The Groningen company Noordgastransport is looking into the viability of moving renewable hydrogen through their existing natural gas pipelines. They claim that this costs less than 10% of what it would build a brand-new network.
During the past 50 years, the Groningen firm Noordgastransport (NGT) has delivered hundreds of billions of cubic meters of natural gas to the Emmapolder near Uithuizen. The 470-kilometer pipeline owned by the firm transports gas from about 40 to 50 production platforms in the North Sea to Gasunie’s national network on land.
The business is currently looking at the prospects of contributing to a sustainable energy system. Transport of green hydrogen through the current natural gas pipes is the goal. The energy shift “may even be accelerated,” claims Kees Mark, operational director of NGT.
Annually, 10 billion cubic meters
The Emmapolder used to be the main entry point for 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year into the nation. Investments in gas extraction in the North Sea were unsuccessful in past years due to the low gas price. Hence, the supply drastically decreased. The annual capacity of the NGT pipeline is 12 to 14 billion cubic meters of gas. Yet, less than 2 billion cubic meters were actually carried in the previous year. It still accounts for around 30% of all offshore gas production and 8% of gas consumption in the Netherlands, according to Mark.
He anticipates that the volume will rise once again in the upcoming years, for instance, when the business One-Dyas begins gas extraction in the North Sea around 20 kilometers north of Schiermonnikoog. Fossil natural gas, however, won’t completely disappear from the energy mix until 2050.
Increase in wind farms
Offshore wind farms are growing exponentially in the meantime. This must be done in large part by supplying the electricity needed to produce green hydrogen. Currently, the power that is delivered to land via a cable is used to create hydrogen in electrolyzers.
Beyond 2030, however, that output must occur at sea. Then, as pipelines are significantly less expensive than power wires, the hydrogen may be transferred to the land. Gasunie has been requested by Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) to construct and manage a network for this reason. The gas transportation business now has a rough idea of what it may entail.
On a map of the North Sea that Mark displays, the locations of present and future wind farms are marked. Then, he continues, “you see how close our pipelines are to those wind farms. “We questioned whether we could transport hydrogen in place of natural gas.”
It is possible, according to the certifying body Bureau Veritas, which provided the response in October of last year. Barbara Huneman, an independent energy specialist, is helping NGT explore the prospects and potential roles it could play in the development of the hydrogen economy. She says, “We look into that to the decimal point.
Gas field beneath the sea
The enormous Emmapolder is where the NGT pipeline is coming ashore as a result of a series of unrelated events. The L10 gas field, which is enormous and is located 65 kilometers off the coast of Den Helder, was discovered by seismic measures in the early 1970s. The American Hunt family’s Placid Oil company, which made a fortune in the oil and gas sector, discovered the discovery. The Dutch authorities opposed the company’s request to bring the gas ashore.
He determined that the Slochteren field had adequately provided our nation with gas. In addition, everyone believed that nuclear power was the way of the future. The gas was then planned to be landed in Emden, Germany, by Placid Oil. Uncertain of why the Dutch authorities abruptly approved the landing. The pipeline’s development had reached the area above Schiermonnikoog. Without pausing, the Americans allowed the tube to make a right-angle bend, through which the NGT pipeline fell into the Emmapolder.
Mark adds, “Of course, that wouldn’t have happened if the government had approved the landing right away. “because it was much easier to get to Den Helder from L10. It is therefore merely a coincidence that it has evolved into the Emmapolder. But if we do begin transporting hydrogen, that may very well become a reality. Such a landing is consistent with the goals of the Hydrogen Valley area.”
The Groningen firm filed a letter pleading for the appropriate reuse of existing pipelines to NOGAT, the operator of another Dutch gas network. They claim that this costs less than 10% of what it would for a brand-new network. Also, new pipes must be installed through the ecologically fragile Wadden Sea in order to accommodate a new landing in Eemshaven. While ours is already there, Mark. Also, I detest both redundant work and wasteful expense.”
At least in 2050, when the Netherlands must stop emitting CO2 and the hydrogen industry is fully developed, Mark sees hydrogen as “the final picture” in the NTG network. He claims that by using the company’s pipeline to scale up hydrogen generation at sea in the interim, this transition may be greatly sped up.
The plan is to mix some green hydrogen created at sea with the natural gas being transported. Mark: You have to mix that momentarily. Although ineffective, it allows you to launch trial projects for the production of green hydrogen off-shore and at sea. since removal is then possible. As a result, you quicken the energy transition and large-scale hydrogen generation.”
The mixture, in Mark’s opinion, can be used as industrial fuel. In a few years, blending sustainable gas will be required for the sector. The next step, in the eyes of NGT and NOGAT, is for them to create a labor division. The Groningen firm can, for instance, concentrate on the transport of pure hydrogen and NOGAT to land the remaining North Sea gas in Den Helder before that link also changes to hydrogen by redeploying pipelines and connections.
Mark: “We also believe that the abandoned gas sources beneath the sea can be used to store hydrogen. Due to the fluctuating conditions, wind turbines’ electricity generation is unstable. You can maintain a steady supply of hydrogen by storing it, either alone or in an admixture. This consistency is crucial for the sector.”
It can still be investigated whether the pipelines can be used to transport captured CO2 to empty gas fields, where it is stored if the hydrogen proposal proves to be unworkable. That choice, though, is technically more challenging, according to Mark. “Since natural gas is currently traveling one way, the CO2 must go the other direction. We investigated a few methods for that. They haven’t, however, yet been used at such a great distance.”
The 25-person NGT, which Mark refers to as “a little Thumb in the energy world,” is hoping to attract some attention. “I believe that those who make decisions have to be aware of their possibilities. Although being a tiny business, we have 50 years of industry experience. We are knowledgeable about the subject. Of course, we also factor in euros contributed by the stockholders. But first, we need to figure out what part we can play.”
A platform in the L10 gas field, where the gas from several production platforms converges, serves as the hub of the NGT network. A pipeline with a diameter of 90 centimeters and a length of 178 kilometers leads from that platform to the Emmapolder. Four branches have been added to the original NGT pipeline throughout the years, bringing the total pipeline length for the Groningen firm to 470 kilometers.
The American Hunt family’s Placid Oil, which was the forerunner of the current Neptune Energy, initially owned 60% of the shares. The Dutch DSM retained the remaining 40% of the total. Oil and gas firms and investors are currently stockholders in addition to Energy Beheer Nederland (EBN).