Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “changed the paradigm” for renewable energy and hydrogen as nations look to accelerate large-scale deployment to increase energy security, a Recharge roundtable on the integration of offshore wind and green H2 was told.
Wind’s ability to provide massive power supplies to electrolysers and hydrogen's potential to help free economies from politically onerous reliance on Russian gas has shot up the European and global agenda in response to the crisis, industry experts told the digital event Offshore Wind & Green Hydrogen – a New Age Industrial Marriage.
“We’ve entered a completely new geopolitical context,” said Francois Paquet, impact director for the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition.
Renewables such as offshore wind are suddenly seen “as an issue of energy security, not just of climate change”, while soaring gas prices mean “the economics of hydrogen have been completely turned on their heads” with green H2 now cheaper than dirtier alternatives. “Nobody expected that.”
“The terms of engagement have changed entirely,” noted Recharge Editor-in-Chief Darius Snieckus, who moderated the roundtable that brought together experts from the offshore wind and hydrogen development, technology and policy arenas.
Scott Urquhart, CEO of specialist offshore wind analyst Aegir Insights, said a greater priority for energy security could aid the cause of offshore wind-hydrogen tie-ups, which may not always be able to compete with vast desert-based projects on price but could still play a key role in energy plans.
“What we see in commodity markets is there’s always a merit order. It’s not always about price.”
It’s low risk, you can turn out many gigawatts per year and it’s close to major demand centres.
Urquhart said while markets such as Chile, Morocco and Namibia will be the “low cost centres of the next decade”, offshore wind-powered hydrogen could be the “big volume in the middle of the merit order”.
“It’s low risk, you can turn out many gigawatts per year... and it’s close to major demand centres,” Urquhart added, pointing to the potential of regions such as Atlantic Canada and South America to host future projects thanks to some of the world’s best wind resources.
Roundtable panellists pointed to the huge role offshore wind-powered renewable hydrogen had to play in underpinning transformation of the global energy economy – but stressed that decisions made now would have a major impact on the sector’s evolution and speed of progress.
Frontier technology for the 2030s
Henrik Bach Mortensen, senior business analyst at turbine maker Siemens Gamesa, which is engaged in pioneering R&D to integrate wind and hydrogen production on land and sea, described it as “a frontier technology developed in the 2020s to be ready for scale in the 2030s” when it could play a key role in conjunction with other major innovations such as energy islands.
Mortensen pointed to key advantages around modularisation, scalability and lower conversion losses, as well as the potential to operate in “island mode” independent of power networks.
However, he added that decisions around infrastructure and enabling early large-scale projects such as Europe’s multi-gigawatt Aqua Ventus and NortH2 complexes would be crucial: “One thing we certainly need to make sure of is we get the most amount of hydrogen out of the megawatts involved.”
Ira Efremova, hydrogen advisory services manager at BP, which is making market-shaping moves into both offshore wind and hydrogen production, said: “We don’t see hydrogen as an enemy of electrification – we see the businesses as complimentary,” with hydrogen well placed to help decarbonise some areas of heavy industry and transport.
While she expects initial forays into hydrogen production to be located near demand centres, there could later be opportunities to ship green H2 to nations that lack the renewable resources to produce their own.
Efremova cautioned that reaching the sector’s full potential would be “very challenging” without the necessary policy clarity and support.
Chris McConville, head of commercial and operations at Floating Power Plant, said the floating wind and wave technology pioneer noted growing interest in hydrogen and its “fantastic energy density” as a method for long-duration energy storage.
While solutions for shipping H2 back to shore still need further development, McConville said the scalability of floating wind, its flexibility of locations and ability to operate with integrated hydrogen systems “all comes together quite nicely”.
· A complete replay of the Digital Roundtable is available to view here