Shell’s hydrogen plant project in Emmen is taking a new direction by incorporating solar energy as a vital component. Instead of constructing a single large installation, the revised plan now involves the installation of two smaller units on the GZI site, according to Shell spokesperson.
While hydrogen production is not a new concept, the focus here is on green hydrogen, which is produced using clean energy derived from the sun and wind.
The process of electrolyzing water releases hydrogen, among other byproducts. In Emmen, the electricity generated from a nearby solar park will be utilized for this purpose. However, one of the challenges is dealing with the intermittent nature of solar power. Potma acknowledges that the fluctuating electricity supply poses uncertainties in the functioning of an electrolyzer. As a solution, Shell intends to operate one electrolyzer in Emmen using steady gray electricity sourced from the regular grid, while the other will receive electricity from the solar park. This approach enables a comparative study to explore the differences and implications of these two power sources.
Shell has already communicated the project plans to the residents of the GZI site, the location of the former gas purification plant. They are being given the opportunity to express their opinions, considering the safety concerns associated with hydrogen being a flammable substance. Shell, however, asserts its extensive experience in hydrogen production and highlights the historical use of gas at the site.
The next steps involve Shell applying for a permit, after which the final decision regarding the investment will be made. It is currently unclear how long this process will take, according to Potma.
One sensitive aspect is the 1.6 million euro subsidy promised to Shell by the province of Drenthe. Deputy Tjisse Stelpstra, a proponent of the hydrogen economy, worked towards securing approval for the subsidy from the Drenthe Parliament. Opposition arose from left-wing parties, questioning why a small province like Drenthe should support a large corporation like Shell. Eventually, sufficient political support was obtained for the contribution by the end of 2020. However, in October 2022, Stelpstra announced the withdrawal of 1 million euros from the subsidy, expressing disappointment over Shell’s delay in project development. At the time, Shell attributed the delay to the unforeseen complexity of the project.
With the updated plan now in place, Potma refrains from commenting on the amount of funding Shell is seeking from the province of Drenthe. The subsidy is deemed necessary to kickstart the project and incentivize customer uptake of the produced hydrogen.
The combined capacity of the two electrolysers in Emmen is expected to yield 4 megawatts of hydrogen, a relatively modest output compared to the 200 megawatts produced at the Rotterdam facility. Potma emphasizes that achieving commercially viable hydrogen production necessitates capacities on the scale of gigawatts (1,000 megawatts). The hydrogen produced will primarily cater to local businesses, including hydrogen-powered buses.
Member of Parliament Bart van Dekken from the CDA party has raised inquiries regarding this matter. He seeks the provincial administrators’ perspectives on the revised plan and the financial agreements they intend to establish with Shell.