French utility Engie has announced a new partnership in the Netherlands that will use offshore wind power to produce green hydrogen, which would then be combined with captured CO2 to make a carbon-neutral form of methanol.

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Methanol (CH3OH) is a flammable liquid that has traditionally been used as a precursor to make other chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetic acid, but is increasingly being seen as a future carbon-neutral maritime fuel, with Danish shipping company Maersk having recently ordered 12 methanol-powered vessels.

The HyNetherlands (HyNL) project — which was announced last October as a pure green hydrogen play — will initially see Engie building a 100MW electrolyser in 2025 in Eemshaven, which will use 200MW of offshore wind to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

Energy-from-waste company EEW will capture biogenic CO2 from the flue gases at its existing power plant in Farmsum, which will then be combined with Engie’s green hydrogen to produce “e-methanol” at Dutch chemical company OCI’s nearby Delfzijl chemical park.

The Engie and OCI plants will be connected to a hydrogen network being developed in the Netherlands and northern Germany by local gas distributor Gasunie.

The French utility says it plans expand HyNL’s electrolyser capacity from 100MW to 1.85GW in the early 2030s.

The offshore wind power would come from Hollandse Kust West, an offshore wind zone of about 1.4GW that is currently open for tender, with the winning bidders due to be announced by the Dutch government this summer, an Engie spokeswoman tells Recharge.

“Obtaining the necessary financial support and government approvals for the project are key priorities,” the company said in a statement. “To this end, the project has already applied for grants from the European authorities (Innovation Fund).”

Ahmed El-Hoshy, CEO of OCI, said: “‘Methanol is one of the most effective green hydrogen carriers and will be key to the development of the hydrogen economy in the Netherlands and Europe. The flexibility of OCI’s production assets to switch to green hydrogen can enable expedited and scalable industry decarbonisation and will simultaneously help lower Europe’s reliance on imported natural gas.”

Cedric Osterrieth, managing director of Engie Thermal Europe, added: “The HyNL roadmap paves the way towards an effective European renewable energy hub and will offer a decarbonisation solution to multiple industry sectors with a high carbon footprint.”

Methanol is normally derived from coal or natural gas, with its production and use resulting in 300 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

This article was updated to include information about the source of the project's offshore wind power.