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Equinor joins 10GW Shell-led offshore-wind-to-green-hydrogen project

Equinor joins 10GW Shell-led offshore-wind-to-green-hydrogen project — here’s why

NortH2 will bring the kinds of economies of scale that will be needed to make green hydrogen cost-competitive with polluting grey H2, senior Equinor executives tell Leigh Collins

By Leigh Collins: 7 December 2020

Oil major Equinor has joined Europe’s largest green hydrogen project, NortH2, which aims to produce one million tonnes of the zero-carbon gas annually using at least 10GW of dedicated offshore wind power by 2040.

German power company RWE has also joined the project in the north of the Netherlands, which aims to see 4GW of green-hydrogen producing electrolysers installed by 2030.

The project, pronounced “North H2”, was initiated in February this year by Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell, local natural-gas distributor Gasunie and ports operator Groningen Seaports with a view to kickstarting Europe’s “green hydrogen economy”.

The 10GW of dedicated power for NortH2 will come from one or more yet-to-be-designed offshore wind projects, rather than any in the existing development pipeline. And the scale of offshore wind required for NortH2 is enormous — the world’s largest offshore wind project at present is the 3.6GW Dogger Bank project.

The importance of NortH2 and other similar-sized projects, such as the RWE-linked 10GW AquaVentus projectoff Germany, should not be underestimated.

Green hydrogen is seen as a key vector for decarbonising the broad energy sector as it can be used for zero-carbon transport, heating, heavy industry, long-term energy storage and as the basis of carbon-neutral synthetic fuels. But green H2 — produced by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen inside machines called electrolysers that are powered by renewable energy — is 50-300% more expensive than highly polluting “grey hydrogen” derived from natural gas. This is partly because electrolysers have yet to be industrialised and are still largely produced by hand in relatively small numbers.

Yet policymakers around the world are relying on green hydrogen to reach their net-zero targets, even though the technology has yet to be deployed at scale. For example, the EU’s hydrogen strategy calls for the deployment of 40GW of green H2 by 2030, but the world’s largest working electrolyser is thought to be a 10MW machine in Japan.

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