CEMEX, a cement manufacturer, said it would close its facility in Mallorca,” says Mara Jaén Caparrós, coordinator of hydrogen innovation at Enagás, manager of the national network’s transmission network. Hydrogen will be used to reindustrialize the island and decarbonize the Balearic Islands area.

The GREEN HYSLAND initiative will develop an ecosystem of hydrogen consumers and producers on the Mediterranean island. This accomplishment would result in a large decrease in expensive energy imports and the elimination of hazardous emissions.

A key component of the project is an electrolysis plant that generates hydrogen using electricity from two newly constructed solar power plants. The hydrogen is then used for a variety of local purposes. Palma de Mallorca’s public transportation system, for instance, is including hydrogen-powered buses into its fleet. The electricity supply to the island’s vital ferry terminal, as well as hotels, provides a further illustration. However, communal energy requires community support.

Diversification of renewable sources

Jaén Caparrós stated, “It is crucial to have the backing of society.” Hydrogen is unique to the Balearic Islands. In addition to promoting a reindustrialization based on renewable energy sources, the initiative will create knowledge, research, and innovation. The Balearic Islands must use this excellent chance to diversify their production model and so generate new, stable, and high-quality jobs.

The second objective of GREEN HYSLAND, which is connected to the first, is to minimize emissions from natural gas consumption. According to Jaén Caparrós, the proposal envisages the incorporation of hydrogen into the gas network because the two energy sources are compatible. “A pipeline will be constructed to convey hydrogen to the entrance point, decarbonizing a portion of the natural gas network,” he stated. This phase is slated to begin by the end of 2022.

Hydrogen may be incorporated into the current gas infrastructure that is used to heat homes, hotels, and businesses, as well as create power, in this manner. The resultant blend of gas and green hydrogen has a less carbon footprint than the gas alone, which is a crucial step toward total decarbonization.

Hydrogen ecosystem models

GREEN HYSLAND has also cooperated with non-European organizations. “We have thirty partners from eleven countries, including Morocco and Chile,” Jaén Caparrós stated. “These partners also want to develop green hydrogen ecosystems, and the value of hydrogen valleys increases if we can establish linkages with other locations in and outside of Europe,” he stated.

Jaén Caparrós stated, “The hydrogen valleys provide new employment, reindustrialize the region, and establish new economic activity.” In addition, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced. Therefore, hydrogen is beneficial to society as a whole.”

Once the infrastructure is constructed and the era of testing concludes, the lessons learnt must be utilized on a bigger scale. Both HEAVENN and GREEN HYSLAND are eager to share their knowledge. Durenkamp stated, “We want to be an example for other locations throughout the world.” If this effort is successful, we would like to share it.

Nedim Husomanovic

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